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Originally Published: August 15, 1997
Author: Jane Scott
At a concert in North Ridgeville 26 years ago, the lead singer with heavy mascara and long hair suddenly zipped off his silver latex suit.
And there he was...on stage in black pantyhose.
And all hell broke loose.
"Alice Cooper is shock rock," said columnists. "Shicking!" said parents. "Kooky! Guys should look like guys," said Jim Long, 19, of Cuyahoga Community College.
Marc Meinzer, 17, of Fairview Park High School didn't dig the drag outfit, but liked Alice Cooper's album, "Love It To Death." He still does. Now 42, and owner of a barber shop in Lakewood, he's a graduate of Miami University, former sailor, Merchant Marine, and high school teacher.
"Cooper's music was always good. He was a real musician," he said. "That separated him from a lot of other performers who usually put out only one or two records."
Cooper is going on his 25th album now. That show in March 1971 at the old Cyrus Erie West in North Ridgeville was the first Cleveland area concert for Cooper, the former Vincent Damon Furnier.
Before that evening was over, Cooper was "electrocuted" in a wooden contraption and the audience was covered with little white feathers.
"I bought two feather pillows on the way to Cleveland and sprayed them into the audience with my carbon dioxide tank," Cooper said later. (Thanks, Pal!)
And since then he has been hanged, guillotined, hammered into a coffin by irreverent ghouls, stuffed into a straight jacket and chased by black widow spiders and a 7-foot Frankenstein monster with a two-tone punk hairdo.
So such outcries today about Marilyn Manson "damaging young people's minds" naturally seem familiar to Cooper. "But I think our shows are more fun. They're put-ons. They have a sense of humor. And they're not satanic," he said.
"But then, it's a natural thing to copy some other group. I think Marilyn Manson's show will eventually develop into something else," said Cooper, calling from a tour stop in Phoenix.
Cooper's show tomorrow at Nautica Stage has developed a harder edge, he said.
"It's much tougher, with a harder music core to it."
What's more, he'll have three heavy metal groups as openers.
Cooper's new album, "A Fistful of Alice," (Guardian Records) is a live set recorded last year at Sammy Hagar's Cabo Wabo Cantina in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. "I'm Eighteen," "Lost In America," "Billion Dollar Babies," "Welcome To My Nightmare," "Elected," and "Only Women Bleed" are among those included, plus a new one, "Hello, Is Anyone Home?"
"And I brought Slash and Rob Zombie down to play on it. Sammy does guitar on 'School's Out.' I felt I needed to do a live album to update people on my sound in '97. I like it. We've gone back to the original. When you do songs over and over again, you tend to develop different versions of them," he said.
He has been asked to throw out the first pitch at the Indians/Toronto Blue Jays game tomorrow at Jacobs Field.
Also in stores: "Prime Cuts: The Alice Cooper Story," a 90-minute video of Cooper's career. And coming up: A CD box set "The Life and Crimes of Alice Cooper." Back in the '70s he was one of the first rock stars to have his own Marvel comic. "Elected" is considered one of the first non-performance videos with a story line. In 1991, he was inducted into the Hollywood Rock Walk, honoring those who have made significant contributions to the evolution of rock 'n' roll has an art form.
Cooper has also developed into a health freak. He has been sober for 15 years, he said. "I keep the same weight, about 145," he added.
But his golf handicap has gone down, to four. It may be the lowest among rockers. "Of course, I live in Arizona and can play every day," he said.
Cooper married one of the "Spiders" who chased him on stage. He and his wife Sheryl have three children, Calico, 16; Dash (named after mystery author Dashiell Hammett), 12; and Sonora, 4.
Cooper claims he started into music just like a regular fan. Born in Detroit, he had moved to Tucson with his family because of his asthma and went to art school there. "I was a surrealist. One day it hit me that none of the rock groups was using the stge as a theater," he said.
But some things don't change. Cooper has returned to using a boa constrictor in his concerts, a male one about 10 feet long. It should go well with tomorrow's show, a theatrical rock 'n' roll carnival.
His first snake, Angel, also 10 feet, was a real show-off, he said. "Got more applause than I did."
"All of them are deaf. Yes, I know. Parents tell me they're the luckiest ones at the concert!" he joked.