Melody Maker

Originally Published: December 22, 1973

Alice: A Christmas Chiller

Author: Chris Charlesworth

The great Sherlock Holmes, cleverly disguised as MM investigator Chris Charlesworth, pulls his deerstalker over his eyes and sets forth on his most dangerous adventure. Red herrings and chopped up babies abound, but the devious Holmes is confident. His mission: to track down and uncover the terror of the Mid-West, feared by mothers and known to millions of unsuspecting children as Alice Cooper. . .

The brief was simple, straightforward enough for a sleuth like Holmes who'd wrestled with Moriarty on the slopes of Swiss Mountains, hunted wild hounds on the Devon moors and solved Studies in Scarlet from an armchair in Baker Street.

Track down Alice Cooper.

Already fond parents were locking up their babies now that word was out, Cooper's teeth had been resharpened and nightly he was chopping up small children and relieving his immense appetite on their limbs.

A warrant had yet to be issued but, curiously, the law enforcement authorities seemed powerless to prevent Cooper's Bonnie and Clyde style chase around the central part of the United States.

Meanwhile, the public were either terrified, or, in the case of the young, lapping up Cooper's atrocities like a dog takes to meat.

It was rumoured that these young people had contributed something in the region of 11 million dollars to the Cooper funds over the past 12 months.

Other atrocities by Cooper and his gang over the past few days included the first public guillotinings since the French Revolution, giving a dentist a particularly hard time and repeated assaults on an elderly gentleman by the name of Santa Claus, a man to whom few, if any, bear a grudge - especially at this time of year.

Clearly it was a job for Holmes, who set out last week from his Baker Street offices, on West 55th Street in Central Manhatten, to track down those responsible for the human degradation that was being perpetrated by Cooper and his felonious crew with the ubiquitous title of "musicians."

With a Norfolk jacket and deerstalker to keep out the chilly weather, Holmes set off to La Guardia Airport, New York, in a hansom cab.

His first appointment was to meet Shep Gordon, a man whose managerial talents had established Cooper.

Gordon was waiting and they climbed aboard a United Airlines jet to Chicago, the first step in the journey that was to take Holmes on the most dangerous mission of his illustrious career. Will he return? . . . Read on.

During the flight Gordon gave Holmes details about how Cooper's disgusting career was engineered. The brilliance of the plan amazed Holmes, who was a difficult man to amaze.

There was no danger here, he thought, but in Chicago there was a curious turn of events. Gordon, who'd promised assistance, gave him the slip.

"I've got to go to LA tonight," announced Gordon, as the two of them waited patiently for a connection flight to Madison, Wisconsin, where Cooper was actually appearing on stage that very evening.

"There's a lawsuit coming up tomorrow that I have to attend. I thought it was next week, but it's been put forward and I've no alternative. "

"What is the nature of the lawsuit," demanded Holmes brusquely.

"It concerns our previous record company," replied Gordon candidly. "There's three and a half million dollars involved,"

Holmes was amazed even more. Here was a 28-year-old American from Long Island, New York, a dimintive fellow who looked more like a college professor than a rock mogul, who was dealing in vast sums of money all of which resulted from the deeds of a man who was chopping up babies for a living.

But Gordon elected to go to Madison, Wisconsin, return the same evening to Chicago, and catch a later plane to LA. As the two of them boarded the jet to Madison, Holmes wiped his magnifying glass with a chamois leather and lit a thoughtful pipe of shag. This was getting to be deep water.

The scene has changed to the ballroom of the Sheraton Inn in South Madison. Here, the Cooper gang are shacking up for one night only, but prior to their public appearance have elected to a hold a press conference which will be attended by the local Mayor, who will present them with the keys of the City.

This business gets stranger and stranger, thought Holmes as he ambled his way to the ballroom, where around 50 local journalists had gathered to see for themselves what this phantom of a man was all about.

Cooper arrived at four dressed in black cord trousers, a printed shirt and wearing no signs of the peculiar make-up that was smeared over the "Wanted" poster Holmes kept close to his breast. Was it the same man?

A local disc-jockey hosted the proceedings, which began with a fashion show. Next the man who called himself Alice Cooper met with the Mayor and was presented with a huge, gold-coloured can opener and a large silver box which resembled a coffin.

Throughout the entire proceedings, Cooper had drunk steadily from a series of cans of Budweiser, a popular local lager beer. This, at least, was true to form, thought Holmes, as he gingerly crept up and took an empty can for himself to test for fingerprints.

Dane County Expo Centre was but a short walk from the Sheraton Hotel. That night over 10,000 young people had paid various sums of money to witness Cooper's personal appearance. It was the chance Holmes had been waiting for.

Backstage there was a door where Cooper's gang were supposed to be holed-up.

Holmes went inside and came face to face with his mission for the first time; sprawled around, drinking beer and watching television was the entire Cooper mob, plus various aides, in a state of relative relaxation before going on the stage.

Cooper himself looked dejected; a different man from the man who this afternoon had wanted a fashion show, answered a series of questions and met with the Mayor.

His eyes were black, streaming with ugliness, his mouth was sour with black paint oozing from his gums. He complained of stomach pains but drank more lager.

The others were there too. There was Glen Buxton, his guitar player, leering from beneath a shock of blonde hair; Dennis Dunaway, the bassist who leaps around the stage like Old Nick himself; Neal Smith, the drummer with hair almost to his waist; and Michael Bruce, the chubby guitarist whose smile hid a million untold deeds.

Two other musicians, members of the same band of brigands, looked on. There was guitarist Mick Mashbir and keyboard player Bob Dolin, both of whom had been added to the gang so that the music could continue while the foul deeds were carried out by the other five. Much weight rested on their shoulders if the evening's atrocities were to be successful.

Excusing himself, Holmes took up a position where a full view of the stage was available. He wanted to see for himself what kind of evil he was up against.

The stage itself amazed Holmes further.

Not for Cooper, a flat board to prance around upon. Towering up over the ordinary stage was a special platform, erected by craftsmen to display the goings-on in the best possible fashion.

The lights dimmed and the entertainment began. The five principles took the stage with Cooper under the spotlight and the two additional musicians almost hidden.

Cooper was wearing a white tail coat, which he quickly abandoned, and a hat that fell off. The music was loud and penetrating, new material from their new album, but the goings-on seemed innocent enough.

There was a hint at things to come during a new slow song which built to a terrifying climax. It was called "Hard Hearted Alice" - a sign of what Alice was really like?

Then things did start to expand: Alice complained of toothache. The dentist appeared with a drill of immense proportions and proceeded to operate on the singer. Next the tooth, the size of a grown man, walked on with exceptionally shapely legs.

The audience lapped up this imaginative display of theatrics. Then the lights went down.

Holmes watched, carefully disbelieving, as a group of assistants carried a wheelbarrow on the stage.

In the wheelbarrow were human limbs, legs, arms, a torso, a head. The foul, evil atrocities about which he had heard so much, were about to begin.

The group re-appeared, this time dressed in black.

Alice himself slunk on with thigh-length leopard skin boots, cradling a snake. "I love the dead," he was singing, adding, apparently as an afterthought. "before they're cold."

Suddenly he gave up the snake, and took a hatchet from his belt. In the flickering lights, while the music grew louder, he crept towards the scattered limbs.

As smoke circled the stage, Alice produced a baby, a child in arms, a harmless innocent victim of his perverse delights. Without hesitation he chopped at the poor brat with his hatchet in an orgy of self indulgence as he eyed the scattered limbs.

And in front of him thousands reached forward with their arms to share the final climax as a red liquid spewed forth.

But all was not lost. From the left of the stage appeared Magic Randi, a character yet to be introduced into the painted yarn.

Randi, whose tricks Cooper relied upon, was bent for revenge for Alice's inhuman deeds. Swiftly he produced a guillotine, dragged the screaming Alice forward, and chopped off his head.

Silence. The villain had be eradicated. That's a sharp lesson to folk who chop up babies, thought Holmes.

Neal Smith produced Alice's head from the basket beneath the guillotine. It was dripping with blood. The other three dragged his headless torso to the centre of the stage, tugged at the limbs and refreshed their appetites on human steak.

The place was in an uproar. But instead of demanding justice for these human excretia, 10,000 fans chanted for more, like the French revolutionaries demanded the heads of the aristocrats.

Then it stopped. Everything went silent, but for a mournful wail from an organ. The atrocities were over.

Two minutes later Alice came back on stage singing "School's Out" and Holmes realised that something remarkable had taken place.

All hell broke out as the innocent Alice returned for an encore. A Christmas tree at the rear of the stage was lit, and who should come on to greet the fans but Santa Claus himself.

But all was not so innocent as it had seemed. As cheerful Santa distributed presents to the fans, the five members of the gang set on him, tearing off his jolly white beard and assaulting him in what appeared to be a particularly painful fashion.

That night, when Alice left the dressing room, Holmes tip-toed silently in. He collected one item: a can of Budweiser that the real Alice had drank from. That made two cans in his collection.

The following day dawned bright but chilly. All the gang, plus Holmes, were travelling on a luxurious private jet to Ann Arbor, just 45 minutes away.

Alice appeared on the jet, calm and smiling, wearing an ankle length black leather coat and telling one and all that his stomach was no longer bothering him. He sat and watched a Bogart movie on the specially installed television sets until Holmes decided the time was right to speak to him face to face.

"How are you feeling man," said Holmes, breaking the ice (and there's lots of ice around in northern USA at this time of year).

"Fine," smiled Alice, who was complaining that the weather was too cold for playing golf with his bodyguard. Sipping on the inevitable can of Budweiser, Alice was charming, approaching and almost humble.

Alice explained that the current show was almost the same as the one the gang did during the summer with a few additional members. The theatrics were the same, and will probably be the same as the next time they visit England, if a certain Member of Parliament doesn't attempt to get their entry permits stopped.

At the end of the flight Holmes captured his third empty can of Budweiser. His investigation was progressing satisfactorily.

At the Ann Arbor Field House, part of the University of Michigan, Alice re-acted the performance of the previous evening in exact detail, only this time it was better. The stomach pains no longer affected him.

It was horrible, but Holmes collected his forth can of empty Budweiser.

In his room that evening, Holmes unwrapped all four cans, and examined them. The fingerprints on all were identical. The investigation was complete.

"Aha," he said aloud to no one in particular. "There is but one Alice after all. A dual personality whose atrocities are restricted to public gatherings only. Offstage he's as normal as the next man."

Back home on Baker Street, Holmes explained his deductions to trusting Dr. Watson.

"But how did you find this out?" inquired the faithful Doctor.

"Elementary, my dear Watson," replied Holmes, before calling the maid to remove four empty cans of Budweiser which were cluttering up the chemical table. "Cooper is a nice guy after all," he added. "He even wishes readers of Melody Maker a Merry Christmas."