News Item : Go ask Alice: How To Put The Shock Into Rock
Don’t you hate it when celebrities refer to themselves in the third person? Like when Reggie Jackson used to talk about Reggie Jackson and John Mayer talks about John Mayer?
Yet when Alice Cooper does it, it’s not obnoxious, it makes sense.
On record and onstage, the 62-year-old shock rocker (born Vincent Furnier) has played a malicious, evil character named Alice Cooper for more than four decades. He refers to this guy as Alice.
Offstage, Alice Cooper uses the first person. Cooper is a happily married man (34 years), a father of three (ages 17-29), a recovering alcoholic (30 years sober), a nonsmoking, Bible-reading Christian (“I’m the prodigal son, I came back to Christianity”) and a scratch golfer.
“I don’t know why, but I’m playing my best golf,” said Cooper - never averse to discussing his primary nonrock passion - by phone from his Tucson, Ariz., home. “I just shot a 75, three over par. I’m pretty limber and don’t need to warm up. I don’t try to hit it hard. I hit it down the middle and it’s never out of play.”
Alice Cooper hit a peak of fame in the early ’70s. He’s hit rough patches, but he’s never been out of play. He first hit with a rock group also called Alice Cooper - recently nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - and then continued as a solo artist.
Cited by the Sex Pistols’ Johnny Rotten as a major influence, Cooper was the most controversial rocker of his time. The 1973 song “I Love the Dead” dealt with necrophilia and prompted outrage from Ann Landers. Cooper wrote her back.
“I said, ‘If there’s some sudden rash of necrophilia because of this song, I will totally take responsibility for it, but I think my fans get the joke,’ ” Cooper recalled. “ ‘Apparently you don’t, but everybody else did.’ ”
Cooper joins another Halloween-ready rocker, Haverhill native Rob Zombie, for a co-headlining tour called the Gruesome Twosome (Ghouls Gone Wild was the runner-up name for the tour). It stops tonight at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn., and Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.
Herald: Do you ever not work in October? It’s like December for Santa.
Cooper: It really is.
How does this bill with Rob work?
We go on first because they use a lot of pyro and you can’t set up after that. Our show is much more like a strange cabaret. We try to suck you into Alice’s focal point. Everything happens to Alice or comes from Alice, whereas Rob’s show is a blitz. He attacks the audience with every kind of video and this and that. It’s a total bombardment. At the end of the show, you walk out going, “What was that?”
You guys are kindred spirits.
He’s like my little brother. We have exactly the same sense of humor. We totally get the fact that comedy and horror are very, very close and it’s OK to scare an audience, but you do have to make them laugh at the same time.
People consider rock a young man’s game, yet here you are packing arenas.
Here’s the truth. I really do have that Benjamin Button thing going on. When I was 30 years old, I probably was 62, because I was drinking a bottle of whiskey a day and tearing myself up. At 62, I get up onstage and do two hours, 28 songs, all the theatrics, and feel great.
Of course, the makeup helps you maintain the look.
It’s true. But I somehow haven’t aged that much. I look at pictures of me from 20 years ago and I go, “I look the same.”
Alice Cooper was recently nominated to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Does the nomination matter to you?
Yeah, it does. I don’t care how many times you sit around going, “Well, who cares?” When you get nominated, you know the guys in my business did it. It means they said, “This guy belongs in our gang.” It’s a gesture of respect, that I spent 45 years in this business and never gave up. Alice contributed a lot to theatrics, bringing show biz to rock and having a lot of hit records.
I’ve always thought Alice is oddly moral. He’s often a bad guy - a neo-Nazi, a blood diamond dealer - but then worse things happen to him, like being hanged or guillotined.
Yes, there has always been that. Alice in some strange way always takes the high road. I’ve always said, “Alice might slit your throat, but he would never swear at you.” He’s a total gentleman when it comes to that. I’ve always included the nurse or some female character that either antagonizes him or he does something to her, and he always gets it back. Never gets away with anything - and I think that may be the moral point. You’re never going to see any nudity in my show and you’re never going to hear the f-bomb. To me, that’s cheap.
How many times have you been executed on stage?
If you figure we do 100 shows a year - and some years we do a lot more - over 40-some years, I think that’s somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 times. But in this show they kill me four times.
You keep getting resurrected?
It was, “How do we get from A to B to C to D?” We’re going through Alice’s different periods and the means to get me there is to kill him and have him wake up in the next place. So, let’s put Alice in four different situations here. He’s the punk Alice in the beginning - singing “Eighteen,” “Wicked Young Man,” all those songs. How do we get him out of that? We cut off his head. Alice wakes up. Where is he? He’s in hell. Now we do the hell songs. Second time, I’m hanged. Then, during “Poison” they stick a giant hypodermic needle through me and I wake up in the insane asylum. Then we do the insane songs, like “Ballad of Dwight Fry.” They put me put me in this box with giant spikes in it and they run the spikes through me and of course the spray goes right into the audience.
All right, back to real life. How would you like to really die?
Well, I don’t want any long, lingering thing going on. I think something sudden and unexpected would be good. Or just go to sleep and wake up in heaven.
By Jim Sullivan
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