Take a pinch of ‘The Osbournes‘ and mix it up with a little bit of ‘Gene Simmons’ Family Jewels‘ and a touch of ‘Hogan Knows Best‘ and you get ‘Growing Up Twisted,’ TV’s newest reality series about a rock star and his family. You might be able to guess this rocker’s identity from this show’s ‘Twisted’ title, but if you can’t, it’s Dee Snider, 55, the lead singer of Twisted Sister (and the man who wrote the band’s iconic hits “I Wanna Rock” and “We’re Not Gonna Take It”).
His new reality series – co-starring his wife, Suzette, and children Jesse, 27, Shane, 22, Cody, 20, and Cheyenne, 13 – premieres Tuesday, July 27, with two back-to-back half-hour episodes starting at 10 p.m./9c on A&E. Fancast came face-to-face with the gregarious Mister “Sister” for a sitdown interview this week in Manhattan to talk about the band, the show, and why Howard Stern says Dee reminds him of Herman Munster.
Dee, when you wrote “Oh, We’re not gonna take it; no, we ain’t gonna take it; oh, we’re not gonna take it anymore,” what was “it”? What exactly weren’t you going to take anymore?
For me that was just a song railing against everybody who told me I couldn’t do what I wanted to do. And that was my parents, friends, bosses, teachers, ex-girlfriends. There were so many naysayers saying, ‘You’re never gonna make it, you’re never gonna do it. You can’t be a rock star.’ And I had to bolster myself.”
How did this idea for a reality show first take shape?
One of the earliest people was Howard Stern. I mean, we’re talking 1990, and he just one day said to me, ‘Man, you should just have a camera follow you and your family around.’ I was just telling him, ‘Man, I went to the mall today and all hell broke loose,’ something like that, and he starts laughing.
And I go, ‘What are you laughing about?’ He goes, ‘You kill me, man, because you try to walk around like you’re a normal person!’ I do try to achieve that with my family. That’s why we don’t live on the West Coast. We’re East Coast. We’re in Long Island, we’re in the suburbs, we live in a neighborhood, this is our choice. We wanted our kids to have some degree of normalcy, to go to public schools. But he says, ‘You’re like ‘The Munsters!’ And I said, ‘ “The Munsters”?’ And he goes, ‘Yeah, they thought they were normal, but they would walk down the street and car wrecks would happen and Herman would go, “Look, Lily, a car crashed,” and they were the reason for the car crash.’ That’s what he said to me. He goes, ‘You should just have a camera crew follow you around. That would be a great show.’ Brilliant.
OK, cut to the present day – how did it finally come together?
So along the way, reality came. And then there was a point when we were testing the waters and they said our family was too functional, like it wasn’t enough of a car wreck, so we said, OK, fine. Our reaction was, Thank you!
So then came the Hogans – before they imploded – and the Simmonses, a couple of families where the families actually liked each other and they said, ‘Oh, so people can watch a family who aren’t, like, in a divorce’ – like in the Loud family. Remember the Louds? They were the original reality show!
So, after that, people started saying again, ‘What about the Sniders?’ It all came together when we got to the point where we were really committed to the idea of doing a show. Why? Our kids are all going into the entertainment industry, three out of four of them are grown and it seemed like a great opportunity to not only shine a light on the family, but use that light to get the shadow [cast by their famous father] away from the kids and expose them.
Your show depicts a family where the most intimate subjects are discussed openly and freely by kids and adults alike, including your sex life with your wife, Suzette, and, in the series premiere, Suzette’s plan to dye her pubic hair as an anniversary gift to you – something the whole family discusses at length. What exactly is your philosophy about raising children?
This is not my philosophy. If you listen, you will hear me protesting and freaking out and going, Whoa, whoa, whoa! It is my wife’s philosophy and I have no choice but to go along for the ride. She comes from an Irish-Italian weird crazy household of three sisters and their mother and they talked with a frankness and openness that I was just stunned by. And she was raised in that fashion and she says, ‘Hey, this is healthy, this is communication. Why should everything be secreted away? We’re not doing anything wrong. Our relationship is normal and healthy and it’s good for them to see that, you know, parents have relations.’ But I’m like, my jaw drops at some of the s— they talk about. It’s really Suzette, she’s the boss, she drives the car and I’m along for the ride.
Will we see you performing on this television show?
Yeah a couple of times. Suzette’s like, ‘Do you think there’s enough of you on there?’ I’m not a spotlight hog and this is about the family, so it’s going to be about the family and we’re not going to make it all about me. So there are definitely moments there [when Dee is centerstage] but a lot of the time, I’m just a prop!
Dee, you were born in a section of Queens, N.Y., called Astoria, which was also the birthplace of Tony Bennett. Besides singing, what else do you think you have in common with him?
I’ll tell you what we have in common – an odd likability that seems to cross generations. I’m just observing this – it just seems incredibly odd to me that six-to-60, blind, deaf or crazy, you know, and I’m talking about everybody – they seem to know me and seem to like me and I never expected that, to be liked.
How does the TV business stack up so far with the rock-music business?
Equally competitive. I mean, everybody these days has a TV show, everybody’s got a reality show. Reality is the rap [music] of the TV world because you’re like, ‘Oh, you mean I don’t have to actually sing or play an instrument? I could do that!’