For about five years, when I wasn’t trying to be the biggest, gayest horror fan in the universe, I had a side career as the theater editor of a women’s magazine. (Which is actually pretty gay in and of itself, right?!?!) While I loved my board treading adventures, it was always a giddy bonus for me when the world of terror stepped into my more straight forward occupation. Such was the case when I was able to interview amazing rocker, writer and horror entrepreneur Dee Snider. Snider was in Chicago in late 2014 to premiere his holiday musical Dee Snider’s Rock and Roll Christmas Tale and shared amazing stories of his life with me during a quick moving fifteen minute chat. With only about 5% of the actual interview ending up in that initial magazine piece, I believe that the world was truly missing out on some amazing stories from that full lunged metal icon and loving daddy to Captain Howdy. So, clutch that pristine Stay Hungry LP to your chest and prepare to get flashback Snider-ized. You’re gonna dig it!
BGHF: Hey, Dee! Let’s dispel something.
Dee Snider: Cool!
B: Despite the image that’s projected of you as the horror loving rocker, it truly seems like you are a very traditional father and husband.
Dee: I am! I am very traditional. My wife and I have been together for 38 years.
B: Wow! That’s not the typical rock n roll story, either.
Dee: No, it’s not. You don’t hear much about successful longstanding relationships, but they do exist. Still, it is a credit to the two of us and the desire for stability and our love for each other. We not only have been married for a long time, but we have four grown kids now, and we had a real desire to provide a very traditional and stable household. One of the big catch phrases at our house was ‘You Leave Your Cool at the Door’. That means that I wasn’t a rock star at home. I’m just dad. I’d come in from these tours and float into the house like “I’m a GOD!!!!” She’d go, “Yeah, take out the garbage. It smells like dirty diapers.” What? “Take out the garbage!” Oh, okay. Alright, I’m back! That rock god shit doesn’t play at home.
B: Your wife sounds awesome!
Dee: Thank you! She is. Suzette’s a fashion institute graduate, a professional make-up artist and hairdresser; she designed all the costumes for Twisted Sister. But, she gave up a potentially huge career because someone needed to be at home with the kids. While I was out on the road, there was always somebody there. There were no latch key kids. That was always a thing with us. We didn’t want to be away working and have the kids taking care of themselves. So, Suzette gave up her career. Now that our kids are out of the house, she’s back in full action again. It’s kind of cool. And by the way, don’t forget we have three grandchildren now.
B: No way! And just like Iggy Pop and Debbie Harry and others of your generation, you’re still rocking!
Dee: That’s another weirdly surreal aspect of it. I was planning to do this until I was 35 and then…he lived happily ever after! But now I’m still on stage and I’m booking close to 60. Holy Shit! Who saw this? If you think about, historically, you’ve got the jazz greats. You go to the blues greats. They started as young men and we’ve seen them as old men still performing. So, the reality is do you stop? Do you quit? Do you give up? NO!!! Although, I fully intend to stop at some point, it shouldn’t surprise anybody that a lot of people are still out there doing it. This is what we do. It’s life. We perform. We rock!
B: Your longevity has been amazing, but you’ve surely had some hard knocks along the way, as well.
Dee: Are you kidding me? A couple years ago I wrote a book – Shut Up and Give me the Mike! I wrote it myself. That’s another highly unusual thing. Just because you’re a writer doesn’t mean you can control the stage as the front of a rock band. Just because you can sing in a band doesn’t mean you can write a book. But I have been blessed with a variety of gifts. I wrote a few chapters and when the editors saw my writing, they said holy shit, you’re a natural. Just go for it. So, I wrote my own book. In it, there are, literally, Dee life lessons. I actually have done motivational talks and I have taught some of these life lessons. Because the lessons I’ve learned in my life can apply to everybody. They go across the board. By 1992, this is well documented in the book, I lost everything. I spent everything, actually, not lost. I knew where it was and that was in somebody else’s pocket! I spent every dollar and it was over. Grunge hit. I had no options. There was no interest in me. I couldn’t be deader and I was married and I had three kids. It was like – well, what now? We only had one car and my wife needed it. So, I, literally, was riding a bicycle to a desk job, answering phones, on and off, for $200 a week. This was ‘92, so only 5 years after the heyday of the band. People were coming into the office and going – aren’t you…? I would end up going “No!” They would go, “Wow, it’s so uncanny, you look just like him!” I would say, “I know, right? If only!” I was so embarrassed. I needed to do something to bring some money home. I was truly to reinvent myself. I learned a gazillion lessons but the biggest one was the humbling. I think everybody needs to be humbled. I bought my own hype. I nearly became a megalomaniac. Once I started to be proven right with the success of the band, I listened to nobody. Then, I was out of the band, nearly got divorced from my wife. I nearly destroyed my life – because I was so caught up in being a rock star and being… I don’t know what the hell I thought I was. I got knocked down hard. I finally got back up and I said, be grateful that you have these opportunities and you have this attention and – don’t be a dick! That’s a lesson – don’t be a dick! And I was! I’ll tell you, man! Mid-80s, I was an asshole. My wife will tell ya! But I’m better now, much better now.
B: Well, you sound like an amazing guy!
Dee: Ah, I appreciate that! Like I said, it was a tough ten years of struggling and crawling back and reinventing myself with radio and television and movies and things like that. I am back and I am more successful. There isn’t a day that doesn’t go by that I don’t look up and go, “Thank you! Thank you! I won’t fuck it up, again!”
B: Before we go, can you talk a little bit about Strangeland?
Dee: Oh, man! To sit and have an idea in my head, put in on a piece of paper, and then see it brought to life before my eyes with actors and sets and all those things – it’s just miraculous! We were doing one of the most intense scenes in Strangeland, where the detective discovers Captain Howdy’s lair and he shoots me and all my victims are strung up around me; his daughter’s in a cage. We’re filming that scene. I’m lying on the ground. “Alright, action!” They start acting and I start laughing. They went – “Cut, cut, cut! Dee, what are you doing?” I said, “I’m sorry. I remember sitting in the basement writing: he lay his face down on the ground with his victims around him. And I am laying face down on the ground with my victims around me!” It just hit me how wonderfully absurd and great this is, to be able to see things brought to life. Seeing an idea manifest in a physical form is amazing!
Be sure to keep being amazing by keeping up with all that Snider has going on at www.deesnider.com.
Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan