Circus

Circus - May 1975

Circus
(May 1975)

Originally Published: May 1975

Alice Cooper: Groucho Of The 21st Century

Author: Scott Cohan

Alice Cooper has been away so long they thought he was finished. Following the uneventful Muscle Of Love campaign in the winter of 1973-74, the shock troops from Phoenix fragmented, and many predicted the king Coop himself was creatively dead, consigned to a future celebrity guest appearances on TV variety vagabondage. Now however, seperated from character Coopers Michael Bruce, Dennis Dunaway, Glen Buxton and Neal Smith, Alice has cranked up his own solo career with Welcome To My Nightmare (on Atlantic Records) and a tour designed to show the teen tingler still has the touch that earned him the title Master of the Macabre.

"I hated repeating the same stale things," Alice confided to Circus Magazine on the eve of his new LP's release. "I needed some re-grouping to get the energy back." During much of the past year, tales of Alice's re-grouping exploits have lost some of the zing his former antic delivered. Mostly he's been playing golf, and anyone can play golf. Meanwhile: Glen Buxton barely clung to life; Dennis Dunaway faded into the natural landscape he loves so much; Neal Smith tried to satisfy his thirst for the Holy Grail of Glory with a solo LP; Michael Bruce worked on producing his own LP and a group of friends from Arizona and Connecticut called Loudmouth (one member of the band is married to Alice's sister). Alice himself calmly plotted his future with the man who made him a million dollar baby in the first place, manager Shep Gordon.

Alice went to the Bahamas last summer where he wrote most of the tunes for Welcome with Dick Wagner, the highly respected guitarist who worked on Lou Reed's recent surge to commercial popularity; Wagner has now become one of Cooper-producer Bob Ezrin's most trusted workhorses. "I did all the lyrics and I couldn't be happier with it," Alice said of the bizarre concept album which includes cuts like "Cold Ethyl," "Department Of Youth," "The Black Widow," and the much heralded "Only Women Bleed." "It's the best stuff I've ever written." Besides Wagner, the new Cooper musicians include Reed alumni Steve Hunter (guitar) and Whitey Glan (drums), with Joey Chirowsky (organ) and Prakash John (bass).

To promote the album the old snake-stretcher has already taken to the road, this time playing 60 cities in 35 states with a projected gross of $5.4 million. "We're going to do three months in the States and then go around the world to all the big countries," Alice gushed. "Europe, Brazil, Australia, Toledo . . . we're going to every place that's got a Holiday Inn. This time I'm not designing it so I'll kill myself, like 30 nights in a row. I'm carefully figuring it all out... all the right pizza places to call. I can't wait to get back on the road."

In preparation for life on the road, Alice began checking into hotels around the country towards the end of February, just to get familiar once again with the joys of room service. It was at one of these homes away from home, the Mayfair in New York City, that longtime Cooper aquaintance Scott Cohen tracked him down. Scott says it was the nicest hotel he's ever visited during the course of his inquisitive travels, and Alice concurred, saying "I finally found a hotel that I like." Basically a rich old ladies' establishment, the Mayfair sports women elevator operators in butch uniforms who work with (Nazi-like) precision. Alice's room had salmon and blue pastel colored floral wallpaper, and furniture that was significantly more tasteful than the kind they give away on quiz shows.

In front of Alice was a bucket full of Bubweiser Beer, the brew that runs in the Dada devil's veins. Through the window, Scott also glimpses two more six-packs chilling on the ledge outside. There was also Budweiser in the bedroom and the bathroom. There were six-packs of Budweiser wherever you looked. Coincidentally, when Scott arrived Alice was watching a TV quiz show.

Alice Cooper Quiz Show

Circus: We'll start off with a couple of easy questions, and as the money gets bigger, the questions will get harder. First question: What's it like not touring?

Alice: That's an easy one, I know the answer to that. It's like anxiety because I'm just starting to tour again. It's like a leave of absence, and I've just started to check into hotels to get the feeling back, and I don't know, it's going to be an extensive tour. I think three months in the States and then around the world. But it won't be one of those every night bits. I'm planning on having fun. I'm tired of staying home. You know, I played golf for a year and I got that out of my system.

Circus: Really? Did you sell your clubs?

Alice: No, I just bought new ones. Well, I got good. I shot a 77! I played every day for a month, chipping the score down, and the last game I played in Los Angeles, I got a 77. That'll keep me going for about a year.

Circus: What sport will you be playing next?

Alice: I don't know. I wanna keep playin' golf. You know, the thing about playin' golf is the fact that it takes five hours to play. If you're a tennis nut, you get out and play tennis for an hour and you're done. Golf is an all day thing. You gotta plan it.

Circus: So, golf changed your life?

Alice: Yeah. Another thing is now I own a house. I've always lived in hotels or with the other guys, so this is a whole new thing. Ask me about my electricity bill.

Circus: Tell me about your electricity bill.

Alice: I don't know what to say.

Circus: Who are your neighbors?

Alice: Mickey Dolenz (from the Monkees) lives right next door and he's a lot of fun.

Circus: Do you have a swimming pool?

Alice: Yeah. I just had a redwood deck put in and I keep the pool at 90 degrees. You can go swimming at five in the morning and it can be 12 degrees out there. The steam comes off the pool, and it's all lit in the back. I usually sleep on the couch in the living room because I don't have a TV in the bedroom yet, and I wake up every morning at 7:00, with the sun shining through the steam coming off the pool.

Circus: What kind of pool filters are you using?

Alice: I don't know. I have a lima bean-shaped pool, real casual, with a TV on the side. It reminds me of early Fifties Hollywood. And all these great people come over. All these comedians....

Circus: Do you have mostly comedian friends?

Alice: I do have a lot of comedian friends, maybe more than musician friends. Mickey Dolenz is a funny guy, he could be either. And a guy like Harry Nilsson is almost a comedian. Groucho, of course, is your ultimate comedian. Albert Brooks, I consider one of the funniest men in the world. Albert's real name is Albert Einstein. He had to change it.

Circus: You're appealing to an older age group now.

Alice: After this new tour, I don't think so. I did do some TV and that did bring it to another appeal. Now, I get more old ladies on airplanes asking me for autographs, even if they're saying it's for their kids.

Circus: What's the new show like?

Alice: There's about five things that nobody's ever used that are just sensational. It'll be based around Welcome To My Nightmare, and it's gonna be a concept show, and there's funny parts to the nightmare and there's terrifically horrible parts to it. I'm like a psycho-analyst looking at them. There's one song, "Only Women Bleed", which is just the nicest ballad, and it's the first ballad I've ever written, one I've had offers from some pretty big singers to do. At the same time, I went all out on the black humor. You know, "She's cool in bed/Well, she ought to be because she's dead." There's one song that's so frightening that by the end of it, you just wouldn't want to listen to that whole episode alone, or in the dark. I have Vincent Price on the album now.

Circus: Who are the musicians?

Alice: The band that played on Lou Reed's "Berlin" album, only this time, they're playing rock n' roll. I'm also using them on the tour.

Circus: Now, for some harder questions. I'd like to go way back to the time you were sitting around the living room with a Ouija board and you got the name Alice Cooper.

Alice: No, that's not true. In fact, I'll tell you exactly how the Alice Cooper name came up.

Circus: Didn't you tell someone else that the Ouija board story was the true story?

Alice: Oh yeah, but that was at that point. I did that because I thought it would be more interesting that way. This is the honest-to-God truth. We were sitting there, we were still high school kids, and we were over at these girls' house. They were secretaries, and they wanted to be a band. They were called "The Weeds of Idleness", and they really were sincere, but they were horrible. They worked as secretaries and they would really help us out. We would go there every night and they'd prepare us all this food. So, it was over at their house and we were sitting there saying, "We got to find a new name," because we'd found out that another band was called the Nazz. And I said, "We don't have anything to lose, let's do something that no one's going to relate to at all." I could have said "Jennifer Smith" or "Mary Truesdale", but it just happened that "Alice Cooper" came out. It was the very first name that came out too. There was something axe-murderish about Alice Cooper. It reminded me of Lizzie Borden. Alice Cooper - Lizzie Borden. That's got a "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane" feeling to it. It was like feminine, but it wasn't feminine. It had some sort of ring to it, something disturbing.

Circus: What do you fear most?

Alice: I fear Budweiser beer will go on strike. I really do. I was just thinking about buying ten thousand dollars worth of Bud. I'm really very dependent upon beer. As much as heroin would be to somebody else.

Circus: Does Budweiser know this?

Alice: I don't know if they do or not. As an example, we did this thing at the signing with Atlantic for Welcome To My Nightmare; we brought in 200 cases of Budweiser and made two thrones, one for the President of Atlantic and one for me, out of Budweiser cans. I thought, "what is this obsession I have?", I thought "I could drink that whole thing, easily, and not get drunk." Do you want a beer by the way?

Circus: Is your life like a situation comedy?

Alice: I think you can live your whole life and look at it like it's part of a situation comedy. And then if you do something embarrassing, you can say, "Gee, how funny it was."

Circus: Much better than seeing life as a tragedy.

Alice: That's true. Well, it depends upon how you think, how much of a deathwish you have. Or how much you don't like yourself. I'd much rather see my life as a very funny comedy with dramatic points.

Circus: What did it say about you in your high school year book?

Alice: That's funny, I was just thinking about that yesterday. In fact, I remember the picture. I looked like Gary Lewis from the Playboys. I had a velvet collar and my hair was combed back. I was a very good-looking kid. It said 'Class of '66, blah, blah, blah. Sports: cross country, track. Clubs: Lettermen.' It either said I wanted to sell a million singles or I wanted to sell as many records as the Beatles. I'd pay to see which. I ordered my senior yearbook but I never got it. Cindy wears my ring. In fact, I was invited back for the ten-year alumni reunion. The track coach called my dad and asked if I wanted to contribute something to the school. We thought what a great idea to have an Alice Cooper Scholarship, but they asked if I would give them an indoor track instead. It only costs about $75,000. These were the same people who threw me out of school eight times in my senior year for having hair over my collar, and now they want me to contribute a $75,000 track because I was the third guy on the miler team. I had to laugh.

Circus: Are you going to do it?

Alice: Of course not, but I will do a scholarship. He'll have to be a track runner

Circus: I wonder if he'll take his education seriously.

Alice: I don't know, but I want to have it directly for people who'll run the mile. That's what I did.

Circus: What were you doing when Hank Aaron hit his historic 715th home run?

Alice: I was on an airplane and I think everyone got free drinks or something. I was glad to see it. I was once in front of a foursome where a guy hit a hole-in-one. I got so excited, more excited than if I had hit a hole-in-one. I jumped up and yelled, 'You got it!" The guy went back to the clubhouse and bought everyone a traditional round of drinks. That's what you're supposed to do. I never met the guy before. If he saw me on the street he probably would have said, 'Eh, you hippie.' I could never believe how American that was. I was on an airplane when Aaron hit that home run. I even remember where I was for the missile-crisis thing. (Cortez H.S.).

Circus: What's your favorite quiz show these days?

Alice: I've been watching High Rollers. Ever watch that, with the big dice? They wanted me to do Celebrity Sweepstakes, but I really didn't want to do it.

Circus: What prize would you most like to win?

Alice: I think I would like the shopping spree at Tiffany's. Or maybe a motorcycle.

Circus: Would you like to M.C. a quiz show?

Alice: No. That's a routine job. I couldn't smile all day. That's a lot of teeth.

Circus: When you were on the Mike Douglas Show, it seem Mike Douglas had to legitimatize you by mentioning that you were friends with Groucho Marx.

Alice: Well, Groucho was a heavy rebel. He was never like Jimmy Stewart. He used to write letters to Truman. We were natural rebels because as far as my image goes, it's the same kind of rebellious image. You know, forcing my image into America's face, sort of like what Groucho did. He insulted everyone, but he was still appealing and was a house hold word. I'd get along with Marlon Brando real well. I get along really well with Keith Moon, who's a rebel. I get along better with rebels than I do with establishment people who are afraid to move.

Circus: When you say you're friends with Groucho, to what extent are you friends?

Alice: Well, I'll go over and watch TV with him. He'd be in bed with his little tuner and I'd go over at 11:00 at night, watch TV, and talk about John Wayne. And he tells me all these lovely stories about the old days. I just sit there and absorb. I try to make him laugh once in awhile, and that's great. lt makes me feel terrific. Every once in awhile I'll come up with one and he'll laugh and laugh.

Circus: Do you feel he's interested in your life?

Alice: Yeah. He requests for me to be there at certain times. It's like getting a call from the king. I'll be at home and I'll get a call saying 'Groucho's at home and he wants Alice to come over and watch TV.' I don't care what I'm doing. I stop, get into the car, and go over. You know, Groucho's calling.

Circus: Why did he give you his bed?

Alice: Well, he knew I was moving into my new house when he was redoing his house, and he mentioned that there was a bed in there and asked if I wanted it. It's a big, round, obnoxious bed, and he gave me all those stories about what had happened in bed with his first and second wives and he was telling me he hoped the bed would bring me more luck than it brought him. So it's a keepsake. I'd never throw that away.

Circus: How do you find fitted sheets for a round bed?

Alice: You don't. You have to have them made.

Circus: You mean you haven't changed the sheets yet?

Alice: Well, as I said, I very rarely use it. I sort of like it as a piece of furniture that people look at. They say, 'Oh, is that the bed?' 'Can we visit the bed?'

Circus: When you were a Hollywood Square, did you sit in the same square each time?

Alice: No. You change. They did three shows on a Saturday. You do one show, take a break, and change squares. I think I sat next to Charlie Weaver on one, Paul Lynde on another and Vincent Price. I'm a very good friend of Vincent's, so we got along really well. And they don't give you the answers. They had Paul Lynde on the other day and they asked him if he could tell something about someone who had brown carpeting, brown drapes and brown furniture and he said, 'Sounds like the maid exploded.' I thought that was hysterical. I told that to sorne Negroes and they thought it was funny.

Circus: Being a star gives you an opportunity to meet a lot of people you wouldn't ordinarily meet.

Alice: Yeah. I go out of my way to meet people I've admired for a long time. I'm one of those people who, well, you never know when you're gonna meet your best friend. So I like to meet a lot of people. Especially in the business, because I think there's a common bond. Some day they're gonna find out there's a certain chemical that every entertainer has that makes him an entertainer. There must be a common bond, physical or chemical, that gives you the initiative to try to get into show business.

Circus: Who are some of the people who've fascinated you?

Alice: Fred Astaire absolutely knocked me out. He was Fred Astaire the way I wanted Fred Astaire. Then there were Burns and Benny who were exactly the way I wanted them to be. Then there were certain people who weren't what I wanted them to be. Cosell. I wanted Cosell to be a little lighter. I thought he was acting, but he really is like that.

Circus: When you're making a record, are you thinking in terms of the charts?

Alice: I think I was born with a Madison Avenue mind and I think there's nothing wrong with that. Some people get artsy-fartsy about it and say they don't care about the business. I think that's a very limited thought. Why not create and at the same time know how to sell what you create? I love the idea of creating something, looking at it, and saying 'It's really good and if I were a kid in the audience I would have to see that.' I would love to see a snake on stage. I'd love to see its head get cut off. 'Cause I'm a sensationalist.

Circus: How many snakes have you gone through in your career?

Alice: Five. They couldn't take the tour. It's very funny though. I want to make money like everyone else does.

Circus: What's your biggest selling album?

Alice: Billlon Dollar Babies.

Circus: Would you say you've lived out most of your fantasies?

Alice: No, because you come up with new ones everyday. I remember the time when I couldn't imagine being eighteen. That inspired that song.

Circus: What's the most pressing fantasy that you'd like to live out?

Alice: I would like to star in a dramatic movie.

Circus: lf someone were going to do your life story, who would you want to play you?

Alice: That's a good question. Gee. I could think of some people who would be good, but they're too old. Could I have Henry Fonda in his youth? Henry Fonda in his youth could play anyone's life story. That's a good question. Heddy Lamar, without her accent. That's going to keep me thinking all day. Tony Perkins? Maybe Bradford Dillman. Oh, I know. Of course. Montgomery Clift would play Alice Cooper very well.

Circus: How about David Bowie?

Alice: David and I are best of friends. Any time he's in town and he knows I'm in town, we always get together for dinner or something. Personality-wise we get along really well, I guess because, we're in the same fraternity. Elton and I get along really well probably because of that same thing. We're in that same realm of show business, so we like to see how each other thinks.

I respect all those people because they're all that good. David's terrific. The press would love to have Elton John and these other people at each other's throats, but I'm not competing with David Bowie. I'm not competing with anybody, because I think I'm of an entity where I don't have to worry about competing.

The press wants you to feel that it's X aginst Y. McCartney against Lennon. In fact they created the Marc Bolan-David Bowie thing. Those guys are the best of friends. Elvis against Fabian. Elton's got a great mastery of the stage; Jagger's got a great sense of stage; Iggy Stooge's got a great sense of stage. He's not as successful as everyone else but he really knows what he's doing. He keeps my attention. He's one of the only acts I'd go and see.

Circus: You've got a lot of money. Would you rather quit with the money you've won so far, or would you like to see what's behind the curtain?

Alice: Oh no. I'd rather go with the curtain. Can I come back next week?