Thirty years ago, Dee Snider became rock royalty as the big haired, boa-clad front man of Twisted Sister. Since then, he has been to bankruptcy and back again and logged several hours in Donald Trump's boardroom as a contestant on The Celebrity Apprentice. This holiday, his musical Dee Snider's Rock 'n' Roll Christmas Tale is playing in Toronto through Dec. 20. Here, the We're Not Gonna Take It rocker shares some of the secrets to his success, including why friendship isn't always about seeing eye to eye.
Breaking away from the boa
We live in a world where people view other people in a single snapshot. I'm the guy from Twisted Sister – the giant hair, the makeup, the boa. It's an image that really did a lot for me, but getting away from it has been difficult. That was one of the reasons I enjoyed doing The Celebrity Apprentice, because it gave me a chance to show people that, hey, I'm not the same guy I was 30 years ago. I think that's one of the reasons why I gravitated toward writing later in my career. I have written a musical, written plays. I love the fact that when you are writing, you are whoever you want to be.
You can have the rock and roll without the sex and drugs
The whole rock and roll lifestyle is something I was lucky enough to avoid. I have the sort of personality where I like to be in control, so drugs and being drunk don't really appeal to me. I am also obsessive, so I knew I was never going to be the guy who just had a couple of drinks. With the sex part, I met my wife when I was young and I am so thankful that I realized the value of this incredible woman. I'm not saying I didn't come close to screwing it up. I may have avoided the sex, drugs and alcohol, but I definitely fell into the whole megalomaniac rock-star thing. I was the most important person in the world and everything I did was right. Eventually I found the cure for that. It was called grunge.
Being friends with Trump isn't easy
I've never been a guy who only wants to hang out with people who are the same as me. I have all sorts of different kinds of friends who I enjoy for a lot of different reasons. I don't think anyone would have expected Donald Trump and I to be friends. I didn't. As is the case with a lot of my friends, we tend to stick to that old saying about not discussing religion or politics. I admit that more and more it's something I'm struggling with. It's becoming difficult to ignore the sorts of sentiments and ideologies he is provoking in the American people. It's upsetting and it in no way represents how I feel. When I gave him permission to use We're Not Going To Take It in his campaign, it was never about endorsing his politics. That song is about shaking things up, challenging the status quo, and that is certainly Trump. Honestly, though, what is happening now is worrying.
Let your gratitude guide you
So many of my friends were all about being left-wing back in the eighties and now they're watching Fox & Friends. I don't get it. It drives me crazy. I have always been a liberal person and those aren't the kind of principles that I abandon just because I'm a certain age or I've got a certain amount of money. I try to always be in touch with the person I was when I was struggling, could barely pay the bills. When I write a big cheque to the government – and it's big – I'm not feeling mad. I'm in awe that I am in a position to be writing such a big cheque.
Understanding your weakness is a strength
One of my flaws is that I'm not the sort of person who works well in a group. I think it's because when I first joined Twisted Sister, the guys weren't all that welcoming. They were these cool guys from New York and I was this kid from the suburbs. A rube. I went off and wrote my own songs. Those songs ended up being really successful, so a pattern was established. That was my flaw on The Celebrity Apprentice. We were supposed to work as a team and I always wanted to go off and figure it out on my own and then come back. It's just how my brain works, I guess.