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(April 13, 1974)
Originally Published: April 13, 1974
Author: Narceu de Almeida; Photos by Heitor Hui and José Castro
"I just want the audience to have fun with my show. I dislike violence and do not want anyone to get hurt." When he made this statement to the press before his debut show at the Anhembi monumental pavilion in São Paulo, Alice Cooper seemed to be predicting what would happen. He had sensed the situation in the state capital city through the thousands of young people that surrounded him wherever he showed up. The image of violence created around the myth became reality, and 400 people were injured in the Anhembi tumult.
The confusion began long before the first show at the Anhembi. In the turmoil at the airport following the landing, a part of the sound equipment was not unloaded and went to Buenos Aires with the plane. When they discovered this, Alice Cooper's manger and technicians panicked. What followed was a frantic barrage of telegrams and phone calls until the material was located and brought back to São Paulo, where it arrived the morning of the opening day of the tour. In front of the San Raphael - the only major hotel in São Paulo that took the risk of housing Alice and his 25 companions - thousands of kids, boys and girls scrambled all day long trying, unsuccessfully, to get autographs.
Alice's first outing, a game of golf with the painter Manabu Mabe, turned into a car chase along the city's streets, in an attempt to shake off the press. The car in which the singer was seated ended up crashing with another and blocking the street. Quickly, Alice was taken to a private garage and transferred to an automobile that zoomed down a little side street and escaped the pursuers. Very amused, Alice commented, "This is more like a James Bond movie than a trip to a golf course." At the São Paulo Country Club course, he and Mabe never ended up playing golf - they putted a few balls, bet on who could hit the ball the farthest, laughed the whole time and drank beer. Incidentally, the story that he demanded Alsatian beer during his stay in Brazil is pure legend. As soon as he landed in São Paulo, he asked for all the brands of beer manufactured in Brazil.
He tried one after the other, praised several and chose a high-grade brand, and decided to acquire cases of it to supply the hotel suite and dressing room at the Anhembi. Alice drinks more than 20 bottles per day.
On Friday, there was further unrest in front of the hotel when Alice came out, and again in front of a restaurant on Sete de Abril Street when he showed up to give a news conference. Always humorous and jocular, with a glass of beer in hand, he answered the silly questions with jests and gave serious responses to the other questions. He confessed he was very surprised at the size of São Paulo and the curiosity that "paulistanos" [residents of the city] showed him. When he was accused of exploiting violence and sadism, he replied, "That is not true. I don't like violence. I do a show to entertain the audience and don't want anyone to get hurt. I think there is more violence on TV and in cartoons than in my show. Indeed violence is what happens in Shakespeare's plays, for example, and these have been being staged for 400 years. My job is to entertain."
At dusk, Alice and the band gave a special presentation to the censors at the Anhembi. He presented his music and his numbers with the boa constrictor, the guillotine, the baby, the woman mannequin, swords and knives. A few dozen workers at the site gathered in front of the stage and watched in silence, while the fierce rock sound echoed in the giant, empty pavilion. The censors gave their approval, Alice's manager gave him a sign, and the music suddenly stopped. An almost frightening silence filled the Anhembi air - the silence that precedes a storm.
And the big day arrived. At nine o'clock Saturday morning, under a bright sun and a pleasant temperature, thousands of young people fought for a place at the entry gates.
MANY of them had come from the cities of the interior of the state of São Paulo, from Rio and even from Brasília, setting up camp around the Anhembi from Thursday on. Around noon, a bit of news spread quickly among the fans: Alice Cooper is coming! It was true, but no one was able see him. Alice and his staff had already entered by a private gate in order to test the electronic paraphernalia, complete with the equipment from Buenos Aires. Shortly thereafter, the music of the band - amplified by 15 tons of speakers and gear - passed through the metal walls of the pavilion and thrilled the kids outside. But it was not enough to hear it: you also had to see it, feel it, get it, enjoy it. At two o'clock, Alice returned to his suite.
Shortly afterward, the concentration in front of the gates began to give rise to conflicts and pushing and shoving. From above, the police sprayed water, and the heads of the people cooled off a bit. Finally, at half past five, the gates were opened, and the mass started to fight for a place in front of the stage. There were people of every kind and of every age, but the vast majority of them were young, between the ages of 13 and 18. Folks dressed in simple and sophisticated sports clothes, in blue jeans and overalls, in mini-skirts, midi-skirts and maxi-skirts, in bell-bottoms and in a suits and ties, in costumes and wearing shirts bearing celebrities pictures, signs, trademarks, slogans, jokes and even Alice Cooper's face. There was everything.
A trade fair was being conducted in half of the Anhembi. The other half held 80,000 people who wanted to see Alice Cooper as close as possible, preferably right in front of the very high stage built abutting one of the sides of the pavilion. Since not everyone fit in the venue, the pushing and shoving started. More than one hour before the beginning of Alice's show, dozens of unconscious and/or injured people had already been given medical assistance by the Anhembi ambulatory medical team. The band that opened for Alice Cooper, called the Our Daily Bread [it was actually "Som Nosso de Cada Dia," or "Our Daily Sound," not "Pão Nosso de Cada Dia"], was having a bad day and could never satisfy the hunger of the public for seeing Alice.
- Alice Cooper! Alice Cooper! Alice Cooper!
The emcee's yells were answered by a tremendous roar from everyone. Clapping, whistling, collective delirium. Alice Cooper and his four musicians finally appeared, and then disappeared in dry ice smoke that spread over the stage. Lights of all colors glowed at the top, bottom and sides of it. Photographers' flashes, television spotlights, more clapping and cheers. A wonderful, colorful, loud scene, the most beautiful start to a show that Alice could ever have wished for.
The drums and guitars exploded in the Anhembi and drowned out all other sounds. Alice Cooper, dressed in a white jacket, sings, howls, waddles, runs, shakes his arms, pointing to each instrument as if conducting. The music is so-called hard rock. It's violent and has a vigorous beat, similar to the Rolling Stones' music, but without the same quality and versatility. The number ends without great reception from the public. Just like the first, the second song is from the latest Alice album, Muscle of Love, which is not too well known in Brazil. But the excitement is stronger. And the confusion begins.
IN front of the stage, the audience rises in waves and presses forward. But the stage is a barrier, and people do not have anywhere to go. So, to avoid being crushed, there is a solution: to get up on top of the stage. The crowd, preferring to face the police billy clubs over being smashed and stepped on, gets on the stage anyway. The show is interrupted, Alice and the musicians run to the dressing rooms, the stage is invaded, an altercation ensues, and chaos takes over the Anhembi. Before long, more than 300 injured fans are taken to the pavilion emergency room. There is no one in command, until Alice's chauffeur and bodyguard makes an inspired decision and grabs the microphone and proceeds to shout:
"Calm down! Calm down! Calm down!"
After repeating the order 20 times, with powerful yells, he gets some calm. Threatening to suspend the show, he speaks of the injured people and requires all to sit down. The tempers get under control, Alice Cooper comes back and says, in hastily learned Portuguese, "Stay seated or show does not go on."
The show does go on but is irreparably damaged. The band, looking to keep things under control, contains itself, pauses between numbers. In silence, the audience sees Alice sing with the python coiling around his body. In silence, it witnesses the quartering of the woman mannequin, the stabbing of the baby, the scene where Alice is guillotined and the executioner showing the audience a replica of his head. The audience members, in the theatrical segment, really enjoy the number in which Alice's tooth is treated by a gigantic drill. Subsequently, the artist takes a two-meter toothbrush and cleans a cavitied tooth that walks on stage.
After this segment is over, the band walks off the stage, and the audience gets up to leave, thinking that the show has ended. An emcee tries to remedy the situation; he attempts to organize a chorus to demand the return of Alice. But nobody chimes in. Alice finally returns to the stage and plays two songs from the School's Out album, which are well known by kids in Brazil. It is the best time of Alice's premiere in Brazil, causing excitement and much applause. Suddenly, Pra Frente Brazil, the little patriotic march, plays on the speakers. No one understands why, no one sings along, nobody applauds. Alice returns to the stage waving a CBD [Brazil's national soccer team] flag. No one applauds. In another type of show, with another type of audience, maybe this might have worked. But not on that Anhembi night and nobody blamed Alice Cooper for the audience not getting into this last ruse.
In an exclusive interview in São Paulo, Alice Cooper told MANCHETE that he was very impressed with what happened during his debut at Anhembi: "I never thought that that would happen in my first performance in Brazil. It was the biggest show I ever performed in an indoor venue. It was also the one which reached the highest level of collective hysteria. I should be upset because the interruption took much of the impact that my show could have had. But that is not important now. I'll have other opportunities to show, in a better way, what I've been doing. I saw that I have a great audience in Brazil, and that makes me happy."
He says that the image of violence created around his shows is the work of the press and television, having nothing to do with reality:
"I make music and use theater resources only to amuse. The kids like it, think it's funny, they laugh at our goofing around. Rock was becoming boring, and I do not like anything that's boring. So, I started to develop this kind of show: things had to be livened up, more excitement and participation had to be injected. We don't create violence. We're just a reflection of what is going on in people's heads. I do not like violence, but I know how to live with it. violence exists within each animal; it is a trait of the human character.
When there is a plane crash, lots of people run to see the dead, am I right? "Alice says that the image of androgyny and bisexuality associated with his name is another creation of the media.
"They created this story just because I use makeup and my name is Alice. Makeup has been used for centuries on stage. The name Alice was chosen just for amusement; whoever comes to see us thinking that Alice Cooper is a beautiful blond woman accompanied by a square band would be in for a very funny surprise. I'm not a transvestite or bisexual."
Alice says that politics never interested him: "I do not get involved with politics because I can't understand it. Politics is a very gray game, a type of game that I want to stay far away from."
Alice, the son of a pastor, says that does not like to talk about religion or God:
"For me, these issues are more personal than sex. I'm not a member of any organized religion. I have my own concepts of religion and God, and I keep them to myself." Alice does not agree with John Lennon's statement of that "the dream is over."
"The dream is only over for people who have given up on their ideas. I believe that the dream continues for all who seek to entertain an audience and create good things. Sometimes it can be a nightmare, but it's still a dream."
(Kindly translated from the original Portuguese language article by Scott Reily, August 2013. From the collection of Warren Hewetson)