Originally Published: April 01, 1975
Author: Rick Soll
The signs are unmistakable: a major press conference is about to begin. A press conference, that 20th century bacchanal of truth, that hasty summoning of many newsmen, planned and designed to bugle someone's fugue of good deed and-or innocence to the world.
This is a particularly fine example here, high above Lake Michigan, in the North Lake Shore Drive Holiday Inn's Great Lakes Room.
This press conference boasts the finest of official trimmings: a long dais studded with three microphones at the head of the room; many neat rows of folding chairs opposite it; lights, TV cameras, a full complement of news- men; an elaborate buffet; several press releases.
And all this has been arranged for Alice Cooper, whose real name is Vincent Furnier, the rock star of the bizarre. This is America.
It is just before 11 in the morning Monday, and while all await Alice, Shep Gordon, the fuzzy man who manages him, is talking in somber tones. "This is a serious moment for Alice. It's about time we spoke out."
The grave concern is understandable. Alice, the 27-year-old rock star famous for having hanged, guillotined, and in other manners bloodied himself upon the stage, has just been banned in Australia. The Australian minister for immigration, Clyde Cameron, has called Alice's new show "primitive and barbaric." The new show, called "Welcome to My Nightmare," is scheduled to play Tuesday for one night only in the Chicago Stadium. But ticket sales here had not been doing well as of Sunday, thus clearing up a few folks' confusion as to why the press conference has been called, notwithstanding the situation Down Under.
"This sort of thing usually rolls off our backs," Shep says. "But with the new show just beginning -- Chicago is just the fifth of 68 cities we'll play -- we thought it was time Alice was understood. This is important."
He is interrupted by the only thing at the moment more important, which was the entrance of Alice, who walks swiftly to the dais, people murmuring subtly, "There's Alice." Alice's sleep-encrusted eyes are balanced by the cargo in each of his hands -- a can of Bud in one, a pitching wedge in the other -- just another thirsty millionaire chipping up to next round of green.
Alice sits, looks out the window, and giggles. There is an immediate hush in the room. This is understandable. Alice giggles again. Someone else looks out the window. But there is nothing funny out there. Just water.
Shep begins, suddenly: "The head of Australian immigration has caused the new show obscene. He said that Alice eats live chickens onstage."
"Never hurt a chicken," says Alice.
"He says," continues Shep, "that Alice has a tendency to drop live hornets on his audience."
"Bumblebees," Alice giggles.
"And," Shep finishes, "he said that Pat Boone wouldn't let his daughter see Alice's show. But wait, let's let Alice explain the new show."
"Pat Boone's a real biggie, huh?" Alice says. Then, "Anyway, the new show ... see, Alice is just a character. I'm not Alice off the stage. But in the new show, a character plays a character. Alice plays a boy named Steve, who has a nightmare."
In the show, Steve goes to sleep surrounded by all his familiar playthings -- teddy bear, toy chest, and the rest, only to slip into a horrible nightmare. Strange, furry things begin to slither through a misted bedroom. His teddy bear becomes a nine-foot Cyclops. The press release says this is Alice's "most carefully planned project." It took two years, cost $400,000 to produce, and is expected to gross 6 million -- dollars, that is.
"And I don't even use animals in the show," says Alice. "Other than myself," he laughs. "It is not an attempt to shock anyone. It's just entertainment."
Shep is listening and lighting the filter end of a cigarette. He interrupts, "The only place we were ever banned in eight years was Binghamton, New York."
"Yeah," Alice interrupts, "and three of their city council guys came to see the show in Syracuse. Hell, those three guys had been dead for three weeks and didn't know it."
Shep has crushed out his cigarette and is lighting another one from the filter end. He says, fumbling with the second cigarette, "Well, I'd just like to tell you that in about an hour we'll be sold out for Tuesday night's show. That's a record in Chicago for us, selling out before the day of the performance."
So. They might have saved themselves the trouble of a press conference. But, Alice says, "And anyway, I don't even care about that Australian thing. It doesn't bother me or shock me. People are always afraid of something new. But listen. Look at Shakespeare: 'King Lear' and 'Macbeth' are two of the bloodiest things ever performed, and they're required reading for kids. Shakespeare would be one of our biggest fans."
Now Shep falls off his chair, narrowly escaping injury, and Alice watches and narrates, "What started out to be a day of fun turned to tragedy," and then some newsmen actually ask serious questions like, "Alice, do you really love show biz?"
"It's either that or brain surgery," Alice answers. And then he leaves -- a rather witty, rather shrewd, rock star vanishing into the corridors of a motel, having cleared up one of the great issues of the day. Another major press conference has ended.
Newsmen rush to the phones. Good morning, America.