Originally Published: April 28, 1974
Author: Steven Gaines
Brazil is only 10 hours away by plane, but it's 10 years away in time. Although the lovely white beaches of Rio de Janeiro are lined with magnificent modern apartment buildings and the gross national product of the country has quintupled in a few years, Brazil is still in the rock-and-roll stone age.
Local rock is almost non-existent, and millions of music-starved teenagers depend on the United States for their rock tunes. American records carry a $12 price tag in a country where a good week's wages are $30.
Into this setting, Alice Cooper and his band of zanies embarked on a week-long tour earlier this month and caused as much commotion as if Carmen Miranda had stepped off a flying saucer. The grown-ups called him "the devil with the snake," but the teenagers just called him "Alice." They turned up in mobs of thousands at the airport and his hotel. On Alice's opening night 120,000 people came to see him, breaking the world record for indoor rock concerts. He was trailed by frenzied paparazzi, surrounded by bodyguards and chauffeured cars, and for the first time the Brazilian press got to drink champagne - poolside - with a rock star.
"They have a common expression down here that sounds like 'tiss boom ha!' " concert promoter Peter Shanaberg told me as he paced before open french windows in an oceanfront suite at the Copacabana Palace Hotel. "The expression literally means 'your behind falls off,' but it's the same thing as getting a chill down you spine or freaking out. Well, that's what happened when the Brazilian kids first saw Alice Cooper on stage."
Shanaberg, 26, and his promoters who were responsible for transporting Alice and his entourage through the time warp to Brazil. In carrying off the first successful South American rock tour, they spread more Yankee good will in four nights than could have been accomplished in four years of cultural exchange programs, though Stanaberg and Lambusta never dreamed of that.
Just a few years ago, Stanaberg and Lambusta were fugitives from the shiny-suited show business world of New York. Stanaberg, a high-powered curly-haired boy from Ohio with the charm of a hip Henry Kissinger, was on the management merry-go-round looking for a brass ring. Lambursta, a quieter type with henna-red hair and tinted glasses, was a booking agent at Creative Management Associates, where he felt like a pair of tennis shoes at a Gucci factory. In 1971, they decided to escape south together and set up shop in the concert business.
"I thought that when we went to Florida to be promoters, it would be as easy as pie," Lambusta reminisced wryly. "All half days, only two or three day a week. It turned out we broke our necks every day, 24 hours a day." For two years they almost broke their bank accounts, losing almost $300,000 in the tricky and sometimes dirty business of concert promotion. Yet, by last fall, they were grossing $1.5 million and looking around for further adventure. Brazil was it.
The South American market had been tried out earlier this year when Bill Graham tried a Carlos Santana tour and failed miserably. Shanaberg and Lambusta knew they couldn't repeat that failure with Alice Cooper; not only had they paid him a huge fee in advance - a dangerous practice in the concert business - but they had a lot of people waiting back in the United States to tell them: "I told you so."
Shanaberg and Lambusta not only pulled the tour off, they did it in grand style. The Alice Cooper band added enough flair and glamor of their own to make the Stanaberg-Lambusta venture the most exciting rock event since the Beatles hit the United States in 1964.
The week that Alice was due in Brazil his mascaraed face haunted the covers of the Brazilian equivalents of both Time and Life magazines. His image appeared on 2 million TV screens every 15 minutes for a week, and his songs were played continually on the radio. The whole country was whipped into a frenzy by the news media, which didn't leave him alone for a second.
When Alice decided to play golf his first morning in Brazil, hundreds of fans waited for him in front of his hotel, even at 8 o'clock. As Alice's car left for the golf course, a 20-car caravan followed him. His Brazilian chauffeur and bodyguard, an ex-racing driver, tried to give the pursuing cars the slip by ducking into an underground parking lot and putting Alice into a different car. As he was speeding down the ramp, though, he crashed into a cement wall and wrecked the car. Even as Alice limped from the wreck, a film crew from Brazilian TV, with portable lights and rolling cameras, descended on the injured rock star for an on-the-spot interview.
The Cooper band also was courted by more genteel Brazilian society, but even that was a little like a night out with the Marx Brothers. At one lavishly elegant dinner party, Alice had a four-pound live snail named Maurice Escargot served to his publicist for dessert. There was also a constant flood of booze and a swarm of beautiful tanned groupies, which Shanaberg and Lambusta didn't seem to mind one bit.
"I like the chicks, I like wearing my hair long, and I like dressing as I please," Shanaberg told me as the Brazilian surf lapped at Copacabana Beach. "But if I spend half as much time in real estate as I did in rock and roll, I'd be a lot richer."
If that was the case, why was he in rock and roll?
"I've been cursed with an awareness. What I did look was around for something I'd do for nothing, then when I found it, I decided to make a million buck at it."
The South American tour grossed only half that much, but Shanaberg and Lambusta are well on their way to millionaire status.