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(June 02, 1973)
Originally Published: June 02, 1973
Author: Roy Hollingworth
In a week when Britain was rocked and rolled by the sexual confessions of leading members of Her Majesty's government, another scandal shook the very foundations of our society: Member of Parliament Leo Abse grumbled about the 'concentration camp' tactics of one Alice Cooper. He urged Britain to ban the show from its halls. We all know of Alice's horror act - but what's he really like, this product of Middle America who's being cited as a danger to our moral health? Roy Hollington was the first British music journalist to meet Alice in America last summer. And he reports here that he's just a fine, regular guy.
Who is this Alice Cooper? This foul-smelling, twisted debauched horror, who apparently eats people live on stage?
Who is this nasty, stark raving decadent American, who frequently turns a flame thrower onto the audience, apparently "just for kicks"?
Who is this Prince of Nasties, who never washes, and writes lyrics about "sludge", "babies", "stockings tops", and "Soho strippers".
What sort of man is he? Or is he a man at all?
Why do the children of boring M.P.'s quiver at the mention of his name, and tell daddy to keep him out of the country? Who is this Alice Cooper?
I turn the pages of last years diary. I see, planted amid wild dates with endless lovers, laundry slips, and never ending flight numbers to places such as Detroit, Mich., Los Angeles, and East Midlands Airport, Castle Donington . . . I see, scribbled in hasty New York biro, "Meet Alice Cooper, 4.30, Greenwich, Connecticut."
It was to be my first meeting with this beast.
I travelled to Connecticut with fist clenched around a can of Budweiser, supplied to me by his tearaway, wild-eyed press aid Dr Ashley Von Pandel.
My heart was in my mouth and so was my can of Bud, as the big car crunched and braked to a halt outside the enormous mansion, which most have cost millions of quids - torn from the purses of old ladies, and small children who attend his shows.
"What gall this monster has," I thought to myself, coolly striding out of the limo, cigarette twixt my lips, and beer stains on my trousers. "How dare he!" My journalist heart was pounding with ink stains and honestly, as we entered this strange house on a hill.
No, sorry, it was a valley. A deep, dark, swamp-infested valley. Lizards and horrible winged insects abounded in the squalid, humid air. I saw a flight of enormous wasps attack a small sparrow, bring it to the ground, with a merciless crash.
"The work of Alice Cooper," I thought. "How could God tolerate such a man? Strike this house, and those in it with your mighty bolt of holy lightning." It started to drizzle as the creaky door opened.
We passed an electric chair, and three or four guillotines (I can't remember the exact amount so let's say it was six, yes, six guillotines).
"Oh my God, how twisted." Today, I knew that my pen had to be a sword.
"Alice is in here, he'd like you to join him," says Von Pandel, taking a small wad of tissue paper from his chin, which he'd cut - apparently shaving.
Straight-faced, my English eyes holding steady, like Nelson commanding his ship, I entered the room.
"Hi! Roy," said Alice. "Do you play billiards?"
"Sure," I replied.
"Then take off yer coat, pick up a beer, and join me at the table."
We played several games, laughing at the fact that American balls are bigger than British balls - and I was therefore losing heavily.
"You limeys always blame yer tool," said this polite, smiling figure, who was ever and anon taking Budweiser to his forever smiling lips.
"Fancy a meal?" he said.
We ate a pretty humble meal at a restaurant in the nearby village. The locals came up and shook his hand on the streets. He signed autographs, and waved "Hi!" to the people he knew. They seemed to like him very much. And he seemed to like them. He seemed to be (choke) . . . quite normal actually . . . and (choke) . . . ultra-humble, and ultra-honest. We had a great evening out, more billiards, met the band . . . had a laff, and went home.
And it came to pass that I became good friends with Ashley Von Pandel, and therefore in those sweaty New York summer months met Alice on numerous occasions. In an office, in a bar, down Max's Kansas City, and even down Bleecker Street at Nobody's. We became, well, occasionally, and enjoyable drinking partners.
You see Alice drinks a lot - always beer, but a lot of it - conceivably two gallons a day. And that's true.
Now the other thing I discovered about Alice was his fetish for ping-pong. In fact he's obsessed with this debauched and depraved game.
At the mention of ping-pong, I have seen Alice - bored by people asking him about decadence, and guillotines - raise his eyes, and ramble at will about this twisted game.
It seems apparent now - to me, and it must be to you also, that I learned to love Alice; learned to understand that he'd seen his fantasies outrage people - because you see, they needed to be outraged. Outrage, rather than corruption cleans the air.
Then, just as Alice's management had predicted, the British National Press did indeed send their scribes forth to reveal the sordidness of Cooper.
Therefore he was thrown into mass public view. You couldn't get better publicity if you payed for it. Now, thanks to the Daily Grail and that holy organ, The Guardian, many people who need not have anything to do with Cooper, are going to want to have something to do with him.
Those, who would have known little about him, are going to see one of his "horror shows" and they're not very horrible really you know - they're quite fun, occasionally pathetic. Incredibly theatrical.
And well, as Michael Watts and myself have said before, Alice portrays the fantasies of most members of the audience who were brought up in the real "horror show" of America.
But England ain't a horror show - well not yet anyway - so why the adulation here? That baffles me somewhat. But . . . maybe people like him. You know, people buy records because they like 'em . . . And go to shows because they want to. They ain't forced.
Alice is just a good old guy, who got more than he ever aimed for. And there's more to come.