With your touring schedule, were you able to attend her appointments?

Fender Custom Shop Stratocaster – “The color is custom hot pink with cherry sunburst,” says Fender’s John Cruz. “The body is mahogany with crème binding. It features a tummy cut on the back, however I did not include the arm contour found on most Strats. The neck is pretty much the same as the Tele, which features a mahogany neck with Indian rosewood fretboard, large C shape, 12" radius, and 6105 fretwire. It also features a clear Lexan pickguard with my custom-wound J.C. Limited pickups—which are top mounted.”
Twisted Sister stopped performing in 1988 and retired until 2003. My daughter was born in 1993, and I was her nanny for four years. For 10 years, I took her to school and picked her up every day. My dad was a traveling salesman, and I swore I would never have a child if I was on the road. Samantha and I are very close. I was still married, and I had the luxury of being home all the time. In 1999, the problem was discovered and we were there. In September 2003, my wife and I divorced and she moved four blocks away, so Samantha stayed with me every other day and I took her to and from school. By the time Twisted Sister started playing weekends again, we played June through August and it was very easy to do. I was very fortunate that my schedule allowed me to be on top of this and never miss a doctor’s appointment. My ex-wife is English, and the corporation she works for moved her back to the UK. So Samantha went to school in England at 14 and we found a specialist there. She will be back here to go to college in the US in 2011. I traveled to England a lot and went to her doctor appointments, too. There was never a lack of maintenance from her mother and me.

You were also lucky to have insurance—they don’t give cancer drugs away as samples.

We are very lucky, because Remicade will bankrupt you. It is the most expensive drug in the world. When you’re a parent whose child has a chronic disease, you have enough battles to fight, and it becomes an even tougher challenge due to the financial strain if you don’t have insurance—which is another reason I want to raise research dollars.

Which leads us to the Pinkburst Project. One day you woke up and thought . . .

I’d had my pinkburst Les Paul signature model for a long time, and at a NAMM show I was introduced to John Cruz from Fender. I told him I had a pink Les Paul and asked what it would take to build a pink Tele with rosewood—a custom guitar. He looked at me as if I were nuts. The guy who happened to be standing next to him was someone I hadn’t seen in 30 years—he was the kid who delivered my first Les Paul to me. It was eerie! I have an Epiphone Les Paul, and I had a Gibson Les Paul painted pink by a local luthier named Steve Carr in 1979. He’s the same guy who made the Axe bass for Gene Simmons. I had this boat-anchor, thousand-pound guitar delivered to me in a parking lot in Long Island, and there I was with the same guy standing next to John Cruz. John said, “Okay, I’ll make the Tele.”

Gretsch G6120 – “The guitar is basically a stock 6120 made from maple — top, back and sides,” says Fender Master Builder John Cruz. “It also features a maple neck and rosewood fretboard. It already had the traditional thumbnail inlay installed on the guitar. I did not want to try and change this beautiful design, and I convinced Jay Jay that he would love it the way it was. He agreed. After the custom paint was applied, I installed the Filter’Tron-style pickups, stock wiring harness, Bigsby tremolo, custom-painted pickup covers, and a clear Lexan pickguard. This guitar was stunning to look at, as well as play. As with all the other guitars, Jay Jay was speechless.”
I wanted it to look like my Gibson, and he matched it. The Tele arrived and I had the two guitars on stands in my living room. I thought, “Imagine if I could get other companies to do this—and we could sell them and donate the money to MERSI because they have so few research dollars.”

Is this your first fundraiser for MERSI?

I’ve been involved in auctions for the hospital. They do simple auctions where people donate typical things, and I donated guitars. This time, I wanted to do more.

How did you involve other manufacturers?

John was working on the Tele at his bench in California, and people would see it in the factory. I called him about a Strat, and then I talked to Martin and Gibson. By then we were in our second year of guitar models. And then came basses—and they all had to be pinkbursts. I could have bought guitars and had them painted, but the key was having the manufacturers make official guitars. That’s what matters to collectors—that they get that official slip. Once I explained the reason for this, everyone was onboard.

Did you request common features from all the manufacturers?

My wish list included trapezoid fretboard inlays—which we got on all but three of the guitars—rosewood fretboards, and matching colors. But, as Obama says, it involved the art of compromise, to a degree. So I had to compromise. Some of the guitars were made in China and had certain set inlays, fretboards, etc. After three years, I’d say this is quite a success story, with 99 percent of my wish list fulfilled.

Does each piece have a unique serial number or identifying stamp?

Every amp has a brass plaque with the Pinkburst Project logo, and every guitar has a custom-made TKL case with the project logo. Everything was so disparately made that the custom shops put their own numbers on them. All the serial numbers are available on the website.