Dee Snider has always had a big mouth, especially back in the '80s when it was encrusted with lipstick during performances by his gutter-glam hard rock band Twisted Sister. But these days he's using his abrasive voice not to bellow rebellious lyrics, but to speak his mind over the airwaves, plug consumer products and promote cable news programming.
"I was always an articulate son of a bitch, and somewhere along the way, I've reinvented myself as more of a personality and an attitude," Snider said from the set of an upcoming VH1 film about the 1985 Senate hearings on explicit music, in which he plays himself. "Me and Henry Rollins are practically the only guys in rock and roll who can articulate a sentence, so I get called in for everything." (Click
However, just because Snider always has something to say doesn't mean every thought he airs is his own. And as he learned last week, commentators can get in trouble for aping other people's ideas. On February 14, Snider was invited to be a guest commentator on "World News Now" overnight, where, dressed in black jeans, a black T-shirt, army boots and sunglasses, he delivered a humorous two-minute rant about Enron. Problem was, the material in his commentary came straight from a widely circulated Internet e-mail called "Enron's Cows."
At this point it is unclear whether Snider will be invited back on the program. Neither Snider nor "World News Now" returned calls. As bizarre as the small scandal may be, the way the heavy metal howler hooked up with ABC is just as strange. Angered by an old report he saw on "World News Now," he e-mailed the program's producer, who happened to be an old Twisted Sister fan.
"He e-mails me back and goes, 'Dude, I'm an SMF from way back.' Sick motherf---er that's what we called our fans. So I told him what I was doing, and he said he'd love to have me on the show sometime. Then one day he sent me an e-mail saying one of his older commentators was leaving and asking me if I wanted to take the spot."
Even if Snider loses his gig with ABC, he's still got a network news gig as the James Earl Jones of MSNBC, where Snider has been recording voiceovers since November. The channel called him in because it wanted a raw, raspy voice that would complement edgy news shows like "Hardball With Chris Matthews."
"James Earl Jones and that whole (lowers voice) 'This ... is CNN' thing, it just gets ingrained," Snider said. "You can't compete by doing what they're doing. So they wanted something a little brasher, someone with an attitude somewhere between Denis Leary and Dennis Miller. Somebody asked me, 'What do you think of being in competition with James Earl Jones?' And I said, 'Well I know I'd kick his ass in a steel cage match, but I don't know about vocally.' "
Snider started doing voiceover work in 1992 at the recommendation of Howard Stern, who also helped him hook up radio work. Stern introduced the rocker to an agent, who agreed to listen to Snider read.
"She gave me some copy and I read it, and she said, 'You can read!' " he recalled. "I said, 'F--- you, of course I can read,' because I thought she was surprised I could string together a sentence. And she said, 'No, I mean you have a great voice for reading copy.' So she started sending me out on the street."
Soon after, Snider got his first callback for a 7-Up commercial. He didn't get the part, but he kept going to auditions and soon landed an assignment to read for the New York Quick Draw Lottery. Voiceovers for Pizza Hut, Bruce Springsteen and System of a Down followed, as well as a narrating role in a Frank Sinatra documentary for the Learning Channel.
"When I was younger, I never planned on doing anything much past 30," he admitted. "I only wanted to be a rock star, so all this other sh-- is a complete surprise for me. It was completely unexpected and it's completely joyous because I'm having fun doing it. Voiceover work is not hard work, and I'm getting to be myself."
In the months ahead, Snider plans to finish shooting the VH1 flick, start working on the sequel to his 1998 horror film, "Strangeland," and land more voiceover work. The only thing missing from his schedule is a music project.
Although Twisted Sister got back together last year to play a benefit concert in New York for the victims of September 11, the band is now on extended hiatus largely because of fashion disagreements between bandmembers.
"We almost accepted a major offer for a festival in Sweden, but we couldn't come to terms on how we should present ourselves," said Snider. "I and other members of the band are firm believers in the idea that you gotta give people what they want, the way Kiss did it. It's a mistake to go out there as Mötley Tool and try to look new and contemporary. And then there's other guys in the band who just don't feel comfortable anymore wearing that stuff and feel that the costume compromises any kind of credibility we might have developed over the past few years. So I have a feeling in the future we will figure something out."
Maybe so, but even if everyone agrees to dress in makeup and spandex again, Snider has little interest in a full-scale comeback tour.
"The life I have now is better than rock and roll, economically," he said. "I can't and won't give it up to go back out on the road. I'm married with four kids, and I have no desire to get on the bus again. I think we've all found life after rock and roll."
Bassist J.J. French used to manage Sevendust and currently manages several artists including the Step Kings, while guitarist Eddie Ojeda, bassist Mark Mendoza and drummer A.J. Pero are working on various projects.