Former Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider rocks his autobiography and a new album
By Rachel Sokol
In the 1970s and ’80s, Dee Snider—the lead singer-songwriter for the heavy metal band Twisted Sister—really didn’t care what anyone thought about him.
Who cared if he had long, curly, insane hair? Who cared if he wore leopard-print bell-bottoms, stockings, makeup and a shirt that said “Blow Me”? Certainly not the outspoken rocker who just wanted to make music and find fame beyond his Long Island roots.
Naturally, this “who cares?” attitude inspired Twisted Sister’s best and most iconic rock anthems, “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock.”
Today, Snider’s still not holding anything back. Only this time around, he’s channeling his energy in a different, albeit, quieter way—on paper.
In his new book, Shut Up and Give Me the Mic, Snider, whose given name is Daniel, shares personal stories about his life as a rocker, a husband and a father—the good, the bad and the “ugly” (an insult Howard Stern slung at him before the two formed a friendship).
What’s most impressive about Snider’s book is his attention to detail, which he attributes to his health-conscious lifestyle.
As Snider says, “I’m the guy that gave it all to beat the odds, left everything he had on the stage each night, didn’t screw around on his woman, took care of his kids and was sober enough to remember it all and write about it … myself.”
The idea for Shut Up came from Snider’s manager, who told Snider he was a “great storyteller who should write a book,” the uber-chatty Snider recalled in a recent phone interview.
“I wanted to tell the story of my rise and fall. First I started at the beginning, and just kept going. I kept having story after story to tell.”
In Shut Up, Snider reveals the stories behind the crazy makeup, his desire for a record deal and his bankruptcy when his rock ’n’ roll fame dissipated. Snider uses footnotes to drop in random facts—little segues that help enhance his anecdotes. In one footnote, for example, Snider says he would sweat so much onstage, one night he lost 8 lbs.
Additionally, readers are treated to Snider’s “Life Lessons,” his rules about life, love, and rock ’n’ roll.
“My son Cody, who is 24, loved all the parentheses I had in the book. He thought it was hilarious that I was commenting on my own writing,” laughs Snider, who says his family “got a real kick” out of his stories. “They love it!”
“I found Dee to be a natural storyteller who remembers everything,” says Ed Schlesinger, senior editor at Gallery Books and a Twisted Sister fan. “He wanted the opportunity to write the book himself, and once I saw some sample chapters, I knew he wouldn’t disappoint his fans or readers.”
And, of course, there’s a whole chapter devoted to that famous day in 1985 where Snider testified before Congress, against the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC), which sought to slap a warning label on albums they believed contained offensive material.
Since his heyday with Twisted Sister, Snider has remained busy writing scripts, performing voiceover work and headlining radio shows—who could forget his stint as host for MTV’s “Headbangers Ball”?
Now back in the recording game, Snider is also debuting his latest album, Dee Does Broadway, on the same day as his memoir, May 8.
Broadway? Really? Snider doesn’t think his transition from rock venues to the Broadway stage is strange at all. In 2010, he did play Dennis in the Broadway production Rock of Ages, which features two Twister Sister songs.
“Performing Broadway songs is a natural progression, musically,” says Snider, whose personal favorite song on the album is The Ballad of Mack the Knife, which he has “always wanted to sing.”
Dee Does Broadway also highlights the vocal talents of his eldest son, Jesse, and Broadway legends Patti LuPone and Bebe Neuwirth. Pop icon Cyndi Lauper is also featured on the album, as is Rudy Sarzo, a former bassist for Ozzy Osbourne and Quiet Riot.
“In my opinion, Dee Does Broadway is his best record to date, not only for his outstanding performance but for taking his vocal range places we had never heard Dee Snider go before,” says Sarzo.
Besides, Snider firmly believes, “if Bach and Beethoven were alive today, they’d be into Metallica.”
Recently, Snider graced the small screen as a contestant on NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice, which films in New York City, Snider’s “backyard.”
“New York is my home,” he says. “It’s where I’m most comfortable.”
Episodes of The Celebrity Apprentice are still airing, and Dee was competing to raise money for March of Dimes, a charity he’s supported for years. Snider was “fired” by Donald Trump in Episode 8, but did raise more than $300,000 for March of Dimes.
On the show, Snider formed a friendship with teammate—and former American Idol contestant—Clay Aiken, who at press time is still competing on The Celebrity Apprentice.
On Dee Does Broadway, Aiken’s vocal talent is featured in “Luck Be a Lady,” from the musical Guys and Dolls.
“I never met Clay prior to the show, and to be honest I expected the least from him—and got the most. We really connected,” says Snider. “When I had the duets worked out, I asked Clay to sing on the track. He rocked it! He was really wailing! I was so impressed.”
Aiken shares the same sentiments. “You’d never think it from his ‘twisted’ persona, but Dee is an incredibly versatile musician. On Dee Does Broadway, he’s taken on a challenge that no one would ever have thought possible, and he not only succeeds, but he hits it out of the park,” says Aiken. “I am so glad I got to be a part of it.”
Snider currently resides on Long Island with Suzette, who served as Twisted Sister’s fashion designer. “She calls herself both my mistress and my wife,” jokes Snider, but the couple did in fact marry in 1981 and raised four children: Jesse, Shane, Cody and Cheyenne—who were all featured on various reality shows including A&E’s Growing Up Twisted.
Snider is soon launching his national book tour and fans can also catch him in the FEARNet original comedy series, Holliston. “I play a wannabe guy from the ’80s,” Snider says of his character, Lance. ‘He’s a fiftysomething dude in spandex and makeup.” Hmmm … sounds familiar.
Although he does miss his glory days of rock ’n’ roll, Snider insists that today, he’s “older, wiser, smarter and has calmed down a lot. I want fans to know the Dee of the 2000s.” (He is a grandfather, after all.)
Dee Snider will launch his book tour at the Book Revue in Huntington, Long Island, New York, on Tuesday, May 8, at 7 p.m. Shut Up and Give Me the Mic retails for $26. Gallery Books; 448 pages.
Dee Does Broadway (Razor & Tie label) goes on sale May 8. The single “Cabaret” is currently available on iTunes.
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