In the course of his career Bators was involved with a variety of bands beyond those for which he was best known. These short-term bands included Hormones, with Dennis Comeau and Andre Siva, Frankenstein, The Wanderers and The Whores of Babylon (with Dee Dee Ramone and Johnny Thunders). He also recorded as a solo artist with Bomp! Records.
It was as the lead singer and driving force of the Dead Boys, however, that Bators helped pioneer the punk rock sound, look and attitude. The band quickly became a popular staple at CBGB's, the music club in New York City's East Village. The Dead Boys were featured in the independent punk rock film Punking Out (1978), Live at CBGB's (1977) and Crash 'n' Burn (1977).
Bators formed The Lords of the New Church later in 1981 with Brian James of The Damned and Dave Tregunna of Sham 69. The Lords became notorious for their live shows. A devotee of Iggy Pop, Bators had developed a fearless reputation in his Dead Boys days and continued such antics with The Lords, the most famous being the time he reportedly hanged himself during a show.
Later, the punk vocalist gained additional exposure through more mainstream film. In 1981, Bators co-starred in the satirical John Waters film, Polyester. Seven years later, Bators made a memorable cameo appearance as "Dick Slammer", lead singer of "The Blender Children", in the offbeat comedy, Tapeheads, starring John Cusack and Tim Robbins.
The Lords of the New Church broke up in 1989, when Bators injured his back and guitarist Brian James secretly began advertising for a replacement singer. When Bators found out he played the encore of the band's final show donning a T-shirt with James' newspaper ad printed across the front, he then proceeded to fire the remaining members on-stage.
In the summer of 1990, Bators was struck by a taxi in Paris. He was taken to hospital but reportedly left before seeing a doctor, after waiting several hours. Reports indicate that he died in his sleep as the result of a concussion. Dave Tregunna said that Bators, a fan of rock legend Jim Morrison, had earlier requested that his ashes be spread over Morrison's Paris grave and that his girlfriend complied.However, in the director's commentary of the film "Polyester," in which Bators starred, John Waters, in relating Bators death, stated that Bator's girlfriend had snorted his ashes.