Shelley Chase is used to hanging out with celebrities, but even she admits she was star-struck earlier this month.
Chase, along with Great Big Sea’s Bob Hallett, runs Garrison Hill Entertainment — this province’s only booking and management agency, representing musicians like The Once and comedians like Snook and John Sheehan. She’s also an experienced show producer and it was in that capacity she was invited to Moncton, N.B., a little over a week ago.
It was there she had dinner with legendary KISS rocker Gene Simmons and his Newfoundland-born former Playboy playmate partner, Shannon Tweed.
Chase was invited to Moncton by friend Brad LeBlanc, the 21-year-old CEO of Momentum Group, which organizes various events around New Brunswick. Last year, the company produced The Atlantic Dream Festival; a weekend-long motivational event featuring speakers such as Sir Richard Branson and Kevin O’Leary.
LeBlanc was co-ordinating the Atlantic Brand Confabulation, a networking and informational event about personal and business branding, and asked Chase to host. Simmons was the event’s keynote speaker.
“I was brought into the event to help program the whole evening, and he was brought in to speak about branding and marketing,” Chase explained. “I was terrified at the thought of meeting him because I thought he was an ominous character. You hear a lot of different stories and mixed reviews about him, but my experience with him was I’ve never met such a consummate professional.”
LeBlanc has said the brand confabulation was “the beginning of a lot of work” he plans to do with Simmons.
Branding and marketing is Simmons’ forte. KISS might not be as popular as it was in the 1970s, but Simmons continues to make a career from business deals using the band’s logo, on everything from kids’ toothbrushes to snowboards to condoms.
Simmons spoke to the 850-strong audience about the importance of being passionate and confident in their work and their brand, and afterwards took questions, with the help of Chase, who co-ordinated the segment. From seasoned professionals to student entrepreneurs, Simmons was interested in every question and answered them honestly and with heart.
“He said to be rich like a rock star, meaning that if you’re going to be an agency or a goldfish seller, do it to a celebrity level,” Chase said. “Humility and all these things are lovely, but they don’t advance your brand or your company.
“He quoted from someone else, but he said every day he gets up and says, ‘Am I doing exactly what I want to be doing? If it was over tomorrow, am I in the place I want to be?’”
Once the event was over, and after a quick run to Shoppers Drug Mart with Tweed for makeup, Chase attended a private dinner with the couple. Simmons also had some words of wisdom for her.
“He was talking about the heart and the pocketbook. He asked me, ‘Where are you with your company? What are you doing and what’s the plan?’ He said, ‘Your pocketbook and your heart are two different things and they’re mutually exclusive. You can feed your pocketbook and then take care of your heart afterwards, but you can’t do it in the reverse order,’” Chase said.
Chase spoke to Simmons and Tweed about their reality TV show, “Gene Simmons’ Family Jewels,” in which the couple appears with their two children, Nick and Sophie, and about Newfoundland — Tweed was raised on a mink farm in Whitbourne, but reportedly hasn’t been back to the province in more than 20 years. Despite not mentioning her hometown on the show, Chase said the couple has a soft spot for the province, and is open to bringing the show up this way.
“Unfortunately, up to this point, Newfoundland hasn’t been relevant on the show,” Chase said. “I can say that we did talk about the idea of bringing the show here, and (Tweed) said that Nick and Sophie have never been here. It’s not her choice (where the show is filmed), but she said they would very much like to bring the show here. That’s all that I can officially say at this point.”
Simmons was interested in the number of expatriate Newfoundlanders who have been returning home to start businesses, and wondered if there were any land development projects available for them, Chase said. He also entertained her with his version of Newfoundland sayings.
“He was trying to say, ‘Stay where you’re at till I gets where you’re to,’ and Shannon was laughing and trying to tell him how to get it right,” Chase said with a laugh.
Though he was direct and confident in conversation, Simmons wasn’t anything like the ominous character Chase was expecting, she said, describing him as polite, sweet and lovely.