When I decided to end Twisted Sister as a live entity in early 1988, as pragmatic as that decision was, I was confronted by a huge sense of loss since my identity was connected with that brand, which I helped develop, for more than 15 years. We went from playing in tiny nightclubs in New Jersey in 1973 to headlining stadium concerts; we shot MTV videos and wrote and recorded international anthems of rebellion. As far as the pop culture media world was concerned, we as a band and most important, as a brand, were over.
As hard as it is to deal with the mental challenges of creating a pathway to rebuild your life the one thing I didn't have to deal with was the impression that people who met me were thinking "loser." This is the entertainment industry we're talking about here where perception is reality and your reputation truly precedes you. It takes some creativity to design a diversionary scenario when you are being introduced, like: "I'm currently working with a new band," or "I'm producing a new project."
The reason I didn't was because my face was covered in makeup and my own name was not connected to it. I didn't have to confront the kinds of questions that my singer Dee had as the "face" of the band. People took liberties and asked such questions as, "Hey what really happened?" Or, "Are you talking to the other guys?" Or, "Are you broke?" Or, "Do you hate each other?"
I, on the other hand, was able to go on and get a "straight" job without the baggage of having to answer any probing or inappropriate questions while planning our return. This brings me to the story of an old friend who, years ago, was working part-time as a cashier at a NYC gift shop.
One very hot summer day in 2005, Paul McCartney walked in with his then-wife, Heather. My friend looked up and standing directly in front of him was Sir Paul, one of the few people on Earth that he revered. Thoughts ran through his head but because my friend very much respected one's privacy he chose to only speak if he was spoken to.
Paul had walked in because Heather had noticed a Vera Bradley baby bag on display. Paul looked at my friend without uttering a word and gestured with his foot (as the bag was on a low hook) then asked about the price. My friend responded that the bag was $100. Paul then looked at my friend and asked "Are you making up that price for me?"
The scenario is probably not what my friend would have conjured if I had told him that one day he was going to meet and have a conversation with one of his biggest childhood idols. Being accused of ripping Sir Paul off? He was a lifelong Beatles fan and only a few years younger than Paul. (Paul, at the time was a 63-year-old man; my friend was 58.)
When a 21-year-old assistant store clerk (who clearly had no idea who he was) showed Sir Paul that all the bags were priced at $100, my friend observed that he appeared to be embarrassed by his earlier accusation and started making small talk with my friend--as if attempting to erase his coming across as being as arrogant as he had. Mr. McCartney paid for the bag and walked out.
Of course, my friend called me immediately to relay the ridiculously surreal circumstances about what had happened when he met Sir Paul McCartney. I asked him if he resented the former Beatle now and if he was no longer interested in listening to another one of their records in his life. His response was measured and philosophical. He said he felt sorry for the man who had most likely been lied to, ripped off, and hustled because of who he is since he was 20 years old.
The point is this--if you tie yourself by name and face too closely with your brand, and things go south, you could not only lose your name (or brand) in a lawsuit, but also your ability to reconstruct your next business plan. While your goal may be to fly under the radar, if you're not careful you can suffer by failure identification.
You may not be as lucky as Sir Paul McCartney was in finding such an understanding consumer as my friend. Paul was lucky to have a fan like that. These days, with social media being what it is, good news travels fast and bad news (carrying with it all the haters) travels faster.