Originally Published: August 1977
Author: Barbara Charone
Alice Cooper is waiting for the man. He's even got a Coca-Cola in his hand. But where's the burgers? Alice Cooper is waiting. He's waiting for a Big Boy with extra sauce and he's getting edgy.
Just ten minutes before he had arrived at a Los Angeles rehearsal studio, stepping out of a gold Rolls Royce, bearing the license plates which read "A CLUE." Sporting a Michigan State University sweat shirt, yellow shorts and sneakers, he looked exceptionally healthy. And very hungry.
This is all part of Alice's new image. No more Budweiser. He's strictly a Coca-cola man now, working daily in a local gym in preparation for his summer tour. "I used to wake up in the morning and scream, 'Where's my beer?' Now it's 'Where's my Coke?' " he laughed.
These days he wakes up with his wife, Sheryl, a dancer he met during auditions for his Welcome To My Nightmare show. The couple seemed quite happy except for one thing: Alice is exceedingly jealous. He's jealous of a pastrami and egg sandwich Sheryl is eating.
"Lunch with the Coopers," he sighed anxiously, waiting for the Big Boy with extra sauce. "Isn't this exciting? You don't mind me being sponaneous, do you? I've done so many interviews lately with people with whole lists of questions like, 'Did you really kill a chicken on stage?' But this time I do!
"I'll kill four chickens in this show," he laughed, "and they kill me. Well, not real chickens."
Determined neither to grow anemic or bored as he did last time out, this Lace And Whiskey summer jaunt is a relatively short exercise. Well, short for Alice. A frenetic schedule of 65 shows in 70 days has been cut down to a solid 30 dates.
But wait until you see the $400,000 stage shaped like a TV set that does everything, including change channels. He's got four dancers in the show, counting his wife; a band composed of guitar aces Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter, bassist Parakash John, drummer Whutey Glan and keyboard man Fred Mandel.
And that ain't the half of it. He's bringing back the guillotine, introducing dancing chickens, and playing a lengthy set that includes six costume changes and 20 songs dating back to the Killer album. Of course, there's also the odd surprise or two.
"I'm introducing Maurice Escargot in the show. He's just like Inspector Clouseau," he said, referring to Peter Sellers character, "but this guy's a real gum chew. He tries to be cool all the time, but keeps getting his fingers stuck in machine gun barrels.
"Have you seen The Fan Club ad? 'Join Or Die.' I just love that. And the other one," he chuckled, almost forgetting about the Big Boy with extra sauce. "Would You Buy A Ballad From This Man?' the tour ads say, 'Be There Or Be Dead.' At least it's direct."
Just as obvious is his new single, "You And Me," the last in the trilogy of ballads which include "Only Women Bleed" and "I Never Cry." He calls this genre of music "heavy metal housewife rock."
"I did those songs totally out of spite. I kept reading so many interviews and articles that I said I was never considered musical. Best rock show they ever saw, but musically lacking. 'They aren't as good as ELP.' Of course not," he laughed, "we didn't want to be.
"They kept saying I was a performer but didn't write anything. So I said, 'Oh yeah? Yeah? OH, YEAH? Wait till you hear this!' So Wagner and I wrote those ballads just to show we could write."
Alice Cooper hasn't been on stage since an Australian tour which ended in February. It wasn't a particularly happy tour. Besides, he didn't like the beer. "I got so bored in Australia with the Welcome To My Nightmare show that everyone kept asking what was wrong cause I seemed depressed. I wasn't really depressed, just bored. We did that show over a hundred times.
"That's why this tour is gonna be different. We were on the road for five years. It became habit. It got to the point where I could go on stage anywhere, anytime, and do any of the songs and be a thousand miles away. Now," he said, eyeing the whips lying on the floor, "I'm really looking forward to the crowd's reaction."
He's even looking forward to the road, touring on a schedule that enables him to keep fit and drink plenty of Coca-cola. Still, he reckons a good deal of craziness will erupt.
"We're all veteran crazies," he said with pride. "We've gone beyond crazy because we've already been crazy. We're into the second level of craziness. We're so intelligent now that you don't actually know we're crazy."
"Dangerous," mused Sheryl.
"You don't believe anything I'm saying, do you? Well, I don't know what I'm talking about because I'm crazy. It's way beyond crazy now. Hey, that's a great name for an album: The Other Side Of Crazy."
The new album is fairly sane. Stuffed with the whole gamut of Cooper musical disguises, from rock to schlock to musicals. Throughout it all, a sense of humor is religiously maintained.
"I've been influenced by stage plays, musicals, TV themes and movie themes," he said. "But basically, I'm a rock 'n' roller. I like the Yardbirds, old Them, The Who, and Chuck Berry. I've taken the basics and added some theatrics.
"The new album holds its sense of humor. Like 'The Battle Hymn Of The Republic' or 'Ubangi Stomp' and I've wanted to do that song my whole life. It's a great rock 'n' roll song, but it's not meant to be derogatory to the blacks at all."
"Just showing your roots?" I jested.
"Why didn't we put that on the album," he laughed, watching Sheryl finish the remains of the pastrami and egg sandwich.
Less ethnic are the aforementioned examples of heavy metal housewife rock. Determined to avoid more orthodox expectations, Alice Cooper likes to keep the public wandering what's next. Even if it means dancing chickens. "Part of the Alice Cooper thing is never to do anything that anyone is expecting. If the audiences get comfortable with something, you change it. A lot of hard core fans did not like the idea of those ballads, but I needed room to breathe."
And so housewives in Des Moines, Iowa can thrill to the dulcet sounds of "You And Me," unaware of its insane creator. Oh, the glory disguise. Alice Cooper, MOR vocalist?
"Wouldn't it be shocking if some of them were so out of touch that they didn't know anything about Alice Cooper, and then they saw one of those grizzly pictures with a doll at one end of a sword with blood all over it. 'Well, that must be another Alice Cooper," he says in a high, housewife falsetto.
But Des Moines, Iwoa fans would cringe at some of the neat tricks the gang has planned for the stage show. The producer of the extravaganza admits, "We've gone way over the top this time." He also offered that they all should have been locked up after the Rock Awards.
"We just exaggerated everything slightly," Alice said, keeping an eye on the door for the impending Big Boy arrival, "We've made everything more cartoon-like, more Broadwayish. What makes everything work is the band. They're such a hot rod band that they make the cartoony visuals work even more. It's gonna be fantastic. I wanna go out in the audience and watch cause I'll feel like I'm missing something."
Surprise will be the theme of the show. Even the guillotine will be used in new and improved ways while the dancing chickens will be dressed like gangsters. Although the visuals are moving closer to theatre, one listen to a rough rehearsal of "Under My Wheels" instantly proves just how well these Ubangi followers can rock 'n' roll.
"I've never been known to do anything straight," Alice laughed, popping open another Coca-cola. "We're just advancing. We used to do it on a slighter level because we couldn't afford the props. I remember in the old Detroit days, we'd go out in the alley of Eastown Theatre and get stuff out of the garbage cans for props and build the stage around it.
"There's more humor in this show than in any of the others," he threatened. "This is a summer show, whereas Billion Dollar Babies was like Clockwork Orange. It looked brutal, sounded brutal, and you felt like this," (he makes a fist) "when you left the show. Visually, this is much lighter."
Always an excellent actor, Cooper is still afraid that he might break with his performer's mask and actually laugh at the antics onstage. Already he's eagerly awaiting the audience's confused stares.
"We're giving them the old gore, but right after something funny happens, then something real romantic. We're attacking the different emotions and, at the end, it just explodes," he threatened. "It's like the TV can't make up it's mind what to watch."
Still a keen TV advocate, Cooper doesn't attend many rock shows, although he has seen Kiss and thinks they use the stage well, unlike countless others who ignore the possibilities of the large podium. Standard stage fare like dry ice and smoke bombs do not a show make.
"What all those bands forget is to make something work you need the music and the attitude of what's going on to match with what you're doing. If you want to chase a tooth around stage with a giant toothbrush, the music has got to be right. Like the Stones, they used that phallus really well."
Although Alice is worried about his Big Boy with extra sauce, he isn't worried about surviving in the ephemeral world of rock 'n' roll. The show must go on and Cooper is determined to always keep them laughing.
"I figure the more you keep the audience entertained the less you have to worry about survival. The audience pays to see something. The circus never grows old, cause it's always entertaining. I'll never see enough tigers. Kids come to our shows and say, 'I wanna see the snake; I wanna see the Cyclops.' It's just like going to the circus."
Besides the circus, Alice's latest fave rave is the science fiction flick, Star Wars. When he speaks of the film, he radiates an infectious Saturday matinee enthusiasm full of childish wonder and awe.
"It's like a comic book," he said, all excited. "It was four years in the making and has ten times the special effects of 2001. You just sit there in awe. Kids, 50-year-old men, 30-year-old women, all acting like little kids, screaming, 'Watch out behind you,' in certain sections. It's got every element of fun stuff."
It's easy to draw parallels between the film and Cooper's own space cadet stage show. Although some parents might give him an "X" rating, parental permission is not required. There's something for the whole family in this show.
"I always thought our shows appealed to all ages. From the Nightmare show on, it was family stuff. It's not "G" rated, but in Lake Tahoe parents came to see the show and thoroughly enjoyed it. It's not Bambi," he said, laughing, "it's sorta like Bambi Meets Dracula."
Just then the Big Boy with extra sauce arrived. So did most of the band. Dick Wagner wore very dark shades, having been up most of the night finishing his debut solo album. "I don't feel real well," he told Alice.
"You don't exactly look like Bruce Jenner," Cooper laughed, attacking the burger with true panache.
Before the tour officially began on June 19th, there was still some unfinished business. There was the Doobie Brothers Golf Tournament and Kenny Rogers' Celebrity Baseball Game in Las Vegas. And there were rehearsals.
"This is actually the way it looks before the tour starts," Alice sighed dreamily, staring at the rehearsal room full of props and instruments. "When you see the show, you'll say, 'Wow, how did you get that together?' Just a bunch of idiots down there eating."
When lunch was over, rehearsals officially began. Cooper and the dancers ran through "It's Hot Tonight" as whips lashed around the room. As the dancers practiced, Sheryl got in a whip. "I've heard of self-abuse before," Alice mumbled, "but this is ridiculous."
It's a change from Foghat. Genuine excitement permeates Studio A just off Santa Monica Boulavard. "The things I've done for show biz," Alice jested, stuck in the middle of the whip dance.
After an hour the dancers departed for chicken fitting while the band struck up "The Battle Hymn Of The Republic." Afterwards they launched into a rollicking version of "Under My Wheels" sounding just as fresh as the first time it cracked AM air waves.
Just when Alice sang "The telephone is ringing," the telephone actually rang. One of the Cooper entourage answered. "Yes, Rona. Yes, it is true. Alice is on the cover of the next issue of Better Homes and Gardens. Yes, Rona, Yes, there are chickens in the show. Yes, Rona. And they dance."
Suddenly the music stopped. "I will not do Better Homes and Gardens," Alice said in a pouty voice. "What I really wanna be is Reader's Digest's most unforgettable character."