Circus

Originally Published: July 1973

Alice Quits The Stage

Author: Howard Bloom

Alice's confidantes have leaked word of a Cooper game plan that could hit fans harder than a blast of billion dollar blood.

The F 27 Elektra jet with the blackjack table planted in its cushion-strewn interior and the dollar sign painted on its towering tail has been returned to the company it was leased from. The guillotine, the giant dentist's drill and the 58 nude mannikins have been put in storage. Accountants are dividing up a four and a half million dollar haul while Holiday Inn managers in over 50 cities shake their heads and wonder how to repair bedrooms that have been reduced to indoor scrap heaps. The largest rock tour in U.S. history has come to an end, and hot on its tail comes an announcement destined to shock the half million fans who in the last three months watched the super-sadist of rock and roll stalk across America's stages stroking the dismembered thighs of department store dummies. Alice Cooper is quitting the road.

Tour big enough to kill: "They're going to pull back from the public life and do just one tour a year," says a key member on the Cooper inner sanctum, head of Alice Cooper Promotion Ashley Pandel. "The rest of the time they'll probably do things on their own. Alice would like to get further into motion pictures. Mike Bruce wants to do a solo album. Dennis Dunaway is into art and will spend more time painting. And no one knows what Glenn Buxton will do. He'll probably go to a casino and try to win it."

It seems perversely astonishing that just as the Cooper foursome are charging toward the pinnacle of power, they should decide to plummet out of the public view. But the seeds of their withdrawal were actually sown more than eight months ago, when Alice sat down in his manager's Manhattan office with his business team and his group to discuss the possibility of a tour larger than any a rock singer had ever endured. The projected marathon excursion through the U.S. and Canada would cover over 28,000 miles in 118 days. It would involve 70 press conferences and nearly two thousand reporters in 56 cities. It would require a four-engine, 48-passanger jet to carry the group and its supporting personnel, and would demand two trailer trucks capable of holding forty tons of stage gear, including a dentist's chair, a surgical table, a sawing-in-half device, fourteen bubble machines, 28 gallons of bubble juice, 2,800 spare light bulbs, 6,000 mirror parts, 23,000 sparklers, and over 400 pints of stage blood. Says Ashley Pandel, "We all sat down and asked ourselves, 'can we do it... physically, mentally, and morally?'"

Hundred day orgy: Six months later Alice bombarded the nation with concerts in which he slid like a rubbery snake down a staircase ablaze with blinking lights, made love with headless mannikins as he sang "I Love The Dead," and stomped through a forest of plastic arms and legs fiercely kicking the heads of baby dolls into the delighted crowds. At first it looked as if Alice was not only "making it" through the grueling grind, but was turning the trip into the biggest vacation of his life. "The airplane looks like a flying three month party." Alice enthused in Tulsa, Oklahoma. "Flo and Eddie (the opening act on the Cooper bill) and everybody are crazy. The whole back of the plane is covered with naked pictures. There's about six card games going on at once. Everyone's screaming and getting drunk at six in the morning. In Jacksonville, Florida, we had two days off and ran a 48-hour poker game in my room. When it was over, there were broken chairs, beer bottles and torn sheets all over the floor. You would have needed a steam shovel just to clean the room."

Into the meat grinder: But the traveling orgy had its harsher moments, and those moments were slowly wearing Alice down. In Shrieveport, Louisiana, Alice walked cheerfully down the steps of his plane only to be met by a grim-faced sheriff who promptly growled, "Ah heerd aboutchoo killin' them chickens, an' Ah heerd aboutchoo slippin them posters 'tween you legs lahk they was your you-know-what. Yew do anything that Ah even theenk is lewd, and ahm gonna slap yew in jail so fast yer ears are gonna fall off." That night Alice stood onstage as if he were frozen in place. Only his mouth and his vocal cords moved. "I couldn't even touch a mannikin," he says, "or he would have slapped me behind bars. I was scared. Just plain scared." In Memphis, the same thing happened all over again.

Open-filed answer: The enthusiastic response of the public was also taking its toll. "It's the first time I've ever seen Alice wary of going out or even of calling room service," said Ashley Pandel. "When we went to the White Sox in Chicago, they announced it over the P.A. and he had to leave because he was flooded with kids. The same thing happened at a hockey game in Baltimore. And whenever he called room service for a six pack of beer, the bellman would come up and ask for forty autographs for people in the hotel." In a Detroit Howard Johnson's Major Lodge, Alice made what he called "my last statement on autographs." He had already signed his name over 500 times in less than seventeen hours when two adolescent girls approached him for his signature as he snuck down the hallway at four in the morning. Alice spun around, unzipped his fly, and exposed his gonads. "I felt great after I did it," Alice confessed, "It was a release."

But release or no release, the Coop had to admit that "at the rate I'm going, I could end up exhausted to death. In the fight scene onstage I've broken my elbow, two knuckles and a rib. The other day in Texas I counted 31 bruises on my body. I'm usually so drunk that I don't even feel that I'm getting hurt. I'm just trying to get through this tour alive."

Blood and tacos: The final result was a meeting in New Orleans, where Alice's manager, Shep Gordon, suggested the band pull off the road for a year in order to avoid a physical breakdown. The group loved the idea. Alice said they wanted the time off to spend their money. And insider Ashley Pandel had another explanation for their enthusiasm: "They've been involved in being Alice Cooper for seven years. They want to find out if they can still be normal human beings."

But now the monster tour is over and the year of seclusion has begun, normalcy seems to be the last thing on Alice's mind. "We want to get into film next," he chuckles. "In fact, we've already shot a few things on the tour. In Houston we rented an airport runway for a day, paid a bunch of people to dress up as Indians, then had 'em attack our plane with balloons filled with stage blood. We stood in the hatch and threw tacos at them. Later we filmed this scene in a Holiday In where there's a guy sitting in the hall eating cake and drinking gallons of Listerine. Then this man comes out of a room. He locks his door and when he turns around his face is rotting from syphillis." Alice chortles enthusiastically as he reveals the film's projected titles - "Pelvic Thrust" or "Muscle Of Love." But before he gets swept up in any gorily pornographic new projects, the Coop wants to rent an enormous yacht, get together a group of friends in L.A., and spend two months cruising down to South America and back. "No one will even be allowed to talk to us," he says. "You need to have some privacy or you go insane."

Yet in the end, the months of privacy and year of rest may produce far more insanity than they prevent. And Alice may slither back into the limelight far earlier than any of his mangerial advisers think is wise. "We'll probably never make it through a whole year off the road," confides the Billion Dollar Baby of them all. "After two months, if we don't get back onstage we'll get so restless we'll go crazy. We'll probably all rent a jet and check into a Holiday Inn... for old times' sake."