When Gene and his mother, Flóra Klein, emigrated from Israel to the U.S. in 1958, he “couldn’t believe” what he saw in terms of the over-the-top nature of American culture. “Everything was huge,” he recalled. “The buildings were enormous, the people were big, the sandwiches were big, and I hadn’t seen television, never heard of it!”
Indeed, coming from a nation that was still struggling to establish itself meant that he hadn’t had access to radio or television prior to crossing over to America.
Gene’s difficult childhood in Israel led him to a genuine curiosity in visual arts when he and his mother finally made it to their new home. “When I came to America I just gorged on all of that,” he said. “People were flying through the air, they were wearing costumes and doing amazing things. So, it was America itself that attributed to opening my imagination.” It was around that time that the sights and sounds of the nation began truly inspiring him in a way fans might not know him for — his art.
“So I started doodling at a really early age and kept all my drawings,” Gene explained, adding, “I didn’t think anybody would care. I’m untrained — I just doodled!”
Although Gene may have put his affinity for art to the side for some time after his childhood, he decidedly took up a profound interest in another art form — music — which led to the formulation of his legendary band KISS with Paul Stanley. Nonetheless, he always remained close to the pursuit and respected those who did it.