Originally Published: July 1974
Author: Robbie Granit
The Voodoo religion Makumaba is even bigger than Catholicism in the steaming land of the Amazon, and when 'The Devil with a Snake' jetted in from North America he caused the most profound social paroxysm since the landing of the Portuguese four centuries ago.
It is only ten hours to Rio de Janeiro by air, and ten years in time. For rock and roll, Rio is in the Stone Age. With only two or three Brazilian rock group in existence, the youth of that country have always depended on the United States for their musical input, but an imported album from North America costs as much as $12,00, and in a country where a week's wages are only $25.00, rock and roll is a rich man's sport. Domestic albums are an even greater problem, because the technology of the record pressing plants is so poor in South America that a local record can only be played three times before it is worn out. But kids are the same everywhere, and a deprived native South American loves rock and roll just as much as an affluent American with the finest stereo equipment. As a matter of fact, the lack of good rock sounds makes the South Americans into even bigger fans than the average American rock and roller when the real thing shows up in their home town.
It was into this primitive rock and roll society that America's most notorious rock and roll show descended, complete with publicists, girlfriends, roadies, seven tons of equipment and a boa constrictor. In the first rock and roll show ever to be presented in South America, Brazil met Alice Cooper.
Culture shock rock: Not since Beatlemania swept the United States in 1964 has a rock star been greeted with as much enthusiasm as Alice found at the Rio de Janeiro airport when he arrived for his seven day, five show tour. As Alice and the other band members stumbled off their Boeing 707 after a ten hour flight, they were greeted by five hundred Alice-crazed youths who literally ripped Alice's jacket off his shoulders as he was escorted into a waiting private Lear jet for the short hop to the center of Brazil's industry, the city of Sao Paolo. Even as the Cooper group's Lear blasted into the sunny Brazilian sky, the hundreds of fans remained at the airport to shout hysterically in Portuguese as the seven tons of sound and lighting equipment were hauled off the 707. In a country whose sound equipment is so poor that albums last only three playings, Alice's monster amplifiers and spotlights were as amazing a sight as a flying saucer. As a matter of fact, for the next week Alice and his band would be treated very much like visitors from outer space. Cooper's ripped coat at the airport was only the beginning of one of the greatest adventures in musical history.
Florida brainstorm: The south American jaunt began as the brainstorm of two American rock promoters, Peter Shanaberg and Joe Lambusta. Pete, 26, and Joe, 31, are the heads of L&S Productions, a concert company that operates primarily in the state of Florida. Joe, a striking looking fellow with henna red hair he combs straight down in front of his face, talks to people from behind tinted glasses, lulling his listeners with a charm that reflects his years as a rock agent at Creative Management Associates, rock's biggest concert agency. Pete, a zany fast talking young man with as many fascinating stories as he has curly blond hairs, managed a singer who signed CMA. Pete and Joe met, and the rest became concert promotion history. Partly because of their charm, but mostly because of their honesty, the pair became the most important rock promoters in Florida. Rock fans noticed that if they were attending an L&S Production, they were getting a good show at a fair ticket price. Once Shanaberg and Lambusta had conquered Florida, they turned their eyes, not north, but south.
"Alice Cooper is the second biggest rock star in all of South America," Shanaberg told Circus Magazine as he jumped in and out of his chair in a suite at the Copacabana Beach Hotel in Rio de Janeiro. Across the wide Boulevard Atlantica, on the other side of the mosaic sidewalks that are a trademark of Copacabana Beach, the ocean rumbled into the surf and sand. On the near side of the Boulevard, hundreds of fans echoed that steady rumble, keeping up a 24 hour vigil in hopes of watching Alice arrive or leave the hotel.
"The Stones are the first biggest group," Shanaberg commented, "because their music is so famous and Mick is married to a Nicaraguan. Even so, Alice is causing more of a furor. The Brazilians refer to him as "The Demon with the Snake!"
Brazil's fascination with Alice was due in part to the country's own fascination with "Makumaba," the South American voodoo that reveres a stuffed goat's head. Alice's macabre image, or at least the black magic expectations the Brazilians had of him, coupled with their national preoccupation, and Pete Shanaberg's choice of Alice as their first venture, was stopping Brazil dead in its tracks.
Cooper fever: Enembie is the name of one of the most enormous buildings in the world. Built in Sao Paolo, it is used for South American trade expositions, and has room for 400,000 people. There are no seats in this building, only wide open space, and the whole structure is so enormous that four Madison Square Gardens could fit into it! It was in this massive building that Alice Cooper would play before an estimated crowd of 150,000 people.
By the time Alice was ready to leave for his performance at Enembie, seven bodyguards were at his side, including a personal heavy named "Roberto" who was ready to give his life for America's master of the macabre. Roberto was a handsome, dashingly dressed man who packed a wallop and a gun. He and Alice became fast friends as soon as the Coop found out he once drove in the Indianapolis 500.
Transporting Alice to Enembie was so dangerous that old shell and pea game had to be played with the Brazilian fans. As police cleared the front of the Sao Paolo hotel, Alice was escorted into a shiny red Ford Galaxy (there are no limousines in Brazil) and the entire Cooper entourage - Michael Bruce and his pretty blond girlfriend Kathleen, Neil Smith and his wife Babette, Dennis Dunaway and Cindy Smith, the incomparable Glenn Buxton and his woman Susan, manager Shep Gordon and his lady Winona - took off through the streets with hundreds of fans rushing after them in private cars. As the line of cars snaked through the crowded streets with the Brazilians in hot pursuit, Alice's red Ford was diverted to an underground parking lot where he was supposed to be transferred into a white Ford, and thereby sneaked past the milling thousands expecting their star in a red car. The ingenious Brazilians, however, had tuned in on the plans, and when Alice's car arrived in the underground lot for the switch, hundreds of screeching fans jumped out from behind parked cars. The bodyguards fought fans away from Alice who was being badly manhandled in the melee. Then, as the red Ford tried to speed out of the garage as a decoy, the driver lost control and plunged straight into a brick wall. Alice's white Ford plunged up the ramp into the streets seconds later and left the shocked fans and critically injured driver behind.
Enembie wheatfield: Although Alice loves James Bond, the chase sequence in the garage was too dangerous to be enjoyable, and by the time the first Enembie concert began, the Cooper band was seriously concerned for their own safety. "The people looked like a wheat field flowing back and forth," Michael Bruce commented. "I knew that if they flowed the wrong way, something bad would happen."
Something bad did happen. When the Cooper group turned on their seven tons of equipment, the Brazilians freaked out. The loudest rock sounds they had ever heard before came from tiny Shure columns, so the decibel level Alice was putting out was greater than any member of the audience had dreamed possible. Alice was really as much an oddity and a miracle to the Brazilians as a Martian stepping off a space ship would be. The crowd flowed towards the stage. In the front rows, people literally began to be crushed to death. Concerned bodyguards and fascist police, who at first tried to keep people away from the stage, were pulling the helpless victims up there with Alice to save them from being trampled by the unstoppable thousands behind them. After only two numbers Alice was hauled off the stage by the bodyguards. The Coopers were stumped for a way to finish the show. How could they get 150,000 Brazilians to behave themselves so they could see what they had paid for?
The solution, surprisingly, came from Roberto, Alice's bodyguard, who asked to be allowed to speak to the enormous crowd. Roberto went out front, quieted down the audience, and asked them in Portuguese if they wanted Alice to think Brazilians were a bunch of uncivilized animals. Stunned by the admonishment, the massive crowd fell silent. The show continued without accident.
Copacabana sore point: During the next two days, the caravan moved from Sao Paolo to Rio de Janeiro where the final two shows were to take place, and settled into the Copacabana Palace Hotel. Alice spent one afternoon by the luxurious pool of the hotel during interviews with Brazilian television and newspapers, while the other, less recognizable members of the group were able to wander off with their bodyguards, to be accosted only by a few autograph hunters. The fact that Alice Cooper himself has become more of a star personality than the others is a sore point with a few members of the group, and rightfully so. Although Alice fronts the band and suffers most of the responsibility, the other members of the group do their fair share of work and receive less gratification in spiritual terms. Perhaps they are lucky, though, for Alice's life is not his own. He truly lives in someone else's brainstorm, as he sings in "Hard Hearted Alice," and life isn't necessarily that much fun in a hotel room.
If the Cooper organization had a tactical general, it would have to be Dave Libert. Libert is a wooly headed madman, emaciated enough to convince anyone he just returned from a death bed, and full of coldwater wit and a commanding brashness that enables him to get the band organized when the time comes. Libert gets the backstage passes. Libert arranges for the cars. Libert makes sure the stage is ready. Libert gets the group down to the gig on time. Libert makes sure the costumes are at the hall and that Alice has two sealed bottles of Seagrams VO before every show. Libert works hard and tough, and plays the same way, too. It was Libert, along with Ashley Pandel and Michael Roswell, who was responsible for the "Hot Dog" girls.
'Hot Dog' girls: Ashley Pandel is part of the brilliant teamwork that made Alice Cooper into an international star. With his knack for catering to the press in a totally ego-less fashion, Pandel has made his mark as the Tiffany of publicity agents. He's also made his reputation as a swashbuckling, debauched rogue of the 1970's, and he loves every minute of it. It should be pointed out that his reputation persists despite his fidelity to his girlfriend, Nancy, but in Brazil, Pandel used all his charm in arranging for the Cooper organization to take an assortment of groupies with them to Rio de Janeiro.
Pandel's crony, and the man who does the advance work for Cooper tours, is Michael Roswell. Roswell has the thankless job of doing every miscellaneous chore that's important enough to be done by someone who won't screw up. Much of the time, however, Roswell winds up taking Alice to and from airports, ordering room service for the band, and occupying the groupies. Roswell and Pandel have a great love of all pleasure giving things, and thus the "Hot Dog" girls came into existance.
These groupies would roam from room to room at night, knocking on doors and whispering "I love you" in tiny voices with strange Brazilian accents. If the knock was answered the groupie would perform whatever sexual service was desired even in groups. The girls were called "Hot Dog" girls because that's what they said everytime they opened up somebody's pants.
Alice's last performance was at an indoor stadium called the Marachacinho, where the appreciative Brazilians gave their American star the loudest tribute any member of the band has ever heard. They watched in amazement and terror as Alice danced with his snake, attacked a giant tooth, and had his head cut off in a guillotine by the Amazing Randi. For nearly a week all of Brazil stood still.
"The Who are next," Pete Shanaberg proudly announced as he boarded a plane back to the United States the day after Alice had left to play golf in Florida. "We're only going to take supergroups down to Brazil, because in Brazil they treat you that way. L&S Productions bringing Alice down here is something the Brazilians will never forget."
And neither will Alice Cooper.
Alice Cooper's European tour was called off due to the energy crisis, but the Coop decided there was no reason to let all those hotel reservations go to waste. In Amsterdam, the American sports fan was presented with three gold records during the halftime of the Harlem-Ajax football match. Returning the compliment, the snakemaster presented the referee with a gold football and commented "I wouldn't want your job, it's too controversial." While the players warmed up before the on-the-field action began, Muscle Of Love was piped over the the loudspeakers to the 20,000 fans in attendence.
Flying to Finland a few midnights later, Alice was surprised by 5,000 fans who caused so much confusion that the Helsinki authorities closed down the airport for two hours. Dogged all the way to his hotel room, Alice only found peace when he snuck into the hotel sauna.
The Billion Dollar Baby got duded up in black tie and tails when he hit Paris for a saunter down to the top socialite nightclub run by the legendary Regina. He was sighted talking with Aristotle Onassis later that evening, but as yet there's no word on what the wealthy duo plan to buy.
The Coop's last stop was London, where the recently coverted golf nut tore up the turf with former Saint and now James Bond actor, Roger Moore. No one remembered to keep score. Later, Alice joined Moore at a posh party thrown by former runaway heiress Tessa Kennedy. The list of swells in on the action include Ryan and Tatum O'Neal; composer John Barry; Warner Brothers executive Ron Kass and his wife, actress Joan Collins; one-time first lady of Inonesia, Dewi Sukarno; King Hussein's sister-in-law, Princess Firyal Mohammed; and British actresss Fiona Lewis