Melody Maker

Originally Published: March 17, 1973

Alice: an obituary

Michael Watts reviews the Killer's new show, which opened in Philadelphia last Saturday

The rock world today mourns the death of Alice Cooper who was accidently killed last night when the safety screws failed on the guillotine he uses in his act.

Cooper was appearing here at the Spectrum Theatre at the start of his 56-city tour of North America touted as the "largest grosser ever in the States."

This was the second successive night at 19,500 capacity hall which had been sold out in anticipation of the groups usual bizarre theatrics. The audience got more reality than it had bargained for.

The singer, dressed in black, had just stabbed a plastic doll and was being led to tha guillotine by mock-executioner, the Amazing Randi, as part of the act dubbed "commercialised surrealism" by critic Pauline Kael.

Cooper was mouthing the refrain "I love the dead before they're cold" as his head was settled on the block. The audience was totally hushed.

Then scenes of excitement unparalleled in Philly, "home of the Twist," broke out as the heavy knife blade fell unexpectedly quickly and Cooper's head jumped two feet into the air and then landed in the basket.

"Oh my God, no!" shouted Randi, and flung his hands to his face in horror. Most of the audience thinking it all part of the show burst into a loud cheer, but in the front rows to the right of the stage, young kids shrieked as they wiped blood - "rhesus negative" a hospital spokesman later stated - from their faces and clothes.

Then they, too, joined in the applause. Some of the girls threw down their knitting and rubbed their hands and arms in the red dribbles, while guys heavily doped on Quaaludes, this year's favourite drug, made a grab for the head.

"Sensational - the most freaking head trip ever," Arnie Schatzberger (16) of South Philadelphia was quoted in the Inquirer. "I thought El Topo was the ultimate but Alice really delivered this time."

"It took real courage for the guy to knock himself off. I think croaking yourself could become really big in 1973. Like, we can all learn from the Japs, you know."

In fact, there are already rumours circulating that the Philadelphian team of Gamble and Huff are to write and produce a new song called "Do The Kamikaze" for Flo and Eddie, who appeared on tyhe first half of the show.

Billboard believes that anew era of dance crazes may be ushered in. "This is what Alice would have wanted," Mr. Sheperd Gordon, his manager, told me afterwards at a party on the SS Showboat, moored on the river Delaware, to which the group of rack jobbers and their wives and friends had been invited.

Meanwhile, the tributes had been pouring in, Salvador Dali, who a month-ago sculptured Alice's head for a holograph, said in New York he would dedicate a hugh soft grandfather clock. At his home in Mexico City Luis Bunuel told the Melody Maker that "Alice Cooper belonged to the great tradition of dadists like Wilson, Keppel and Betty. He had great cojones," he added and asked what was happening to the rest of the body.

Others expressed their sense of loss. Spokesman for Budweiser and Barbie dolls said they were "devastated" and "shocked," and that this sort of thing was bad for business. Tony Defries, David Bowie's manager remarked bluntly, "Rock 'n' roll suicide."

However, the Philadelphia coroner recorded a verdict of "death by Miss Adventure Herself."

Apart from the incident, the show went well and as normal. The rest of the dates will be honoured. This is what Alice would have wanted," said Mr. Gordon, adding that there were "at least" ten albums of unissued material left. A movie directed by Chuck Weiner was forthcoming.

The body of Ms. Cooper, who was 46, is currently on show at the Charles Addams funeral parlour, Hollywood. The head, it is understood, will be the subject of a competition in one of Britian's pop magazines.

Alice tells us his latest snake died a few weeks ago. The way Alice explained, he arose one afternoon, sniffed the air and was greeted by a foul odour. Looking about for the source of the odour, Alice found the snake had expired in it's sleep - three days earlier, hence the small . . . Salvador Dali did meet with Alice last weekend. Purpose of the meeting was to create a portrait of Alice. The portrait has a concept of Alice's brain and will be seen in April at an exhibition of Dali's works here in New York.