Rolling Stone – March 30, 1972
Gold Diggers of 1984
Author: Chris Hodenfield
Article retrieved from Alice Cooper eChive http://www.alicecooperechive.com/articles/?alpha=r
“We’re going to feed Chichita now,” Neal announced. “You shouldn’t miss it.”
No, you never want to miss the sight of a boa constrictor having dinner. Two or three live mice.
In the well-lit cage, a grey mouse nosed around the coiled snake – a ponderous ballet – (the mouse didn’t even know it was coming) – the snake held fast – the mouse looked her in the eye – even went up and smelled her real close – kissed her!
Garrulmph. So fast you didn’t see it, Chichita snapped up the mouse and held him waggling inside her stuffed jowls. She arched herself proudly, coiled around herself and broke the mouse’s neck. Garrulmph. Stretching and contracting, she swallowed it whole. Soon, there was just a tiny pink foot and tail sticking out of her mouth. And then it was all gone. She was looking for more.
“You don’t want to stick your hand in there now,” Alice warned. “She’s got the taste, her juices are flowing; she’s hungry. These are all she’ll eat for the rest of the week, but right now, she’s animal.”
The sound of pinging bullets resounded down the hall as Glen Buxton emptied his pellet gun into a stack of bottles. “Works perfect,” he says, cramming .177 caliber lead pieces into the chamber. “The last fucker was always jamming.”
The hardware is strewn on the table. A .25 automatic, a .22 rifle, Neal’s .38 Smith & Wesson. “In our Detroit house, me and my girl had the bed here, you know, and we had bottles on the mantle, on the bookcase, on the fireplace, on the window sill, everywhere. And we’d wake up in the morning and reach for a gun and start firing at the bottles . . .”
His room is a wreck. He’s a wreck, bleary and his shirttail out, after just four days on the road, and the Alice Cooper band is back in their Alice Cooper mansion in Greenwich, Connecticut. You’ll see Rita Hayworth and Bette Davis around this town, shopping for escargots in the deli gourmet section along with Nelson Rockefeller, hunching his face into his overcoat collar, as incognito as a wet turd. Yessir the band fits right in around Stickville, up in their house upon the hill where they return to recuperate every once in a while.
They’ve built all this nighttime energy from the road, so the only thing to do is get blind stinking drunk in the middle of the night and sling wide the windows, open up on the shrubs and squirrels with blazing six-guns . . .
A man hangs by his neck in the ballroom. A Broadway producer originally built this place, the Galesi Estate, in the age of opulence – 40 rooms, nearly every one of them covered with mirrors. When he died, his wife took all the mirrors off – except those that cover Alice’s bathroom, so don’t be surprised if you accidentally bounce into infinity when heading for the 16-nozzled shower. The band moved in and stocked Skippy Crunchy in the kitchen, stocked artillery in the cupboards, tacked swastikas on the ceilings, installed a sauna bath over there and over here . . . in the middle of this vast, airy gymnasium-sized ballroom cluttered with beat-up amplifiers and trash . . . a man hangs from the ceiling, high above the Xmas tree. His plaster face tells you nothing.
Alice Cooper can afford this place. His band is probably the hottest group working this week. You can’t say America doesn’t deserve a manic supposed-tranvestite who slaughters baby dolls on stage, wears a straightjacket, gets hung in a gallows, walks to the foot of the stage and shakes up a can of Budweiser, snaps the tab and showers the flailing mass of banana-heads with a geyser of suds . . .
“If I can pour beer all over everybody in the front row, I love it,” Alice explained. ” ‘Cause I’m a brat anyway. Pour it all over their brand new clothes, ha-ha-ha. And when I throw them those dollar bills, they perform for us . . . audiences are really masochists.”
“I understand that all an audience wants is sex and violence. I know that ’cause I used to watch television all day long. That’s all I ever did.
“We’re the ultimate American band . . . merely the end product of an affluent society.”
(“Too much television?” Alice’s mother would tell us later, “Yes, he watched quite a bit of television. Maybe that’s the downfall of all children nowadays.”)
Alice answered the ringing phone. He listened intently for a minute or two and then nearly dropped his rum-and-coke all over the carpet. “Great! Hey, that’s really neat . . . huh? Fantastic. Yeah? Listen, can we get that out on the wire service. Or at least a few of the papers? See what you can do, man. That’s really great.”
He put the receiver back and explained his enthusiasm. “That was Shep, telling me about a page story in the Charlotte News that said ‘Girl Sickened By Rock Show.’ She had to be taken out of the theater when she saw us do ‘Dead Babies.’ Isn’t that neat? So they did a big story on her. I think that’s great press.”
Alice is wiry, constantly hunched over in a posture acquired by slumping his favorite easy chair for Peter Gunn, Bourbon Street, 77 Sunset Strip. His nose has been flattened, a reminder of the day he won a 26-mile marathon in Phoenix, then fell nose-first onto the curb. He was a track star. A dedicated long-distance runner. The record still stands.
Alice Cooper first achieved nationwide notoriety for looking bent . . . by looking pretty. The group was viciously denounced by all but the most Zappaphilic critics. “Two years ago,” said Alice, “if there was just the slightest hint that you were a fag, you were in real trouble. So we used to wear turquoise make-up and that really bothered people.”
Salvador Dali was an early fan, after he heard about them from an acquaintance, a member of the GTOs, (the Girls Together Only Counterparts). Fred Astaire gave his support (“if you could have a pretty face like Alice Cooper”), as well as Pierre Cardin, Rona Barrett, Rex Reed, Virginia Graham, a Newsweek reporter, all of which are the names AC’s managers must use to talk their way out of concert hall blacklistings, they’ve attained over the years. Mister, once the kids see this band, they’ll get scared and not grow their hair long. . . .
In Atlanta recently, a court injunction barred them from using feathers, gallows, electric chairs. The ASPCA ordered them not to bite off any chicken heads. But the mayor gave them a key to the city.
Frank Zappa originally signed them on his now-defunct Straight label. The first album broke down just a few weeks into recording, recalls bassist Dennis Dunaway, when Zappa said, “Well, maybe I don’t know your music after all, maybe I should have listened to it some more.” Zappa also had plans to bring out the first album in small records, packaged in tuna fish cans.
Alice Cooper were originally called the Spiders. Before that, the Earwigs, a band first organized as a goof when representing the Lettermen’s Club back at Cortez High’s annual variety show. They were all rich kids, and they all had fast cars. Dennis wrapped his lavender ’57 Lincoln Continental around a telephone pole; Alice wrecked about six cars in all, like the ’66 Fairlane GT. (Pissed drunk one night as the engine blows up, Alice throws dirt down the carburetor and ruins that classy little mill for ever and ever . . .)
Pay for it? “We wouldn’t work at any gas stations, not us. The Spiders worked every weekend at the V.I.P. You don’t know where the V.I.P. is? Hey! This guy doesn’t know where the V.I.P. is . . .”
Neal Smith, the drummer, explained the cultural heritage of living in Phoenix: “We used to walk around the deserts ouss of banana-heads with a geyser of suds . . .
“If I can pour beer all over everybody in the front row, I love it,” Alice explained. ” ‘Cause I’m a brat anyway. Pour it all over their brand new clothes, ha-ha-ha. And when I throw them those dollar bil band, the Spiders caught onto deviate English bands like the Pretty Things, Yardbirds, Them and the Stones, went out and bought their bellbottoms, watched a lot of TV, went to L.A., changed their name to the Nazz, then Alice Cooper, and then exploded upon Lenny Bruce’s Birthday Part in 1969 at the Cheetah where they sent 3000 partygoers bolting for the doors.
“We weren’t even all that negative,” said Alice. “We weren’t nearly then what we are now. It just wasn’t timely.” No, Alice, men’s turquoise make-up wasn’t too timely in those days.
The way Alice sees it, “People are both male and female, biologically. The typical American male thinks he is all male – 100 percent, but what he has to realise is that he has got a feminine side.” This revelation was imparted to him by a Phoenix hypnotist.
Alice Cooper have revived a few recently outdated byproducts of stardom: The rushing of the stage by girls, for one, and then the throwing of candy and jewelry. Another is their stock of dripping, sometimes drooling fan mail:
– “I’ve never been affected by anything like I was by you. The first time I heard Love It to Death, I couldn’t sleep for four days I was so excited. The first guy I ever loved made me so I couldn’t sleep for two nights, and that’s the only time I’ve been that bad off.”
– “We would like to ball you. We challenge you to a balling duel.” (Signed by three Pennsylvania girls.)
– “Everytime I go to the bathroom with your calander, the same thing happens. So I send you a token of my love.” (This from a young man who enclosed a little plastic bag of semen.)
– “I have all your albums. I also sing for a band called Randy Slut.”
– “I am dying of luekemia and the only thing that’s keeping me alive is the hope that you and your boys will appear somewhere within 300 miles of Denver in the next two months. My life is within your trousers.”
– “People call you faggy, but I think you’re pretty! Write a song for my dead dog. I don’t think you’re homo ‘cos you turn too many people on.”
– “All we want to know is are you guys homosexuals? We don’t mean to put you down, but like we were wondering if it was superhype of what. If you are homosexuals, don’t feel weird about telling us. We aren’t lesbians or anything.”
– “My dad hates you because he thinks you’re fags. Shit on him.”
Just as crime and heroin addiction inexorably move to the subrubs, so does Alice Cooper. “Our best audiences are in the Mid-west, where they’re just aching to get off.”
Traveling with the Cooper band is made up of equal parts 200 Motels, The Lost Weekend, and I Love Lucy; a cornucopia of middle Americana. Walking through LaGuardia airport at 11 a.m., the manager knows instinctively where to find the band. The bar. “If you ever get lost,” he advises, “go to the bar. Because that’s where you’ll find them.”
Three of them sit there – Alice, Neal Smith and Glen Buxton, bending elbows and looking as lopsided at the old mahogany as three off-duty hookers. Bummer of ’42. Onlookers size up Neal’s ten turquoise rings, or else the two-and-a-half inch long white-painted thumbnail, while Glen has one long green nail, while Alice wears black leather gloves (but confides later that he uses Sta-Hard nail toughener). Neal carries a shoulder bag hung with Holiday Inn keys, plus a lady’s white overnight case . . . you know, a “pajama party” case punctured with stab holes and knife wounds, which are air holes for Chichita, the boa constrictor residing inside.
Alice looks at the back of his hand. “I have the heartbreak of psoriasis.”
“Shep, we just had the shittiest cabdriver.”
“That cabbie reminded me of this kid back in sixth grade,” said Alice. “He was a real mean kid, you know, and wore braces all across his front teeth. And he was so mean that he’d go home and eat egg salad for lunch. And he’s come back and stand right in front of you and go ‘Nyaaah.’ He’d grit his teeth and you’d see the egg salad all stuck in his braces. What a mean kid.”
“We had two gay guys come up who said they were reporters from a rock magazine.”
“You mean the guy with the real short hair . . . heyyyy, he was really freaky . . .”
“One of them was ‘Hey Sweety’ queer as hell. They said they wanted some bedroom shots, so I said OK and went upstairs. And the fucker starts rubbing his legs together, getting horny . . . I was gonna shoot the bastard.”
“What happened to the girl from the party? The one with the dog.”
“Jesus, I could’ve fucked her dog. That beautiful Irish setter . . .”
“The girl with the nice long legs . . .”
“. . . the big nose . . .”
“. . . the tail . . .”
“Didn’t she have six tits?”
“I felt her nose to see if she was carrying anything. It was cold, so she must have been clean.”
“I once gave a nurse a litmus test . . . Hey,” Neal said. “What’ll you have to drink? If you’re traveling with us, you gotta drink something.”
“Yeah,” agreed Alice, “we turn everybody into alcoholics.”
“Bartender, give him a Jack Daniels on the rocks.”
“Oh boy,” said Alice, titling his whiskey and coke, “Jack at 11.30 in the morning. This is going to be a great tour.”
They all headed to the plane (for priority seats) to resume the longest running blackjack game ever held at 30,000 feet. Mike Bruce pushed Dennis Dunaway along in a heisted wheelchair. Dennis had just had a hernia operation. The doctors discovered he’d been carrying it around for two years.
A daily paper lay discarded on an empty seat. It was open to an article entitled, “Psycho Sexual Encounter – Sex Roles Reconsidered.”
The band are not strangers to the press. Sensation seekers like this are a typewriter jockey’s dream.
Dennis: “We all used to be on the school paper together at Cortez High. It was called the Tip Sheet. Glen was a photgrapher, I was the sports editor and Alice was the editorial editor. We all joined the paper because that’s where all the neat girls were supposed to be. It was eeeasy. If we wanted to mess around instead of doing a story, we’d just send out one of the girls.”
In Roanoke, Virginia, the band held a press conference; a little bit of a prematch lubrication to turn vermin prose into wunderbar prose.
Newsman: Your act is working up just to the act of sex. Have you ever performed anything for after the climax?
Alice: No, the audience’s fantasies take them over that edge. They have so many fantasies in the first place. You see, 14-year-old kids are more interested in sex than college kids, who’ve done it all. I hope 14-year-old kids haven’t done everything yet . . .
Newsman: You just haven’t been in Virginia long.
Alice: No, I haven’t been in Virginia about a week. But then, she left for the coast.
Newsman: Have you ever studied witchcraft?
Alice: No, I’m not into organized religion.
Alice sat in a Roanoke Holiday Inn room, polishing off that deep Virginia Specialtee-of-the-Day; Salisbury Steak. It looked like minced baseball innards, sided with fresh-from-the-box mashed taters. Motel food. Orchestrated by a television commercial. Alice looked right at home.
“This is how I keep my youthful figure,” he said. “I really do like cheap food.”
Road manager Dave Leibert walked in with a case of whiskey and a case of cola. The only roadie you’ll ever hope to find with three gold records to his credit, earned years ago as lead singer with the Happenings. (“Will I see you in September / Or lose you to a summer love?”) He carries no airs about it now. A real brick. “Nothing lasts forever,” he explained.
By the time Alice lurched into the elevator, he had shaved, applied his white pancake makeup, circled his eyes with black donuts and was in general luminous in the gills from the daily drinking binge. He looked like Ran that he’d go home and eat egg salad for lunch. And he’s come back abd stand right in front of you and go ‘Nyaaah.’ He’d grit his teeth and you’d see the egg salad all stuck in his braces. What a mean kid.”
“We had two gay guys come up who said they eeled boots with silver streaks up the sides. The chauffeur asked for an autograph.
Nor did he have a second look for Mike Bruce, who’s built like a cigarette machine, (“Not any of that art college stuff for me, man. I was a four year letterman in football and tennis. Kill! Kill! Kill!”) – who, with his natural swollen upper lip, didn’t look the kind you’d want to tangle with. But. But for his skin-tight purple sparkle overalls with the transparent Spiderman wings from his arms, and silver Mercury wings on his silver boots planted firmly on the soil of Virginia . . . nah, never tangle with this guy.
They say they got their inspiration from Barbarella. Alice has talked about an eventual lingerie line, or shoes with plastic heels that light up every time you take a step. “We’re gonna have to go out on stage and be smiley tonight,” said Alice, “we’re gonna have to act like we’re glad to be here. It’s a good thing we don’t be phony. Gee, we should go out there and say, ‘Hey creeps, Love, Peace and Fuck You.’ ”
“Yeah,”N eal said. ” ‘We got all the negative vibes on our side.’ ”
” ‘So you’ve been saving up all week to see, huh, folks? We’re gonna bum you out tonight folks. We hope you see 40 green dragons on our stage, we hope your stomach feels like you’ve been sliding up and down an icepick.’ ” The politics of Theater and Ritual. Roanoke was not like the deadly follies they’d see in New Jersey the next night. But 7000 sons and daughters of miners in a Roanoke gymnasium knew the score. The whole world’s a stage, the people merely . . . its audience.
Who is this girl – this stringy young girl with the inane cockeyed smile on her face? She runs her hands through her long blonde hair. She looks as good as a glass. Not a groupie, she was accidentally thrown into the aftershow-rushed limousine and her acid-weekend mind reeling. “Dig it,” she says, “Alice Cooper, what a trip, dig it.” flashing a V-sign to folks outside because she was in the limousine.
“What a trip, you guys. Like . . . hey, when the Allman Brothers were here, the stage door got stuck and . . .”
“Hey!” Neal barked, “don’t mention any other bands around here. This is our car and we’re the kings.”
“No . . . no, dig it,” said the mannequin smile, “the Allman Brothers were a trip, and the doors got stuck and . . .”
“You say you got stuck in one of the Doors?”
“They say you get lips like that sucking doorknobs.”
“Hey, dig it . . .”
“Those are nice jeans.”
“Nice filly . . . a real heifer.”
“That’s an udder story.”
“Hey, Alice Cooper,” the girl said, “you smoke grass, huh? Dig it.”
“Gee, everytime I take drugs I think of Kate Smith. No, grass, I can’t see that. Not for me.”
“I took LSD once and threw up,” Neal confided.
“Hey, dig it,” she said, “the only time I ever puked on weed or anything, this time on peyote . . .”
” ‘The only time I puked on weed,’ ” laughed Alice, hysterical. “That’s priceless!”
Back in the room, he flipped on the 93rd rerunning of Heidi. Television, his safety dimension. “Did you rustle up some grub?” he asked Neal.
“No, he left town.”
“That’s awful. How about Fonda Peters?”
Dick Gozinya? Or the dance twins, Chad and Ogla Choochoo? Midas Welby?”
The suite looked like 42nd Street after a bad Saturday night. No worry about Mom cleaning the room . . . no one here to tell us what to do. Visitors to the bathroom were warned not to get in the bathtub. And with good reason, too – the boa constrictor.
“Where’re you from?” Alice asked the Dig-It girl, still around.
“Roanoke [said Ren-uck]. It’s a long story man, I’ve got these two kids, y’know, and . . .”
“You mean you’re married?”
“It’s a long story. I got this husband, a guy I went out with for four years – dig it – and he went to Viet Nam. And then I met this beautiful head and now I gotta another kid. And it’s really a trip and I’m sposed to be home by one o’clock and . . .”
“Where do you live?”
“I got two dollars in my pocket and five dollars from my sister-in-law, I mean . . .”
“Dig it!” Neal thundered. Then he asked Alice about a girl they knew in a previous town.
“She probably broke her back trying to eat herself out,” Alice snorted, turning his attention back to Heidi, which was just turning into the Late Late Show. “The Curse of the Werewolf! Great! I’ve seen this about 50 times. It’s got Oliver Reed when he was real young.
“I love to get frightened out of my pants. When I was a kid I used to save up my allowance to go see Creature from the Black Lagoon. That’s all you want anyway. Real horror can have more feeling than sex, or anything. Those kids that come to our shows really get frightened . . .”
“Naaah,” Neal said, “they’re not frightened, I don’t think. They’re like the television generation – they’ve seen it all. On TV, anything can happen.”
“But it rarely does. Those kids – to see what we do with no foreknowledge, and then taking hallucinogenics – boy, it’ll really scare ’em. Remember Neal, you’re living through it all, these kids in Roanoke and Passaic are seeing it right off. They’re doped up and feeling . . .”
But Neal isn’t sold. A few lunched minds in Roanoke have been sold, like the Dig It girl – the audience here. (“What’ll we do with her?” – “We could beat her up. She’d suck us all off.” Much laughing. She eventually spent the night on the floor down the hall.) On the television, a beautiful girl is being raped in a dungeon by the light of the full moon. Alice tilted back his whiskey and coke, smiling.
Could be in a Holiday Inn in your own home town; a band slumped around a room watching the Muscular Dystrophy telethon on TV, watching a newly bouffant Paul Anka singing “The Age of Aquarius” while Dennis James implores the listeners to get the cash up and over the $200,000 mark and . . .
“Let’s make an obscene phone call.”
“I’ll phone up Anka and tell him I’ll give a hundred bucks to jack off.”
“Boy we oughta have a telephon sometime. One for . . .”
“The Heartbreak of Psoriasis.”
The conversation dissolves into a sentimental journey through the yellow pages of TV Guide. . . . Gol-llee Mrs. Cleaver – Barbara Billingsly – Harry Beaumont – Did you know that Billy Preston is the son of Sapphire in Amos ‘n’ Andy? – Steve Hercules Reeves is the brother of the late George Superman Reeves – Wasn’t that luck when we sat on a plane with Jack Larsen . . . Jimmy Olson – Tonto was Jay Silverheels, but his real name was Harry Glotz or something – Golly, Mr. Dithers – know who Dwight Frye is? He played Renfield in Dracula; also played Fritz in Frankenstein – That’s the only part he could get – Did you hear they’re making different sex parts for the Barbie doll – You can get a 38-C bra for the Ken doll – He’s moving to Fire Island – Senor Wences – S’Alright? S’Alright – Did I have toys? Yes, lots of violent toys – Pain? I hate pain, I’d rather die than get hurt – But I don’t mind hurting other people. With that, Alice jammed the photographer in the ribs.
Violence being the cocktail topic of the hour – this Straw Digs, Clockwork Orange thing – reporters continually look to Alice for quotable quotes. He gives them. The lady reporter from big slick magazine looked like she swallowed a watermelon. “I think the generation gap should be widened,” he told her. “Parents hate us and I dig that. We’re anti-heroes. We don’t give the kids any conclusions, just all the problems. It’s like shotgun theater.
“I like anarchy to a point, but I don’t like violence.”
The reporter leaned in close. “This generation gap . . . Why?”
“Rock is coming in two ways now. There’s James Taylor and Elton John, and with their image, you know, they don’t even take a shit. Can you image James Taylor scoring a chick? I don’t want to talk about to talk about politics. How boring. I’d rather talk about sex and violence.”
“Well, so many people are,” the lady reporter nodded. “These incredibly violent films like Clockwork Orange . . .”
“Yes,” Alice nodded, suddenly realizing he’d have to check out the competition, “yes, violence is in the air now. I think it’s great, it’s really valid.”
Hup hup, he loaded up th limousine with his steady date for four years, Cindy, made off to see Clockwork Orange. Holding his trusty whiskey and coke, standing in line for popcorn while folks dig his green satin jacket with ALICE in sequins across his T-shirt, the front in sequins – “So you’re going incognito tonight?”
Orange, a film torn between comedy and serious thinking on violence. A woman dressed like a doll gets hanged. A young man wears false eyelashes. He keeps a boa constrictor as a pet. He gets stuffed into a straitjacket. It’s all pret-ty damn familiar.
“Great, absolutely great,” Alice beamed afterwards. “That was really dynamic. It definately is the time of ultraviolence. And we’re so ultraviolent that it all connects. It’s obvious. Did you ever read Sex, Death & Violence, a piece by Gore Vidal? It’s all written right there.” And then he smiled, because he knows he made the move from prettiness-rock to horrorshow-rock at just the right time.
Who is Alice in Wonderland? Who was she really? A New York Times critic recently went through the book and came up with the answer: “Alice is a penis, or Alice is Lewis Carrol’s oral trauma; or Alice is Christ Our Lord in drag.”
“Kill! Kill! Kill!” The AC Band actually psychs itself up before stagetime – tuneups at full-blast, a dozen beers, singing old Beatle songs – this theater being the Passaic Captiol Theater in New Jersey, once the sight of Sinatra crooning and mucho swooning. Still today, 30 years later, that same quickening heartbeat, the universal spreading pulse, the Nazi footbeats of an impatient crowd on a steamy Saturday night.
Alice claims the act is 40 percent improvisational. Which is baloney. It is as rehearsed as any Broadway musical. He slithers to stagefront right on cue, mincing and vamping, snarling like a vintage Mae West, drunker ‘n a skunk. What’s more chauvinist than this:
We could be together
You could be in danger
We could be in tangent
You could be in labor
Bubbles rise and a tidal wave of marsh-mallows pelt the stage. The volume of hollering is startling, a high holy roller bunch. Berlin in the Thirties, you’d like to think. Alice Caligari’s Cabinet. Baloney. Jersey in the Seventies.
A tragic, tragic intro leads into “I’m 18.”
I’m in the middle without any plans
I’m a boy and I’m a man
I’m 18 and don’t know what I want
And I like it
If the band took dope to keep as high as they generally keep, instead of drinking . . . they’d be just another “jam band,” another sullen, paranoid bunch. They certainly wouldn’t be able to perform “Dead Babies” every night of the year. Alice rips off the babydoll’s dress and flings it to the sweaty hands. He kills the baby. He smashes its head and bursts a blood capsule with an ax. He gets blood smeared around his mouth. If you could gander and looks in the eyes of the gaping stagefront bystanders . . .
Blessed by the ghost of Jim Morrison and the near ghost of Iggy Stooge, Alice is hung in a gallows, complete with mist and thunder and Germanic funeral music. As Alice says, “When we design a set, we try to think of how it would look on TV.”
Alice pulls out all the stops to get mobbed for the finale. He blows a can of beer all over the stage-edge gropers, peels ten one-dollar bills from a fencing foil and drops them into the mass of hands. This makes everything American: American as TV; violence; sexual confusion; vulgarity; the almighty dollar.
Alice Cooper’s mother (real name vigorously kept secret) asked – in much the same tone a mother would ask, “Can Johnny really become class president?” – “Do you think Alice has the material to achieve superstardom?”
“Mr. Cooper” is a relatively hip, middle-aged practicing minister and rocket technician. “Alice is really getting successful now,” he said. “He’s always been a showtype kid. He was always imitating somebody and having garage shows for other kids on the block.”
“We have pictures of him when he’s all done up like Davy Crockett,” Mom laughed. “And, of course, he looked just like Elvis Presley and would sing and wear his hair just like him. He used to watch that Sunset Strip program and that character that was always combing his hair? Kookie? Alice was always walking around the house talking like Kookie. I always thought he’d end up some kind of comedian.”
“He always had a natural talent to pick up things,” Dad noted. “He’s a pretty ham onstage. And another thing that impresses me is that onstage he’s very violent. And then when we go backstage and talk with him, there he is, he’s just our son. I’m also very glad that he’s not stoned or anything like you might expect. Maybe that’s just when I’m around, I don’t know.”
“When they started out as the Spiders,” Mom added, “they copied the Yardbirds and the Stones. They had ’em down perfect. Alice could do harmonies solo on ‘I’m a Man’ perfectly.”
“Yep,” said Dad, “every contest of Battle of the Bands they ever entered, they always won first prize. They didn’t want to be just an ordinary band. Have you ever seen any of their paintings? They’re real artists, they do that surrealist stuff. Three of ’em had scholarships to art colleges.”
“You have to be extra special these days,” says Mom. “It’s too easy to be mediocre.”
“I always used to tell Alice before they had their hit with ‘I’m 18,’ that if you’re going to be in the business, get a hit. Go record ‘Sugar, Sugar.’ And he said, ‘But dad, we’re not in this for the money.’
“We try to keep up with what’s happening, we get your magazine. There’s definately no generation gap in this family. My people tell me that I’m the most well-informed minister they’ve ever had.”
“When Alice calls home,” said Mom, “and he’s called home at least once a week since he’s been in the business, we try to have something to talk about.”
Dad: “I’m just kind of disappointed that all the emphasis is put on their act and not their music. They really have a very tight rock and roll band. I’ve seen other groups who come out with lots of hype and they’ll play real sloppy. I mean, sure their record’ll sound good, but so what?
“The boys have always had lots of good ideas, but needed a good producer like this Bob Ezrin guy to see the record right. Ever since they were the Spiders they’ve always been ahead of their time. I think the fans have finally caught up with them. I’ve always been proud, yes. I’m a minister and people ask, ‘How does a minister get a boy into rock and roll?’ ”
Even if some people consider your son’s act anti-godlike?
“I don’t go for anything sacrilegious myself, but from my conversations with Alice, I don’t think his personal beliefs could be considered anti-god. Do you think he’s anti-gad?”
Mom laughed a bit. “Well, y’know, they really build him up to be such a real ‘killer’ guy, y’know, but he’s really just a regular fella . . .
“He’s had a religious upbringing. If you listen to the words in ‘Second Coming,’ that’s religious. Or ‘Fields of Regret,’ on the first album, which was recorded so bad I don’t imagine it sold much, that to him was his vision of hell. ‘Fields of Regret’ is where you go if you don’t play ry to think of how it would look on TV.”
Alice pulls out all the stops to get mobbed for the finale. He blows a can of beer all over the stage-edge gropers, peels ten one-dollar bills from a fencing foil and drops them into the mass of hands. This makes everything American: American as TV; violence; sexual confusion; vulgarity; the almighty dollar.
Alice Cooper’s mother (real name vigorously kept secret) asked – in much the same tone a mother would ask, “Can Johnny really become class president?” – ny kind of meaning into the act. It’s like reading the Bible.
“I can’t understand why the late-night talk shows don’t pick up on Alice. I see they’ve got a female impersonator Jim Bailey on the Cavett show, why not Alice?
“The people in my parish know that Alice is my son, but they all grew up with him. But no one else knows. Around the church, his name isn’t taboo, but we don’t talk about it. We did raise him religious. Not many boys would go to church at nine and leave at 12 noon. Maybe what he’s doing now is a reaction against church, I’ve heard of that happening.
“Now, I don’t want any four-letter words used in connection with my name,” Dad laughed lightly. “I mean, I do read your magazine. And I don’t mind being thought of as an enlightened minister of even as a hip minister, but I don’t want to be thought of as an obscene minister.”
It wasn’t an ordinary gift that the Baltimore fans made Alice. Not any ordinary birthday card. It was a doll made up to look like Alice, with martini cherry-swords stuck through the chest and blood painted around the wound.
Although Alice uses sex confusion and death as crowd pleasers, it’s only a logical variation of the Hot Shot Singer formula, popular from Sinatra to Morrison. Alice Cooper is believable because he doesn’t believe.
Of course, it’s nothing like the Stooges.
“Remember whem Iggy played at Ungano’s?” Alice asked. “He came out so sick that he puked all over the front row. And everybody applauded. It’s too bad they had to break up, but it was also the only thing that could’ve happened. They destroyed themselves. I’ve heard stories lately that Iggy’s in Scotland now, playing golf all day.”
The Stooges were serious.
“Yeah, the first time I saw those guys, I thought, ‘Hey, those guys are really weird,’ ” said Dennis Dunaway.
You thought that?
“Why, yeah . . .”
A person who knows both and sees it this way: “Alice is contrived and rehearsed, it could be on tape. Iggy wasn’t slick, you never knew what he was going to do. That to me was shock and surprise. That was theater.”
The Alice Cooper band recently spent time in Detroit. Living, as they have done for the past eight years, together, this time on a farm in Pontiac. “In Detroit, all the kids are really greasers with long hair,” said Dennis. “They carry lead pipes around in their jackets and they really . . . go . . . all the way.”
“There’s too much dope there,” Alice said. “Most of my friends who weren’t musicians were dope dealers and every day you’d hear of some friend dying or getting killed. They don’t just mess around in Detroit, they go . . . all the way. And it gets to you.”
Their own rough stuff had been integral to the act long before Detroit. “The violence happened three years ago,” Alice said, “when we couldn’t get $100 for a gig and it drove us to the point of craziness. We were just going insane onstage, going crazy, staging these big fights. Well, people liked that. It was our point of desperation that showed us their breaking point. They’d leave, but they’d come back with their friends so their friends could leave. It was the hip thing to do – to hate Alice Cooper.
“You could say that Alice Cooper is really commercial. What is commercial anyway? It’s what selling records and concerts. It was all to much for them before, because there wasn’t anything for them to hold onto. Now they have something, a song they can listen to and dig.
“We’re no drag band, that’s only the first thing the press can think of. A transvestite band would actually be interesting, but we’re something else entirely. ‘Boots and butch hair,’ that all brings it down to the level of camp, like high school and that.
“Outrage is more accepted in Europe. It’s always been important to stay ahead of the next thing over there. Look at their arts, the Dadaists . . .” Or Marcel Duchamp (Retinal Rock?), or as L. Bangs is fond of pointing out, Marechal Gilles de Rais, a Parisian executed in 1440 for murdering 800 children over an eight-year stretch. He preserved a few of their heads for remembrance sake, much in the spirit of Alice impaling the doll’s head on a mike stand.
In Baltimore , Alice searched the mirrored stairwells and the globeit avenues of the necropolis for an all-night taco eatery. He found one, ordered 15 tacos, then drove on to the taped sounds of Burt Bacharach. “I loved him since I saw him on television. He looked like a paraplegic playing ping pong, but the music is quite complex if you really listen to it.
“Glen started crying when Burt introduced Barbra Streisand. It was just perfect.
“That’s all the music we like. West Side Story, James Bond. We swiped about 11 bits from the Goldfinger soundtrack on the first album. Just redid them in guitar. Nobody noticed!”
That night’s party was booked in a rundown joint called the Tic-Toc Club. (“Girls Girls Girls!” the billboard read over the silhoutette of something pendulous.) The entourage trudged into the smoky, cramped room. B-girls were hustling workmen. Saturday nite. Out for pussy. A girl in black panties did a slow bump-and-grind. The air hadn’t been changed in years.
“I’ll have a Harvey Wallbanger,” Dunaway said to the pointed mama behind the bar. “Sorry, sweetie,” she smiled, “we only got beer and highballs.” Dennis threw up his hand. “What next?”
Alice was well inebriated, almost to the point of slowing down. “Let’s go down to Sears and try on gloves,” he managed.
“Look at that dancer,” Neal disbelieved. “She’s got more of a belly than she does an ass.”
“What next?” asked Dennis. Suddenly, behind him a fan who’d sneaked in, a guy sporting an English haircut, pink T-shirt and matching pink cape, his eyes doing the Julie London bit. “Gotta light?” he asked.
“No,” said Dennis, his modulated voice rising. “I don’t smoke. In fact, I just might take this cigarette” – as he yanks the cigarette out of the guy’s mouth – “and break it.” He broke it and gave the caped one a shove in the chest.
“Alright,” said the not-too-closet queen, “you’re off my Christman list. You’re off mny Hanukkah list too.”
Suddenly, one of the bar girls exploded. Her eye were glazed and her bouffant straggled down to her white, spilling cleavage. “You promised me a stag night!” she shrieked from the middle of the room. “Now how’m I supposed to work here, hah? How’m I supposed to make any money with all these girls coming in off the street?” She stormed off, her chances of selling watered down drinks to the johns shot to hell by this crowd of tinsel and glitter, groupies and schoolgirls.
“You lied to me! All these girls walking in off the street, what’re we supposed to do? I’m leaving!”
“So beat it!” the manager bellowed.
“You promised me a stag night!”
The regulars turned their beery gazes from the bump-and-grind to this more interesting spectacle, and began to applaud. “Let’s get out of here,” Alice said.
Alice fought through the crowd waiting outside the Tic-Toc, and crashed deep into his limousine seat. “I’ve always wondered what it would be like if you could have your whole life filmed,” he said. “Then, when you die, they’d show you the whole movie, the good parts and the bad. You’d have to see yourself when you first jacked off. You probably tried to look so classy.”