If you watched MTV in the mid 1980s, you probably saw Twisted Sister’s anthem ‘We’re Not Going to Take It’ at least 2,000 times. The heavily rouged, outrageously bedecked heavy metal rockers were the first hair band to become famous. Lead singer, Dee Snider has a new memoir out called ‘Shut Up and Give Me the Mic’ full of stories from back in the day, plus a surprisingly tender love story between Dee and his wife of 30 years, Suzette.
FOX411: You were dead broke not that many years after Twisted Sister hit it big.
Dee Snider: Our heyday was 1984-85, and by ’95 I was flat broke. It wasn’t sudden; it was a gradual slide where you don’t want to accept its happening. You convince yourself, ‘Oh no, no it’s going to get better.’ We shopped in thrift stores, used coupons. We couldn’t go into a 7/11 with our kids because we couldn’t afford to buy them a piece of candy. It was crazy how broke we were.
FOX411: You say there’s nothing worse than being famous and broke.
DS: You cannot imagine the humiliation and having to deny who you are. I’m like the Jay Leno of heavy metal, everyone recognizes me. Here I am in ’95 leaving a thrift store because I don’t want people saying, ‘What are you doing here?’
I would always look at the other stars who crashed and burned and say, ‘That will never be me. I don’t drink, I don’t get high, I don’t have a manager that rips me off. I don’t have anyone that can put one over me,’ and I didn’t. I did it to myself.
The ego that gets you to the top that convinces you that you’ll make it, that same ego won’t accept the warning signs. Your ego just won’t let you act smartly. If I had regrouped and downscaled... But no, I just kept spending; I’m a rock star baby! Everything is going to be fine!
FOX411: On a scale of one to 10 how big is your ego.
DS: Eleven. I’m a narcissist. I don’t need people to cheer me because there are people cheering me in my head. There is a spotlight on me all the time.
FOX411: Is it hard for you to have conversations with other people?
DS: Put it this way, you teach yourself. I can be empathetic to people. I say to myself, ‘It’s important to not be self-absorbed.’ My wife really beat it into me. She makes me see the person I was and I don’t like that part so I work very hard to be a better guy.
FOX411: The book is partly a love note to your wife Suzette.
DS: We met when she was 15 and I was 21. She snuck into a Long Island nightclub. She is incredible. The one thing that I knew was unfailing was Suzette’s support of me. Unlike my peers I never had a second thought that she might leave because things had gotten sour. She never thought about it either. She was like, what do we have to do?
I’m not that spiritual but there are so many things that had to work out for us to have the relationship we do and be where we are. The timing of her parent’s marital issues created a vacuum that allowed me, excuse the pun, to slip in.
FOX411: It sounded a little bit like Stockholm syndrome, like you wore her down.
DS: I’m pretty positive that was a major part of it. I think she just could not get rid of me. But unlike the captors, I was more accommodating.
FOX411: Twisted Sister was huge!
DS: We sold about 10 million albums in a few short years. Not too shabby for a bunch of dirt bags from Long Island.
FOX411: Twisted Sister was pretty out there in terms of their makeup and costumes.
DS: We were doing it before anyone was doing it. I got into fights every night for my right to do it. I’m the original hair metal rocker. There was no Motley Crue or Ratt. Sister was alone in doing it and then it became a trend. When you do it by choice, there’s no shame.
FOX411: You are an incredibly positive person.
DS: I refused to accept the hierarchy and what I was supposed to become which was a civil servant or insurance salesman. Thank God I started thinking positively because it carried me through.
Back in 2002, I lost my morning show and my gig with MSNBC, which paid about $400,000, in the same week. I don’t remember thinking about it. I just thought, ‘Well now what do I have to do? How do I adjust to accommodate what just happened?’
You’ll never hear the words, ‘I’m having a bad day’ or one of those phrases people use to reinforce negativity. After I wrote the book I stepped back and said, ‘Man if I wanted to look at my life as a half empty glass it would not be hard at all.’ I had a run of bad luck but I never even thought about it. I won’t allow myself to think in those terms.
FOX411: You also testified before Congress during the whole music sticker debate.
DS: Everything I feared came to fruition. My concern was not the sticker but what it would be used for. Records were not carried by certain stores because of the sticker so my concern was art wasn’t going to be accessible to people. They wouldn’t have a choice. Of course now it’s all moot because there are no record stores.
FOX411: You have a new CD out where you sing Broadway songs.
DS: Yeah ‘Dee Does Broadway,’ three words I never thought I’d hear in a row. About half are duets. I tell people if you’re not getting it, check out my video for ‘Mack the Knife.’ In three minutes everything will be clear. Having been in ‘Rock of Ages,’ on Broadway I have this connection to the Broadway community, so I reached out to Patti LuPone and Bebe Neuwirth, and to my utter amazement they said yes!