Originally Published: August 1973
Author: John Blak
When a rock star starts spitting at the audience as part of his act you might feel he has gone a little further then is wise or decent.
But the people who received the treatment from Mr. Alice Cooper when I flew to Detroit to see his new show appeared more flabbergasted than outraged..
Now I've always believed that British audiences are among the most tolerant and broad-minded in the world. But I think that Cooper, rock'n'roll's answer to Boris Karloff, is going to be forced to tone his act down a little when he brings it to Britain in the autumn.
The spitting is just part of an extraordinary show which, says Alice, "has reached new depths of depravity and bad taste." The act opens with Alice prowling the stage in a tattered and stained white body stocking. Things progress to routine Cooper-isms like simulated rape, murder and necrophilia. Then comes a fight with Alice and the band bashing each other with broken dolls and limbs from shop-window mannequins. Finally his ugly face is thrust under a guillotine, the blade hurtles down and off - apparently - comes his head.
"A bloody good job too," said the little blonde sitting in front of me. (And I have to confess that I wasn't particularly heart broken to see him go.)
But the procession of the macabre continues with the rest of the band appearing to lick the blood from the singers severed head. And so it goes on...
He claims he acts out the deprived, innermost fantasies of his audience.
Alice today is every bit as upsetting as Jagger was 10 years ago - or Presley was in the '50's.
Back-stage, Alice is with his mum, a matronly church minister's wife who occasionally forgets and calls him by his real name - Vince.
"I worried the whole time because I thought he was going to hurt himself," she says. "No, I don't think it was in particularly bad taste."
But then maybe she has learned to live with the idea of a monster for a son now that little Vince has bought his father a Rolls Royce. Indeed, off-stage Alice is a most pleasant person, charming, witty and good to be with.
He is very honest about his motives as well: "I love money, I'd rather be sitting in a hotel suite than a single room. I completely enjoy comfort. I think the main goal in life to be completely comfortable. I like to be free to get up in the morning to watch a quiz show and drink warm beer. I invest all my money. I own quite a bit of property in Arizona."
And if being a property whizz-kid is a little foreign to his image so is his love life. He has had the same girlfriend, Cindy Lang, for five years. And he says he's not particularly interested in other girls. Cindy is pretty and has closely cropped conker coloured hair. She says she can't stand Alice's act and she thinks his music is nothing to get excited about.
Despite Alice's financial reasons for turning himself into a monster, his discovery that young people enjoy watching ugliness and depravity on stage is an interesting one. Why does he think he is so popular?
"No-one knows anything about death. Sex isn't very mysterious, love isn't very hard to comprehend - but death is. The whole idea behind life is not to end up sad. Live fast, Die young and end up as a good looking corpse. That's what I believe."
Does he think people actually enjoy his show?
Yes. When I cut up a model baby on stage, I know there are 1,000 people out there who want to do that themselves. Everybody has got some little sexual twinge that is peculiar to themselves. But if they admitted it to anyone they would really lose face. I can't depict everyone's fantasies but I really want people to fantasise on the snake I use in the act. Maybe 20 people out of 10,000 get something out of the snake - but that's cool."
Despite his bravado, Alice is very aware of the danger that some pathetic individual might try to turn his stage execution into the real thing.
"Knives have been thrown at me on stage more than once during concerts," he says. "But guns scare me. I try never to mention them in interviews."