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Originally Published: August 1976
Author: Charles M. Young
Los Angeles - Mr. Everett Dirksen, the late great Old Fart who greased the Senate with a grandiloquence found only in hypocrites of keen perception, died a few years before he could play golf with Alice Cooper. That's too bad, because they probably would have become great friends. Depending on what Lyndon Johnson could pull out of the pork barrel, Dirksen made stunning changes of opinion on civil rights bills and the Vietnam War. "Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds," he told hostile reporters, deflating their questions with charm. The phrase would be appropriate coming from Alice Cooper, whose politics are equally unencumbered by ideology.
At the risk of revealing a hobgoblin in my own little mind, just how do you explain a guy who in his new autobiography, Me, Alice (G.P. Putnam), admits that he used to jack off in jelly doughnuts and feed them to his sister but in an interview refuses to confirm or deny he's married because it's too "personal"? A guy so afraid of polluting his body with venereal disease that he won't make it with a groupie but who nearly dissolved his guts with booze? A guy who made millions by being offensive toMiddle America but now plays golf in celebrity tournaments with people like Glen Campball? A heterosexual Christian who becomes the first drag queen rock star?
"The most important thing about my whole life is to be the most different," writes Cooper in Me, Alice. "I always had to do the opposite of what was expected. I refuse to be anonymous. The world must know I'm here."
Thus does Alice lay to rest the hobgoblins of consistency in an hilarious book that's a good read even if you think his music stinks. Cooper is totally motivated by the same pathetic little kid emotion of "Look at me!" that drives all artists, only he makes no pretense of serving God or having something to tell mankind. He's like Zsa Zsa Gabor - famous for being famous. Or maybe there's a message we all missed...
"Sometimes a writer finds stuff in his own work and he learns something revealing about himself," explained a tanned and smiling "Coop" in his temporary quarters in Los Angeles. (His house is being rebuilt after it burned down several months ago.) "Recently I was shocked to realize all the religious themes in my songs! I guess it comes naturally, because I deal in extremes.
"My new album, Alice Goes to Hell, is almost a Part II of Welcome To My Nightmare. In the storyline Alice meets The Devil, but he's not sure whether he's woken up yet. The Devil doesn't have horns - actually, he's sort of a Damon Runyan character, really cool. His big song is 'I'm The Coolest,' but I think the monster of the album is 'I Never Cry.' Alice sings it when The Devil tortures him but can't break him down, because Alice has a bigger ego than even The Devil."
Is Alice in reality seeking God, as his minister father suggests in the introduction to his book?
"I think everybody is seeking God," he counters. "I find God through whiskey. Honest. It's one of the few times the real truth comes out - when you're sitting around talking with guys! I believed in a benevolent God who must have the greatest sense of humor in the world. If I do something dumb, he treats me like a big joke. And I'll reply, 'Yeah, God, I'm a real asshole.' Or if I get a brilliant idea, I'll say, 'Thanks I needed that one.' I pray a lot."
Does he truly believe in Mephistopheles?
"I think there's probably a devil sitting around somewhere, but I can take him in three rounds," he confides. "I'm very quick. I don't know what that's going to look like theatrically yet. I wanted to get Hitchcock or Fonzie or Orson Welles for the part, but it was impossible for them to tour. Maybe I'll use guest devils onstage."
Cooper plans a modest tour this summer with a band of studio musicians called the Hollywood Vampire Orchestra whose final line-up is still indefinite. Dates will be taken at a leisurely pace to keep insanity at a minimum and they will concentrate on rock 'n' roll rather than theatrics. Boxing with The Devil will wait for a while. "The gross-out stage is over," he says. "I don't want to repeat yself."
Reminiscing over certain parts of his book, he says he wishes he could have kept the name of the first band: the Earwigs.
"Earwigs are a type of water scorpions that smell bad when you step on them and they can crawl through your ear and infect your brain," says Alice. "We went to high school with The Tubes in Phoenix. We used to have battles of the bands in supermarket parking lots. They were called the XLs then and played surf music. We played Rolling Stones and Yardbirds stuff. It was like a volume contest - if they brought a new amp, they won. I played a pretty good harmonica back then. 'I'm A Man' was our best song - better even than the Yardbirds; that's what all the kids said."
After leaving Phoenix for Los Angeles, the Earwigs landed a gig opening for the Doors at the Cheetah, where Cooper became friends with Jim Morrison. "He was always doing wierd stuff like jumping out of cars, breaking his body, and never seeing a doctor. We drank two bottles of bourbon a day. I don't remember the first time we met because I was trying to be drunker than he was. I was in the studio when they recorded 'Caravan,' which is a very difficult vocal. Outside he was shaking like a leaf from all that alcohol in his system, but he went in and sang it in two takes and walked out completely sober.
"Amazing, but I kind of expected it when he died. I'm not that self-destructive. I ultimately learned that I didn't have to live the character of Alice Cooper as well as play it. That's why I took up golf, which was totally foreign to my whole lifestyle. I had to substitue something for all that booze."
Cooper's words for the other stars of the time are less kind. "They all wanted to be prophets, the New Dylan. I said let's go to the circus. I brought the fan back into show business."
And now, after all those years of smashing babies onstage, how did he get along with his parents?
"Well, I promised them in high school that if they would let me grow my hair, I would buy them a swimming pool someday - and I did. They went on vacation for a couple of weeks and the pool was there in the backyard when they came back. We get along well. My father has his beliefs and I have mine. We respect each other. I'm teaching him to play golf. He's a very good preacher, knows the Bible and the Book of Mormon backwards and forwards. He's not a Mormon, though. He's in some Reform group."
Alice's other plans for the future include moving next door to Louise Lasser in August, putting his hair up in ponytails and visiting Mary Hartman in her off-hours to exchange some heavy gossip. "But I won't feel good," he says, "until the strike ends at Budweiser."