Chicago Tribune

Originally Published: 1975

Is Your Living Room Ready For Alice's Latest Nightmare?

Author: Lynn Van Matre

This poor kid wakes up and ugly demons are coming out of his toybox, a bevy of black widows are waiting to turn him into a succulent stew, and Cold Ethyl -- a most seductive, but wholly stone cold stiff lady (necrophilia, anybody?) -- languishes in the family fridge. Welcome to Alice Cooper's nightmare.

"Welcome to My Nightmare," in fact, is the title of Alice's new production, which has its 'official' opening here Tuesday at the Chicago Stadium. 'The whole thing,' Alice explains, 'is done on the level of a 'Peter Pan.''

Well, sort of. Except that there are no kindly Nanas in Alice's dreams. 'What I meant,' Alice elaborates, 'is that the whole show is a real fantasy trip.'

Alice is talking from Toronto, where he spent the weeks prior to the kickoff of his current tour shooting film for a TV special based on the 'Nightmare' theme, drinking beer, and watching game shows on television. At the very moment he is talking, in fact, Alice has one ear cocked to Jackpot. Alice watches at least six such greed-galaganzas a day.

'I don't know why,' he confesses. 'I just do. I love them. Do you want me to name the ones I like in order? I always start out by watching Joker's Wild and go from there. I can tell you who's on every show and who's going to come back and how much money they won. I was a TV kid, I grew up watching it, and that's probably why I never turn it off. It's just a sick American thing. Security. It's security. I mean, I like knowing that if I wake up at 5:30 a.m. I can always turn on the farm reports. A lot of my friends are the same way -- Harry Nilsson, for example. If I miss a show, I can call him up and he'll know what happened.

'Actually, tho, I only watch game shows when I'm not playing golf. If it wasn't snowing up here I'd be on the links right now. That's all I do when I'm home in Hollywood. Play golf, watch TV, and drink beer. I'm just your all-American kid.'

Last tour around, the 'all-American kid' who turns 27 this year was the Billion Dollar Baby. After that tour ended, Cooper and his band parted company after 10 years together, an 'Alice Cooper's Greatest Hits' was released to keep the buying public from forgetting The Coop, and Alice took eight months off to rest.

'I was exhausted,' he says. 'And so was the band. It had gotten to the point where we'd been together for so long we were just kind of dry. We'd drawn everything we could out of each other and it was time to get some new juices flowing. A couple of the guys have their own solo albums coming out... but I didn't want to do anything at all until I could come up with something new.'

The 'something new' turned out to be the score for 'Welcome to My Nightmare,' the title of Cooper's current stage production and also the title of a recently-released album on Atlantic Records. Co-authored by Alice, his producer Bob Ezrin and manager Shep Gordon, backed by musicians who once played on Lou Reed's 'Berlin' and 'Rock and Roll Animal,' the music is slightly more anemic than other Alice efforts -- less frantic, more orchestrated. The score, which Alice insists is 'the first real rock 'n roll musical,' doubles as the music for Alice's upcoming ABC special, 'Alice Cooper: The Nightmare.' It's scheduled to be shown April 25, when Alice is one month into his eight-month, 80-city world tour.

'But the stage show and the TV special will be completely different productions,' Alice hastens to explain. 'It's the same music but a completely different nightmare, with Vincent Price as guest star. That's one reason we did the shooting in Toronto. Vincent works up here a lot and so does my producer, and we recorded the album up here. the studios are technically better than in Los Angeles and it's a lot looser. The only thing they don't have up here is Budweiser. I had to bring 40 cases along just to be sure I'd have enough to get me through.'

How's the supply holding out? 'Fine,' Alice says. 'Actually, I've cut down a lot on my beer-drinking. I've got plenty left over and the show's all done.

'In fact, we had the censor down just the other day to see the final footage. They told us he'd be really tough, but he loved the show. We were kind of worried, because you can't believe how tight they are on TV. 'Like they wouldn't let us use even fake blood. I wanted to used just a little for effect, just one trickle of blood coming out of Cold Ethyl's mouth. Just one little *trickle* so it'd look really nice, but they said no. 'But aside from that, we had complete control of the show,' Alice says enthusiastically. 'And that's really important to us because Alice is so fragile -- his image can be ruined by one wrong move. I can't say exactly what that image is, but I can look at something and know right off it's not Alice enough. It's a feeling. I love to work in images, and that's what Alice is, images. And opposites. I love to work in opposites.'

Speaking of opposites brought to mind a recent episode involving some disrespectful comments Cooper made regarding John Denver, the singer, songwriter, and professional smiley-face.

'Well,' says Alice, who never listens to Denver [Alice never listens to any music, for that matter, except an occasional Burt Bacharach record]. 'John Denver started it. I've never met him, but he was interviewed in People Magazine and said that two years from now, nobody would remember Alice Cooper but they'd remember him. I just didn't think that was a very professional thing to say. So later when Rolling Stone asked me about that quote, I said I'm just spiteful enough to stick around long enough to urinate all over John Denver's flowers. The day after that story appeared in Rolling Stone, I got a dozen roses in a cut glass vase and a note from John Denver that said 'Do with these what you will.' I sent him back an Alice Cooper album, a set of earplugs, and a specimin bottle.

'Denver and I are at opposite ends of the entertainment spectrum, you know. But it always amazes me when people take my act seriously or say it's shocking or put values on what I do on stage. Because all I am is an entertainer. I play rock 'n roll, and I present images, that's all, and -- Oh God,' Alice squeals. 'Brad's still winning on Blank Check, he's been on for a week and he's going for the big money!'

I ring off with apologies for distracting Alice for so long from his game shows. 'That's all right,' he says as he hangs up. 'I can always call up Harry.'