During an appearance on “The Dennis Miller Option” podcast, KISS bassist/vocalist Gene Simmons recalled a time in the mid-1980s when he and Eddie Van Halen were both backstage at a METALLICA show in Southern California.
“METALLICA was coming up in the world,” Gene said (hear audio below). “And we all started to hear about this new band and stuff. So I went out to Long Beach Arena, had a limo and bodyguard — all that stupid rock star stuff. And backstage, Edward comes up, ‘Hey, man, what are you doing?’ ‘Checking this band…’ ‘Yeah.’ In fact, I jumped up on stage with the guys and we did ‘Cold Gin’ together.
“At any rate, when we got offstage, I was saying [to Eddie], ‘It’s great seeing you. I hope everybody is okay. I’m gonna jump in my car and go back to L.A.’ He goes, ‘No, man. Come with me. I’ve got my Jeep here, and I’ll drive you back.’ I go, ‘Sure. Sure. Why not?’ So I told the limo driver, ‘You know what? Make your way back. I’m gonna go with this guy.’ Well, be careful what you wish for.
“So he puts me into this old jalopy thing with no doors,” Gene added. “Ever see [the American war comedy-drama television series] ‘M*A*S*H’ with those helicopters that don’t have doors on them, and they’re flying sideways and you think you’re gonna die? This thing’s got no doors. It’s got seatbelts. And Edward‘s smoking away like a chimney and driving what I thought was a hundred miles an hour up the 405 [freeway]. And I’m holding on for dear life and trying to pretend that I’m a guy without fear and all that. [I was] scared to death. And I said, ‘Eddie, Eddie, slow down.’ And a cigarette was hanging out of his mouth, and he said, ‘Why?’ I didn’t quite know what to answer.”
Simmons has claimed in several interviews that he once had to talk Eddie out of leaving VAN HALEN and teaming up with KISS.
Simmons has repeatedly taken credit for “discovering” VAN HALEN and flying the band to New York to record a 15-song demo at Electric Lady Studios, with Gene at the production helm. But he ended up not working with the group after his KISS bandmates and manager, Bill Aucoin, expressed little interest in his demos.
Eddie died on October 6 at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, California at the age of 65. His wife, Janie, was by his side, along with his son Wolfgang, and Alex, Eddie‘s brother and VAN HALEN drummer.