I remember the drooling man, that disgruntled father enraged by his wayward son's lack of career direction and propensity for torn denim. "What do you wanna do with your life?" he seethed, one wretched drip of saliva on his lips.
Then the TV screen turned to spandex and hydraulic stage thrills as Dee Snider screamed his Twisted Sister "I Wanna Rock" epiphany through the mouth of teen-age innocence. I was sold. I sorta wanted to rock, too.
In reality, Dee Snider was less a cultural revolutionary than a suburban bridge between Alice Cooper's nightmare and Marilyn Manson's smooth pelvis, but his MTV impact was riotous, inspiring ill-advised, bicolored root perms the world over. On mid-'80s Halloween excursions, the Dee Snider costume was rivaled only by Cyndi Lauper's trash can and Michael Jackson's begloved crotch grab. Dee was a star.
The "was" is why he's here (buff, but still not cute), sitting next to me, on Halloween 2002. It's another past-prime, Pat Travers Hard Rock Hotel session haunted by schmoozing, boob-jobbed Windermerians. I'm four sheets to the spooky wind and a tad critical.
"Dee Snider, what have you done for me lately?"
"My days are filled with radio and voice-over work, mostly," he voices over. "And then the odd project: I'm one of the voices for MSNBC."
"I'm the guy that says, 'Tonight at eight, "Hardball With Chris Matthews" on MSNBC!'"
Clearly he depresses me. I'm not gonna take it anymore.
"And I have a national radio show called House of Hair."
OK, then, that's better.
House of Hair is in its fifth year of tugging tonsils in 40 cities, keeping the scripture of Dokken and Krokus alive for car mechanics everywhere. How I long for the stain of grease beneath my nails.
"So you're a real Renaissance man?" I Jersey.
"Try to be."
In addition to his many talents in the area of nostalgic vibrato, Snider has most recently been the subject of the dreaded VH-1 music-history treatment. "Warning: Parental Advisory" (a "comedy of censors" camped the network) aired two months ago, detailing Snider's famed U.S. Senate testimony on rock lyrics when he was tangling with Tipper Gore and her PMRC prudence.
"That was surreal," he twists. "First of all [VH-1] called me and said, 'Would you be in a movie, playing yourself, about history?' It was just like, 'What?'"
"I felt much like a tyrannosaurus would have felt on the set of 'Jurassic Park,'" he ages.
"So did it capture the absurdity of what was really going on at the time?" Like, long hair equals sudden death?
"Historically, the elements were all correct and accurate. They maybe fabricated the 'meeting of the minds.' [Other musicians who testified] never met each other or saw each other, never had any interaction prior," he transcribes. "It was kind of boring."
I'm struggling with the "meeting of the minds" thing.
"It was a plot!" he conspires. "It wasn't a fucking situation at all!"
Oh, but it was a situation. You and Frank Zappa explained in the movie that your records said nothing of sex with Satan. I love sex with Satan!
"At the time, it was a bad call on my part to [testify], getting identified with all of the worst things in rock & roll," he re-grets. "My band was far from the worst."
Or were they.
"Kids were glad to sacrifice us to their moms and dads," he martyrs. "So there was a lot of backlash going into every town and having shows picketed and canceled. And you're going, 'But we're not devil worshipping or anything.' But in the long run, it made more of a legend."
No, that was your hair. Which I should mention is still quite long, brittle and curly, if mostly pulled back. No more dark underneath, either. Life is simpler now. More, er, "Hardball." But the PMRC backlash did open the door for such cheery followers as Eminem to receive intellectual dissection in "The New York Times." That's gotta feel good.
"Twenty years from now, he'll be easy listening too," Dee bitters. "I told Marilyn Manson that. I said, 'Enjoy it while you can, because in 20 years they'll be saying, Oh, don't you love that 'Beautiful People' song.'"
And at this point, Mr. Snider raises the roof, so to speak, with arms akimbo, cheering, "The beautiful people! The beautiful people!"
Frankly, I'm scared.
"I mean, 'We're Not Gonna Take It' -- moms and dads are singing it at the football games. It's just not dangerous anymore."
Spooky. So what did you take from it? Your hair, I mean.
"It was one of the things that sort of took the wind out of my sails, ranting and raving about 'We're Not Gonna Take It' ... and then to lose, it's like ... "
Snider effects a gay actor in search of a coveted "Chorus Line" space with a lispy "What's my motiv-A-tion?"
"Any regrets then, princess?"
"I'm glad I'm too old for that shit," he shits. "I've done my time. Let somebody else act like an asshole."