Originally Published: April 06, 1973
Author: Jane Scott
Alice Cooper bounces out on stage in see-through white.
He spears a baby doll, chops off its arm and legs and gleefully tosses it to the audience. He's way out. He's way beyond. He's sadistic. He's unisex gone berserk.
Yet 800,000 teens from Berkeley to Boston line up to see him. His 56-city $56 million tour sells out each city.
Police has to scrape students without tickets off the outer walls of Public Hall Saturday night. Why?
What has happened to good old rock 'n' roll?
"We like him. It's all just as act," said Cheryl Peters, 16, of Nazareth Academy.
"Best show I've ever seen!" said Effie Brandes, 14, of St. Luke's School.
Before the show was over Alice had assaulted store mannequins, fondled his boa constrictor, played up to 15-year-olds, begged for insults ("I haven't had a good one tonight"), fled from a six-foot tooth, laid his head down in a guillotine and marched off to a furling flag and "God Bless America."
Does any of that bother you?
"No, I've seen what he pretends to do actually done at parties with older people," said Mrlon White, 20 of Fremont, O.
"No, he makes fun of violence in the world. You laugh at it and you feel better," added his wife, Cindy, 20.
That baby-doll act isn't so far out as you might think, others said.
"He shows what's going on in the world today, like abortion and Vietnam," added another Nazareth student.
(Whatever happened to "Teen Angel," "Hully Gully Baby" and "Baby, I Need Your Lovin' "?)
One of Alice Cooper's biggest LP's was "Love It to Death." The group's latest, "Billion Dollar Babies," contains "Sick Things" and "I Love The Dead."
Of 50 young people interviewed after the concert only two knocked Alice's rock.
"He's got a good voice, but he's a phony," said one.
"He's a sadist. I'd never bring a girl to the show," said Don Caine, 18, of St. Edwards High. "And he made a mock of the flag."
At Cyrus Erie West three years ago Alice popped up in black pantyhose and rhinestones, sat in an electric chair and sprayed white feathers into the audience. He was "hanged" at Public Hall las year. Why?
Rock hounds sat around the Sheraton Motor Inn at a post-concert party and thought it over. "He's unique. He was the first to use theatrics. He has more variety than David Bowie," analyzed Walter Masky.
Movement. That's the key, decided WIXY disc jockey Jeff McKee. Why do kids sit for hours, mesmerized by a TV screen? Constant change.
Why did the James Gang ride into Akron Civic Theater last month with a rootin' tootin' Wild West traveling medicine Show with everything from a Hindu fakir fire-eater and sharpshooter to Tempest Storm? Who want to just site and see people strum?
"And Alice is alter ego to society. He does the things you often with you could but know you never will," added McKee.
"Vicarious deviation," summed up Chicago model Betty Pappas , who flew in for the show.
"When I leave I feel so good. We've all got hostilities. I'm free for a minute, not tied down," she added.
Ashley Pandel, handsome staffer from Alice's management firm, Alive Enterprises, thoughtfully studies his hamburger.
"You know, Alice is many things. He's child-like, yet he is so intelligent that he's completely tuned in to young people. He instinctively knows what they want," he said.
"But you know Alice was never a deprived child. He always go what he wanted. He's still living those fantasies shown in his songs. He hated school, so he wrote 'School's Out.' He's like to be an important public figure, so he wrote 'Elected.' "
Just then Alice arrived in an open shirt and blue denims with a tight belt across his buttocks and started signing autographs on everything from purses to pieces of scratch paper. Has the media created Alice Cooper? Are we responsible?
No. He's a combination of creative programming and the kids' own responses. He was a sellout here before he had a hit record.
The Alice Cooper sound is tight, hard-hitting rock 'n' roll, uncannily beaming to teens. ("Eighteen" and "School's Out") It's not far from Grand Funk Railroad.
Would the group hit the heights without the gimmicks? Probably not. Think how many other groups fill the same bill.
"Bob Seger is a good example. He does about the same things as Cooper, but with Seger something is missing," said McKee.
The Cooper image was more calculated than the Beatles, though McKee.
"I'll never forget. On the tail of the plane thy fly in is a big dollar sign," said Miss Pappas. The entourage arrived in an $108,000 Electro Turbojet with a private room, videotape equipment, blackjack tables, 20,000 Alice Cooper napkins, 26,000 Alice Cooper cups and thousands of posters.
"Nobody knows about death. I'm so afraid of it I make fun o fit all the time," Alice said at a new conference earlier in the Sheraton.
"We are a heavy social criticism. We say, look what grew out of society. A cancer or a flower?" he once said.
Offstage, Alice Cooper is open, humorous, spontaneous, completely at ease. He seems to lack those little guides we have in our brain that say "Whoa, better not say that."
What saves him is his easy-going sense of humor.
"I'd kill my grandmother for an Arby beef sandwich right now," he said.
"I'm interested in people. I'm a complete Freudian. I'm interested in various sexual outlets."
He and his group – Neal Smith, Glen Buxton, Dennis Dunaway and Mike Bruce – have been living in a 40-room home in Greenwich, Conn. next to Bette Davis.
"We'll sell that. I can't stand toads and chipmunks and squirrels," Alice said.
"I might buy a home in Shaker Heights, so everybody will move."
Actually, he has bought a $100,000 home in Paradise Valley Ariz., next to Barry Goldwater.
"Maybe they'll rename it 'Valley of the Dead,'" he joked.
The plaster cast of his head used in the guillotine scene was no joke.
"When I had the mold made they blocked off my ears and eyes and I couldn't taste or see anything for 20 minutes. You can't move a muscle. You can't even swallow," he recalled.
Why? Why the violence?
"Well, the world is sick out there. We're sick on stage and do it all for then," Alice answered.
Alice is white as the belly of a rainbow trout, and slightly flabby without being fat. He stoops when he strides. Somehow he looks vulnerable, but too bizarre to cuddle.
"Truman Capote wrote about me in Rolling Stone. He said he'd defy anyone to make any sense out of my lyrics. My lyrics are perfectly sane," Alice said.
"So I wrote to him, 'Dear Mr. Capote: Picky, picky, picky. Love, Alice.' "
He only writes lyrics once a year for his albums. He bombards them out, right in the studio.
Isn't he afraid that some young minds could be corrupted by his weird words?
"I love decadent 12-year-olds," he said with a wicked grin. "Wouldn't it be awful if everyone was alike?"
(Published in the Action Tab supplement of The Plain Dealer – Cleveland, Ohio - on 6th April 1973)