Who: Grammy-winning singer and Oscar-winning actress Cher, 73, and Kiss guitarist and co-lead singer Gene Simmons, 70.
How They Met: Though Cher and Simmons both belonged to the mainstream music scene, they didn’t exactly run in the same circles. Their meeting was a “fluke,” precipitated by both their shared support of former California Governor Jerry Brown and Cher’s son Chaz Bono’s love of Simmons’s band, Kiss. In early 1978, Cher and Simmons both attended a fundraiser for Brown. Chaz, then nine years old, reportedly begged his mom to help him get an autograph from the flamboyant musician.
By ’79, Simmons and Cher were going strong (enough). Cher, who’d been married and divorced twice by this point, called her and Simmons’s time together “the best relationship I’ve ever had with a human being.” But still, this being the ‘70s and all, neither party was monogamous. “Gene might spend time with another woman and stay the night, but he wants her to leave in the morning so he can get on with his day,” Cher told People about her boyfriend’s tour, uh, habits. While she herself admitted to the occasional dalliance “for companionship,” she admitted, “Gene is the one I’m crazy about.”
Why We Loved Them: Despite Simmons’s hardened rockstar exterior, he was actually quite sweet to Cher. He told People the pop icon was his “first love,” calling her “an untainted soul who has never done anything bad to anybody.” He even loved her “wonderful” kids, Chaz and Elijah Allman. “[Chaz] is going to be President of the U.S. someday,” he gushed. “[He] busts me.”
Even after their split, the pair remained cordial, with Simmons vowing he and Cher would “know each other forever.” Decades later, Cher called Simmons (“Genie”) “charming and intelligent” and even took credit for Kiss’s decision to reunite in 1996.
When They Peaked: Literally any time they left the house together. Simmons, keeping with his band’s decision (at the time) to not be photographed out of the kabuki makeup they were known to wear onstage, hid his face from the paparazzi each time he and Cher stepped out. It made for some memorable photo ops:
The Breakup: Cher and Simmons tried to make things work in Malibu, but the latter had some qualms about the golden coast: “There’s something sick about seeing Santa Claus in shorts.”
But the climate of California wasn’t the true reason Simmons and Cher eventually went their separate ways. Ahead of Christmas in 1979, Simmons was in N.Y.C. and asked Cher what he should buy her for the holiday. Cher told him her best friend (!) Diana Ross (!) would take him shopping and show him what to get. It’s unclear if Simmons ever found a gift for Cher, but he definitely got something for himself … Ross soon replaced Cher as Simmons’s main gal.
At the time, Simmons claimed that Cher was cool with it and that she and Ross would even watch Kiss rehearse together, but later reports indicate that their friendship ended soon after.
Where They Are Now:
Cher went on to date plenty of famous men, including Tom Cruise, Val Kilmer, and Richie Sambora. The 73-year-old continues to tour, tweet, and advocate for LGBT rights.
Simmons has been with former erotic actress Shannon Tweed since 1983. The pair wed in 2011 and share two children: Nick, 31, and Sophie, 27.
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