Dee Snider — rocker, actor, DJ and now writer — draws on Long Island childhood in 1st novel ‘Frats’

Dee Snider
Dee Snider poses for a portrait in Redondo Beach, Calif., on Wednesday, June 21, 2023, to promote his novel “Frats.”
Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP

Dee Snider is taking a novel approach to life after rock stardom.

The former singer for the ’80s glam rock band Twisted Sister just released his first novel, “Frats,” about the madness, cruelty and alcohol and testosterone-fueled bravado of the 1970s high school fraternity scene on Long Island, New York, where he grew up.

His debut as a novelist follows his previous stints as a radio disc jockey, TV voiceover artist, Broadway actor, horror film writer and of course the drag-wearing (more about that later) face of the band best known for the hits “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock.”

“Always something new and interesting; that’s key to me,” Snider said. “I want to feel challenged.”

He got the writing bug coming up with the script for the band’s breakthrough 1984 video for “We’re Not Gonna Take It” in which a stern father berates his teenage son, who then morphs into Snider and engages in cartoonish takedowns of dear old dad.

“I started to teach myself how to write,” he said. “In 1984, everybody was out partying; I was in the dressing room or in the hotel working on writing. I’m not a singer who decided to write a book — or had someone write one for him. I’ve been laboring away, honing the craft.

“I’m not Vince Neil,” Snider said in a swipe at the Motley Crüe singer. “I’m the guy you saw in Washington (where he testified before the U.S. Senate defending heavy metal against allegations it was violent and dangerous for kids), a guy who can put together a sentence, and express himself.”

In his autobiography “Shut Up and Give Me The Mic,” Snider learned about the bane of many writers: editors. His editor wanted 315 pages; Snider had 700 written and wasn’t finished.

“They chopped it in half,” he said. “I call it ‘killing babies.’ You have a great section for a book, but you have to remove something.”

“Frats,” which Snider says he wrote without assistance, follows the lives of high school friends who had to navigate the minefields posed by frat boys, the pressure to conform and the insane risks taken in the name of belonging. The main character, Bobby Kovacs, is loosely drawn from Snider’s own high school experiences in Baldwin, New York.

There’s even a few hidden Easter eggs that sharp-eyed Twisted Sister fans may spot: The fictional reporter who wrote a story about a heinous crime integral to the plot of the book is named Mark Segall, taking the first name of Twisted Sister’s bassist, Mark “The Animal” Mendoza, and the second name of guitarist Jay Jay French, born John Segall.

The band playing the high school prom is named Dusk; Kovacs notes that the singer went on to become quite famous. Dusk was Snider’s real-life high school band, and their singer did indeed become quite famous.

Snider, 68, made headlines last month when his support of a tweet by Kiss singer Paul Stanley critical of juveniles undergoing sex reassignment surgery led Snider’s planned appearance at the San Francisco Pride parade to be canceled by mutual agreement.

“I saw what Paul said, and I essentially agreed about him saying kids aren’t ready to make those decisions,” Snider said. He said he told the group SF Pride, “I think I should not attend. Look, we disagree on this subject, I’m in support of you guys, I don’t want to cause you problems, let me bow out before you even announce it.

“You can’t afford to be alienating supporters, people who stand with you, sing with you, march with you, just because they don’t agree with every single thing you say,” he said. “I am a supporter of the trans community and the gay community. I dressed in drag and stood tall, and inspired millions of young men and women to be themselves.”

He wrote on Twitter that “I am open to educating myself so I can be a better ally.”

Suzanne Ford, executive director of SF Pride, welcomed that declaration.

“Like any ally, we’re glad that Dee wants to continue learning about the issues that affect the transgender community,” Ford said. “As a trans woman, I can tell you that no two stories are alike. This isn’t a black-and-white conversation, which is why educating the public is so critical.”

Twisted Sister retired in 2016, and there are no plans to revive the band, though Snider admits it would be tempting to go onstage again in makeup and costumes in one of the numerous states that have banned drag shows attended by children “as a poke in the eye.”

“In certain states, it’s been banned,” he said. “What we did would not be allowed.”