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Originally Published: July 16, 2004
Author: Tom Lounges
The archetype for all theatrical rock artists, Alice Cooper long ago set the bar high for the likes of Marilyn Manson, Slipknot and other mask-wearing wannabes, even beating KISS into grease paint by nearly four years.
And he still is going strong.
Cooper rang up The Times long distance from Switzerland recently to chat about his return engagement to Star Plaza Theatre, his new radio show, his latest accolades and album "The Eyes Of Alice Cooper," which has re-energized both his spirit and his fan base.
"Yeah ... Doctor Alice is in," laughed the rock icon, referring to his recent honorary doctorate degree bestowed by Grand Canyon University, a liberal arts school in Phoenix.
"When you think about it, even if a kid went to school to study being an entertainer for 12 or 14 years, I've still got three times the experience that he or she does. So I should be a doctor for logging in all the road time and the millions of miles. (It's like) I've been interning for the last 35 years," he laughed.
Cooper may speak light of his degree, but he is deeply appreciative to the university, along with those who also made it possible for him to get his recent "Star" on the Hollywood Boulevard Walk of Fame.
His star his well won. Twenty-five years ago, he donated $27,777 to the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce to fix the "O" in the landmark "Hollywood" sign, in memory of his good friend Groucho Marx.
Cooper also spearheaded a 1978 campaign to restore the entire sign, which by the late 1970s, had fallen into a sad state of disrepair.
"These kinds of things usually come to an entertainer at about this point in their career, when they've been at it for decades and are getting older," he said of his recent honors.
"In a way, that is good, because it is kinda cool that your kids are there to see you get your doctorate and to share these kinds of things with you. I think you can appreciate this kind of stuff a lot more than ... if it happened earlier."
Though older than most rockers on the road today, Cooper is not ready to rest on his laurels.
"When you have these things happen, you have to make sure you don't start thinking 'This must be the end of my career, because I'm getting all these accolades now,'" he said. "I'm not even thinking about retiring!"
Cooper is so unwilling to retire, that he has taken on a new job, that of classic rock disc jockey for the United Stations Radio Network, an independent leader in original network radio programming. Cooper's show "originates from a toxic waste dump" in Arizona and is beamed via satellite to USRN affiliates.
"I'd done just about every type of entertainment possible during some point in my career, except radio," said Cooper, of why jockeying songs appealed to him.
"I agreed to do this show as long as they let me create radio theater with a cast of characters like 'Inga' the 90-year-old stripper and 'Fletcher' the rat catcher, voiced by Billy Bob Thornton. I get to play whatever I want ... Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Van Halen ... but I also play The Stooges, Frank Zappa and things that radio audiences today don't normally get to hear."
Of everything this past year, Cooper is enthused about "The Eyes of Alice Cooper", which has been likened to Cooper's groundbreaking 1972 album, "Love It to Death."
"I didn't want to make a perfect-sounding record. I wanted a dirty, old-fashioned rock 'n' roll record with all the warts and that is what we got," he said.
Along with the vintage sound re-created by recording and performing with circa-1972 stage gear, Cooper has brought back a lot of props from his heyday.
The original "Love It To Death" tour backdrop hangs behind him again on stage, while his once trademark snake again slithers around his neck for the first time in years.
Cooper appreciates that fans have embraced his new music. "I'm seeing nearly as many people in the audience singing along on the new songs as on the old ones," he crowed. "Looking out and seeing that makes me feel great!"