Originally Published: April 21, 1973
About 300 people were at the Roostertail Nightclub in Detroit after Alice Cooper's concert at Cobo Hall, celebrating their boys return to his hometown.
Actually Detroit really isn't Alice's home town, but it's where the band lived for about a year - in Pontiac, Michigan, where they got together with producer Bob Ezrin and had their first big hit, "18" and so they've always had a soft spot in their hearts for the Motor City.
Anyway, a dreadful rock-and-roll revuval-type local band was performing, singing abominable versions of "Silhouettes," "Rock And Roll Is Here To Stay" (Alice loved them) when the empty dancefloor became the scene of something beyond belief.
A woman in an orange dress, perhaps in her late twenties, started to dance. She was quite ordinary looking, actually, except that she was in a wheelchair. For about three minutes those who were near her watched in stunned disbelief as she twisted and turned the chair, tilted it back, and whirled it around - all in time to the music.
Almost as quick as she was there - she was gone, her partner wheeled her off as Alice Cooper, Howard Kaylan and I returned our hanging jaws to their original positions. Bizarrrrrrrro. "Boy, I wish I could put that in the show," said Alice.
The show was, as it always is, fabulous, a great mixture of humour and great music, surrealistic art and high camp. The huge dancing tooth, the electrically lip-up dentist's drill, the guillotine - all worked effectively against the backdrop of the show-bizzy stage Alice has been travelling with on this tour.
Sitting right in the front, enjoying every minute, was Alice's mother, an extremely attractive woman dressed in a brown and beige pants outfit, and looking, I might add, quite normal.
She hadn't see this particular show yet, but she's seen all the others - and when it came time getting out of there as Alice tossed the posters to the audience during "School's Out" and they rushed the stage, his mom was a champ - pushing her way through that crowd like a real pro.
"He always looks to see if I'm there before he'll toss those posters in my direction," Mrs. Cooper said afterwards in the dressing-room. "He doesn't like me to be there when they rush the stage. He's afraid I'll get hurt."
What did she think of her son? "Oh, he's terrific," she beamed. "Of course, you have to watch out for Alice," she smiled, "he tends to make up stories sometimes."
I asked her if she had a good time during the guillotine sequence, a sequence that seemed so real press lady Annie Ivil was clutching on to my hand, scared out of her wits. "I was a little shaky," Mrs. Cooper admitted, although she did smile and laugh her way through most of the show, even during what Alice refers to as some of the more... er, "gamey" parts. Parts where he plays with the mannequin's parts.
Cindy Lang, Alice's lady, said after the show: "He comes home with bruises sometimes that you would not believe! Really cancerous bruises. I get scared, he really beats himself to death up there on that stage."
The day started innocently enough with what attempted to pass for a press conference. Ashley Pandel, champion publicist, tour guide, liaison man, and now photographer as well, had it arranged so that the local press could see Alice first, then Flo and Eddie would "casually" stroll in and the three of them would do their Marx Brothers number together.
The press conference was doomed from the start - as Dave Dixon, local FM disc jockey, screamed out, "What is a non-person like you doing having a press conference???"
"I'm so drunk," bellowed Alice. And then: "It's great coming back to Detroit, you can always count on at least six murders happening while you're in town - any time. It's SNUFF CITY!!!!"
It got worse. Flo and Eddie came in, Flo (or is it Eddie?), well, anyway Mark, wearing a black helmet with a pink flamingo on top. He kept bending down to give the flamingo a drink of water that was on the table while the questions continued, fast and furious.
"What do you think about David Bowie, Alice?" "Oh, you mean Gwen Verdon??"" Alice said. "I saw Carly Simon at a party last night and she looked like she was walking up to a yacht."
"We've played here so many times for a group with no future!" said Mark Volman. "You've all gotta come early to see us," said Howard Kaylan, "because after nine o'clock we're all ushering..." And on in that vein until the Amazing Randi came up and did some magic with some dollar bills, making them all disappear, and the press conference was over.
It was Alice Cooper, and they were in Detroit. And, as Alice's mom said herself as the guillotine came down and chopped her son's head off: "It's just another little everyday occurence."
A chat with Alice, Mom and Uncle Vince...
We were talking about sex fantasies. Alice Cooper was being driven across downtown Detroit, away from his satirical press conference back to the star suite at the St. Regis: "I've got a thing about Tuesday Weld in a dirty slip and a cigarette hanging out of the corner of her mouth.
"Sex is the funniest thing in the world because people are always trying to hide it. Everybody has natural, regular sex, but everyone has a little weird thing like jacking off to your grandmother's false teeth."
Alice is nothing, if not frank. A refreshing person to meet after touring recently with the David Cassidy entourage. Here, at least, was professionalism, right from Warner's ace worldwide press lady Annie Ivil to Alice himself.
The previous evening he'd recently been working hard getting around the Plaza Hotel party for Procol Harum. Harum had foolishly been flown in on the same evening so were suffering from extreme tiredness, Alice was irrepressible. Somehow it turned into his party.
Back in the hotel suite with two televisions continuously in action to appease Alice's love for that media, his mother in one corner, his Uncle Vince beside us on the settee. Alice explained his new act: "I got the idea from watching those Busby Berkeley shows on television, especially his Footlights Parade."
Uncle Vince suggests: "Hey, crack open the beer," and Astor, Alice's black furry dog named after a character in another TV re-run starring William Powell and Myrna Loy, jumps up beside us.
It really is a family get together, right down to his mother, Ellen, bringing him a real pair of cowboy boots from Phoenix, Arizona; looking at the pointed toes Alice opines: "Hey, I could kick a goat's eye out with these."
Alice has just been in New York with that older image of lunacy Salvador Dali. "Dali doesn't make one bit of sense to me. He says I'm the epitome of total absurdity."
Watching Alice's act, where he is symbolically beheaded and the group then gnaw away at his corpse, one is aware of the raw violence it arouses in the audience. In Detroit I saw security guards punched full in the face, and as I tried to escape the milling crowd, I saw another kid gratuitously punching anyone in sight.
If Alice continues to whip up such violent hysteria then me must become the hottest candidate for the first pop star to get assassinated on stage.
It must be remembered that in Detroit many of the audience were armed and most were zonked.
However, Alice argues: "I know the States is the best place in the world to live in. I'm not knocking it. I'm just reflecting it. We are cynical. It's satire. Knocking ourselves. When we get into a Press Conference we insult everyone in the room. A lot of people get really uptght."
He likens the present Billion Dollar Babies show to: " '73 cabaret. Like cabaret in Germany before the war. It's happening in the States, all that German thing. I know 16-year-old kids who have Rolls-Royces. There's so much money in the United States, and everyone has all the sex they want here. All we're doing up there on the stage is reflecting it. I like the idea of the American 70s, a cabaret of over-opulence."
His mother, sitting across the way, said that Vince, as his real name is, had always been a mimic from the days he used to take off Elvis Presley in front of the television set. Meanwhile Uncle Vince fell for a typical Alice Cooper trick. Alice handed him a tin of "peanut brittle." Uncle Vince fell for it and the lid flew off to let out a black and sandy-coloured "snake."
Alice's mother made her escape from the charging crowds during the show later that night. "I suppose it's a bit..." she admitted afterwards. The disarming touch about Alice was the way, even during the most macabre moments of his act he looked over his mother and gave a quick smile, a laugh at himself and the whole business. I just hope he lives to enjoy the profits.
Salvador Dali, the world's most celebrated painter, presented his latest work, a three-dimensional portrait of Alice Cooper, at the Knoedler Gallery this past week in New York City. Appearing together, Alice and Dali made quite a pair, Mr. Dali was wearing a translucent white robe embroidered with gold threads - supposedly the very same robe he wore when designing the holograph portrait of Alice; Alice wore his usual basic black with a long strand of pearls.
When asked why Dali was interested in Alice, the artist replied: "To me Alice Cooper is the best exponent of total confusion," which prompted Alice to state: "Dali is possibly more confusing than I am," They said it, and no one could have summed up the press conference and the ensuing viewing of the holograph better.
For starters, Dali opened up the Press Conference with a long, rambling speech about the discovery of "chronography" - the process which combines holography (three dimensional photograph) with a new dimension of time causing the portrait, contained in a cylinder, to exhibit a movement of 360 degrees. Most of what the genius artist said was lost, due to a combination of difficulty as well as the TV reporters' immense pre-occupation with photographing the arrival of Andy Warhol and his entourage of drag queens.
While the Press conference went on downstairs, one could hear workmen hammering away upstairs - apparently something wasn't ready. Manager Shep Gordon brought a few people upstairs at a time to look as the holograph portrait, and it became obvious that it wasn't totally assembled yet. One could, however, turn the cylinder around to see the portrait of Alice moving at a 360 degrees angle while the finishing touches were still being added to the exhibition.
Dali's portrait of Alice Cooper was begun on February 26 as Alice, wearing over a million dollars worth of jewels, on loan from Harry Winston, posed for the artist with an anatomical brain designed by Dali which included such Daliesque symbols as a coffee eclair (indicating Alice's accessibility to his public), Dali ants and a soft watch. Alice also held a microphone designed by the artist of a sectioned Venus de Milo, representing "the shattering of antiquity by this rock star's voice." The sitting was filmed through a special holograph process involving a laser beam and refracted light.
Dali's portrait of Alice Cooper will be on exhibition at the Knoedler Gallery in New York in a specially designed room and is available for public viewing on a "limited basis."