From Rocker to Immigration Posterboy

By Daniel Treiman

Published July 07, 2006, issue of July 07, 2006.

With the immigration debate roiling the nation, Carnegie Corporation of New York weighed in this independence week with a full-page advertisement in The New York Times, titled “Immigrants: The Pride of America.” Praising immigrants “who have made, and continue to make, our nation strong and vibrant,” the July 3 ad featured photos of 39 famous foreign-born Americans, including Albert Einstein, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma, former World Bank chief James Wolfensohn, and the philanthropic foundation’s own founder and namesake, Scottish-born industrialist Andrew Carnegie.

Among the photos of these luminaries, however, one caught the Shmooze’s eye: a mug of Israeli-born rocker Gene Simmons, co-founder of the band Kiss. Simmons is perhaps best known for his ghoulish black-and-white face makeup and for his grotesquely long tongue. Since Kiss’s heyday, Simmons — born Chaim Witz in Haifa in 1949 — has managed to hold on to the limelight, thanks to his boasts about his sexual exploits, such as his claim to have bedded more than 4,000 women.

How did the lascivious musician wind up in the Carnegie Corporation’s immigrant pantheon? Well, in a certain respect he’s every bit as industrious as Andrew Carnegie. But we at the Shmooze suspect that his inclusion actually may have been the result of confusion. The ad applauds our “national motto, E pluribus unum — ‘out of many, one.’” Simmons has a similar, if subtly different, motto: Speaking of his many conquests, Simmons has explained, “I enjoyed every one.”



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