Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider’s 23-year-old daughter Cheyenne is currently stranded in the remote port city of Iquitos, Peru, after Peru's president, Martin Vizcarra, issued a 15-day nationwide state of emergency and border closure due to the coronavirus pandemic. And while Snider stresses in a recent desperate social media post that he understands the need for quarantines and border protection, he’s not going to take it anymore. Snider says he won’t stop campaigning until Cheyenne, and “thousands” of other American tourists “stranded around the world,” are able to safely make it home.
Earlier this week, the U.S. Embassy issued a security alert saying American citizens “who have not been able to reschedule their flights out of Peru should arrange lodging for the duration of the quarantine period." Snider has become increasingly worried regarding just how long that quarantine period will last (he suspects it will be longer than 15 days), and where exactly his daughter, who was in Iquitos vacationing on a spiritual retreat when the border closure went into effect, will stay during that time.
Yahoo Entertainment spoke with Snider via phone to discuss the situation, as well as his thoughts on how his former Celebrity Apprentice co-star, President Donald Trump, is handling the coronavirus crisis.
Yahoo Entertainment: How are you holding up right now?
Dee Snider: It's pretty crazy, this amazing feeling of helplessness… with my daughter being on a spiritual retreat in Iquitos, Peru, she’s safe at the moment, but I fear it to be very unsafe when this [retreat] is over and she's released into the general populace.
How did Cheyenne end up in Peru, and what happened exactly after she got there?
Well, first I just want to say that — as I think I made clear in my Instagram and Facebook posts — I immediately realize that this is a plight of thousands. It's not just my daughter. It's other people's daughters and sons and fathers and mothers who are in this situation. And so I've tried to use my platform to raise awareness through one situation of what's going on out there, with the slamming shut of these doors. And that's really what it was.
Cheyenne was scheduled to go out to Peru on a spiritual retreat. My wife has been there and my sons have been there, so we knew it was a safe, secure environment. She went down there last week and everything seemed fine. But as you know, things change very, very quickly, even within hours. When she left, there was no reason for alarm — especially, I mean, to our government. And then suddenly, we realize that the government's been saying everybody's got to get home. And President Trump spoke about it today [Thursday]; he did speak about Peru. We were literally on hold for four hours trying to change my daughter's flight. We changed her flight to get her home, and then the Peruvian government, without any notice, canceled all flights. Shut the doors completely. It's practically a military state. You probably could see that the military and the police are out in the streets, and they're very, very hard on their citizens who are violating the quarantine right now.
How worried are you for Cheyenne’s safety?
That section of Peru, where a lot of these spiritual retreats are, is very remote. It's in the jungle, and normally it's very safe. Normally your core group goes in and goes out and everything is very organized. Now, it's kind of like the Wild West. … My daughter is secure for a short time, for a few more days in this retreat, but when it ends, she [won’t be]. Quite honestly, she’s American, she’s a pretty, bleached-blond, goth-looking girl, sticking out like a sore thumb. And she’s very alone and without a lot of resources. Of course, some people are in much worse situations, but Iquitos is an isolated place. Look at it on a map. There are virtually no roads. It’s three-and-a-half day bus ride [to the nearest major city]. And boats take days as well, because they're cargo boats going down the river. So, there's no way to get her back, unless they open the airways or the military goes in there to get her. There is some talk that the Peruvian government has made a decree that they are going to allow citizens to leave, which hasn't happened yet. President Trump has said there are discussions to send military planes over to bring the American citizens home. …So it's much bigger, and that's just one country. There are American citizens stuck all over the world.
When was the last time you were in touch with Cheyenne? Are you able to communicate?
Thank God they do have internet there, though it's not the best in the world where she is. So we have been speaking to her fairly regularly, and she and the others — it's five Americans there, one Canadian, two Australians, I think — they're secure in the environment. But they're all very concerned with what happens when this [retreat] is over. …These situations are targets for the criminal element. All over the world, they're taking advantage of this chaos and confusion right now. I saw a posting, a hotel door that people staying in the hotel weren't allowed to leave the hotel even to get food — but that the hotel was wanting you to give them cash, and they would go out and get food for you. So, there's all these kinds of hustles going on. You never know what's the truth and what's a lie, and we don't speak the language on top of that. That just adds another element of fear.
I spoke to her today, and I could hear people in the background when they saw that my daughter was getting some kind of a lifeline. They were screaming, "We're here too, we're here too! There's other Americans here!" — literally yelling in the background so that I could hear. I spoke to them as well. And I feel like if we get anything going, of course we'll try and get everybody out of there. At the same time, the good news is they're safe, but they're in a nice, beautiful cage, basically. If they can stay in that cage, they're good, but they know when the door opens it's no good.
Is there any possibility that this retreat could be extended and that your daughter and those other people could just stay there in quarantine?
Well, the retreat’s not going to push people out the door onto the streets, so as I've said on my Instagram feed, she is safe — but she is in a very foreign land, and things are changing day to day. These situations are changing. I mean, the fact is, the cartels are all over the place up there. They're definitely taking advantage of what's going on up there. So I wasn't screaming, "Oh my God," because there are people in a lot worse situations, and I've seen their postings: no money, no hotel, no food, no nothing, and they can't get home. I've tried to bring attention to that. I don’t want to be that rock star, saying, “My daughter before everybody else!” I just want her be in that line [to get on a flight], because I’m not going to sleep well until she's back home.
Do you have any idea when she might be able to get on a plane?
We don't know how long this thing is going on. Everybody's throwing the “two-week” number around, because I firmly believe that’s a number that people can wrap their brains around without getting too freaked out. It's kind of this safe number. But even Trump mentioned it's going to go on for months — not the quarantine, but everything. So, how are they going to handle it? As things break down, will the retreat have the food, the supplies, to go on indefinitely, taking care of these people? At some point, are [the retreat employees] going to want to go home to their families? I don't want to sit there and go, “Oh, Cheyenne is cool for a week or so.” I want to just keep pushing to get her out as soon as possible, and hopefully not have to take advantage of the kindness of the retreats.
What are you doing specific actions are you taking to try to get her home?
I am doing the sublime to the ridiculous. I'm doing everything that everybody else is doing: calling the embassy, calling the senators, signing petitions, sending the different government agencies and making them aware that she's there, putting her on lists, going to social media. I've got outreach, and there are people out in this world to do things to get people. I feel like if this was [an action hero like] Dwayne Johnson, the Rock, and his daughter was trapped, he could take a helicopter, a pickup truck, a boat. But the roads, you can't even get in these countries. I can't get in a car and drive there because they've shut down the roadways. They shut down the airports, they shut down the boats, they shut down the buses. So I am making every call, anything I possibly can to get my daughter back home to safety. I think that’s what any parent would do.
The last time you did an interview with Yahoo, we talked about President Trump. You knew from Celebrity Apprentice and you two used to be pretty friendly, but I know you disagree with his politics and eventually requested that he stop using Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” So, I have to ask: How do you feel about how his administration’s response to the coronavirus crisis?
Horribly. They handled it horribly and embarrassingly — turning down the test kits, making a joke out of it, a mockery, some of these people wearing gas masks or whatever they were wearing during a press conference. I mean, it was horribly handled, and it just underlines how you need to have a person in power who's got a broad understanding of international issues and all aspects of governing, not just how the stock market is doing. So I just hope that this is making some people be more aware that we need a more well-rounded individual at the helm. And hopefully one of these [candidates] will come up and we'll get somebody. I'll take either Bernie or Biden, just whoever [is the Democratic nominee]. Honestly, if a potato ran, I'd vote for it, OK? I'd vote for a baked potato.
Baked Potato 2020?
Oh, that's going to be the headline, isn’t it? [chuckles] “Dee Snider says he's voting for a baked potato.” Don't make that the headline!
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