Jess Harvell’s piece on The Misfits’ relationship to New Jersey earlier this week sparked some debate from out-of-state residents over which musicians deserved to be elevated to bard status as far as their respective homelands went. I wouldn’t try to speak for all of New York, because, well, doing so would be just silly (plus I think that as someone who still calls Rockland County “upstate” from time to time I’d be disqualified from that particular panel by anyone living north of the Bronx). But I do have one nominee for Long Island’s most mythical artist… and it’s not Billy Joel.
Oh sure, my fellow Hicksville High School alum is probably the artist who’s most emblematic of Long Island—the Boomer nostalgia, the constant aspirations toward life in The City, the name-dropping of the Village Green and the Empire Diner, the ever-more-bitter tinge his life has taken on as he gets older (and yes, his 60+ status means that he’s kept up with the local demographics, as evidenced by Newsday’s Saturday supplement called Act Two). But when I think of Long Island and its myths, I think of Twisted Sister lead vocalist Dee Snider, born in Massapequa.
• His glory days were in the 1980s, much like Long Island’s.
• If the governments of Nassau and Suffolk Counties could get inspired by the recent reissue of Stay Hungry and come up with a 25th-anniversary reissue of, say, the full payroll of the Grumman plant that closed down in 1994, it would be a real boost for the local residents’ ego.
• He’s into makeup. Although I’d say that his touch is a shade lighter than the one employed by a lot of Long Island cosmetic-wearing residents.
• And his hair! It’s gigantic!
• And he has a devotion to both; he was bitten by a shark recently and required 10 stitches, and he canceled a TV appearance as a result, saying “I have NEVER performed sitting down, and I never will…especially with a full face of makeup! DAMN YOU SHARK!”
• Snider’s hometown of Massapequa was also the home of Joey and Mary Jo Buttafuoco, who became known to the world during the whole “Amy Fisher shot her lover’s wife in the face” thing.
• Snider is a man of the people, riding the LIRR; I sat two rows behind him during a morning commute 10 years ago. (I did not say hello.)
• And perhaps most importantly, the simple, easily co-opted anti-establishment stance taken by songs like “We’re Not Gonna Take It” is Long Island, with its second-class status in relation to The City (whose media Long Islanders are force-fed daily, although Newsday gave it a good run before the Tribune Company mucked everything up; now, even the public TV stations are worse), strips and strips of shopping centers that are increasingly more vacant, and slowly dying, slowly aging industrial frameworks lurking underneath the glitzy exteriors planked on top of the landscape by people who summer here. Of course, if any of those weekend-home types extended invites to their parties, we’d go, and drink the free liquor. But that would just be a distraction between bouts of being stuck in traffic, and wondering what, exactly, is next.
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