Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider hasn't had anything resembling a hit song since 1984, but through incredible charisma and sheer force of will he's managed to stay in the spotlight all these years later. This February his fame will most likely reach a new level when the fifth season of Celebrity Apprentice premieres. Snider is a contestant on the show, alongside Clay Aiken, Adam Carolla, Lou Ferrigno, Arsenio Hall, Penn Jillette, George Takei and Paul Teutul, Sr. (And that's just the men's team.) We sat down with Dee in New York last week to chat about the show, his surprisingly long career and the upcoming Rock of Ages movie.
You've been on lots of reality shows. What was different about the Celebrity Apprentice?
It's different than any other one. It's really all about the win. There is no social element to it. I mean, you're certainly with people and you have camaraderie and relationships going on, but it's purely fueled by the work and it's all about taking you out of your comfort zone. Some of the reality shows I've done have been about filming you in your comfort zone – this is about keeping you away.
I was looking at the various players on the men's team. You've got a lot of very smart, capable people.
Like Paul Teutul, Sr. [from American Chopper]. He's a super successful businessman. I don't know what he's doing here. I don't think he's an apprentice. A lot of these guys aren't apprentices. They're smart guys, successful guys. Business guys. They're iconic. The men's team, just recognition-wise, we go places. The girls can't compete with that. It has to be like, "Holy shit, it's Dee Snider. It's Lou Ferrigno. It's Paul Teutul, Sr. It's Arsenio Hall!"
How did you guys work together? Did the team gel?
Absolutely. Now that the show has been on for a number of years, people are coming in knowledgable about it, and with a game plan. I think that a lot of men have noticed – and women have noticed too – that unfortunately women have an inability to function well together. That's not a misogynistic statement. Some powerful woman once said, "If women could get along, they would take over the world." She wasn't kidding. They inherently have a problem working together in groups. Men have not tried to win by taking down somebody else and making themselves look better, but just by doing a better job.
If you look at a lot of rock stars from your era with a similar level of success as yourself, very few of them have managed to stay in the spotlight quite like you have.
This show is going to take it to another level. Now that I've patted myself on the back, I will balance it out by saying that I wish it was by design. But it was 90 percent desperation. It's waking up in '92 or '93 flat on my back broke and going, "What the fuck now?" I was just saying, "Reinvent, reinvent, reinvent . . ."
A lot of people in that position just start playing their hits in clubs over and over.
That runs you into the ground, instead of building you up. Twisted Sister plays 20, 25 shows a year. But if the band had their druthers, they'd be out playing all the time. What that does is lessen your value. We go out and headline the biggest festivals, and everywhere we go we're high on the bill. Some band sold more records than us in the Eighties, but they've been out 20 times recently and nobody's seen us in five years or so.
Did the show change your perception of Donald Trump as a person?
Totally. This may be an image killer for him, but every person in the cast will tell you that he is gracious, welcoming, considerate and self-deprecating. He jokes about his hair and his assets when the camera is off. He has his persona, but it definitely changed my opinion of him.
What about when he says insane stuff like "the Obama birth certificate is fake"?
I don't agree with him on that. I said I have a different opinion of him, but I don't agree with his politics.
Do you think he's believes crazy stuff like that, or he just wants attention?
In his own way, he is the P.T. Barnum of his day. It is no coincidence that he is talking about possibly running for president at the time that we're announcing the launch of the Celebrity Apprentice. It's not a coincidence. Saying sensational things like "President Obama sucks," knowing at the same time that he wants people to lock up their TiVos.
What do you think about Tom Cruise being in the Rock of Ages movie?
I was on Broadway in Rock of Ages when they announced they were going to make a movie. My manager was all excited. He's like, "You're going to be in a movie!" I'm like, "Not a fucking chance!" He goes, "What do you mean?" I said, "Did you see Mamma Mia? Have you seen any Broadway musical turned into a movie?" They get John Travolta to play a woman. They get all these top talents to take a quarter of their quote for the opportunity to sing. Then, sure enough, we get Tom Cruise, and then Will Ferrell was talking about my role. [Alec Baldwin ultimately got it.] They have to get the biggest names they can. But I hope that Tom Cruise is better than Pierce Brosnan. Did you see Mamma Mia? Pierce Brosnan was terrible!
Do you think that Tom Cruise can do the part?
Tom's a great actor and I've seen pictures . . . but he looked a little too Nineties for me. He looked a little bit like the singer in Creed rather than the singer in Poison, but I hear he does a great job. Also, he insisted on being the star of the movie. That role on Broadway is a supporting role. They had to rewrite the script for him. Now it's just "based off the musical."
But can he sing?
They can do amazing things. Nowadays people sell millions of records that can't sing.