New York Post
(October 15, 1999)
Originally Published: October 15, 1999
Author: Dan Aquilante
ALICE Cooper - Vincent Furnier to his preacher dad - is a complex showman who discovered early in his career that outrageousness is one key to success.
For Cooper, who was born in Detroit and now lives in Phoenix, the other keys were luck and a songwriting ability that produced such classic teen-angst hits as "I'm Eighteen" and "School's Out." Marilyn Manson may have "borrowed most of his act" from Cooper, but Cooper, now 49, is still the king of theatrical, horror rock.
There's more to Cooper than ghoulish makeup and a gimmick-thick act that includes him handling a snake on stage. He's an avid golfer, with an endorsement contract from Callaway Clubs. He collects movie memorabilia, and once owned one of the three black bird props from the classic film "The Maltese Falcon." The father of three even coaches Little League.
But these days, Cooper is focusing on work. He's touring with his band and will play New York this spring. He has also provided the recorded voice of Pirate Jack for MSG's Madison Scare Garden - a kids' interactive Halloween extravaganza that plays there through Oct. 31. And he's putting the finishing touches on "Brutal Planet," an album due to be released this spring.
How did you get involved with Madison Scare Garden?
Things like this seem to come up, and they find me.
You and Halloween - they do go together.
I've always liked Halloween. When I was a kid, next to Christmas, it was my favorite thing. What's more fun than getting dressed up as your favorite scary guy, going outside alone at night and getting bags full of candy?
But there's a dark side to Halloween.
I've never looked at it as any kind of religious holiday or anything like that, and I think people who do are really taking it too far. This is just a fun thing for kids.
And for parents who never grew up.
I still go out with my kids trick-or-treating. So when it came to doing this Madison Scare Garden thing, they said, "We're doing this whole story line with Pirate Jack." I said sure I'd do it.
Who exactly is Pirate Jack?
He's part of a story about the origins of Halloween - kind of a Grimms' fairy tale. It remindsme a lot of "The Nightmare Before Christmas."
The adventures of Pirate Jack soon will also be in comic book form. You've been in comics before.
There was "The Last Temptation of Alice Cooper," and back in 1976 Marvel Comics turned the album "From the Inside" into a comic book. That's a real collectors' item - it's really cool. The nice thing about being a Marvel Comics character is that they give you great abs and shoulders that you didn't work for and don't deserve.
You're on tour again. How has your show changed over the years?
Every show is still a concept. I try to make each show an event. I have 25 albums out, and in the beginning we'd put an album out and then write a show around that album. Now I feel that 90 percent of a concert has to be the hits. It's the same for the Stones or Aerosmith. Anybody who's been around long enough knows you have to go back and give the people the songs they want to hear.
So how do you keep things fresh?
Well, this time the concept is a carnival, and I act as the ringmaster. The set looks like a carnival that should have been closed years ago. It has a bizarre, old, decrepit look.
Speaking of dark carnivals, you've been feuding with Insane Clown Posse. What's that about?
I did the introduction to their album "The Great Milenko," and they thought I was dissing them because I said in an interview that I didn't know what the album was about. I also did the opening stream-of-consciousness rap for that album, but I hadn't heard the rest of the tracks. So ICP misinterpreted that. It was as if I had said, "Had I known what it was about, I wouldn't have done it." I still don't know what the album is about.
You're not afraid to write songs about death and gore. How seriously should lyrics be taken?
I start taking it seriously when guys start shooting each other. I say, "Hey guys, we're starting to live the fantasy a little too strongly here." I used to do the guillotine and hanging thing, but I never really cut my head off.
But you did hang yourself in 1988.
That was by accident. I understood there was a risk in that trick. At least to have it look good, there is risk.
So there was a chance you could have actually killed yourself in front of thousands of young fans?
Every stunt man who talked about that hanging trick said there was a definite possibility that a rope could have slipped or broken. They told me what to do if that happened.
And it did happen. The safety catch broke. Were you prepared?
Yes. I was able to snap my head back so the rope went over my chin.
You live dangerously.
No. I'll hang myself and put my head in a chopper, but I won't go on a roller coaster. If I don't control the ride, I don't want to be on it.
You're known to play golf.
I hit the ball a little bit.
Somehow we can't see you in knickers and a knit vest reaching for your five iron.
The thing about golf is that it's just a game. And I've never imposed the game on Alice the character - because Alice would just hate golf. Alice loves being on stage. Alice sleeps during the daytime. Alice lives for an hour and a half a night. Alice does not think about golf. And during the day I make a great effort to separate me from the character. I've got to be able to live my life.
What else do you do that Alice doesn't know about?
I coach Little League and soccer. I have a couple of teenagers and a 6-year-old. I do everything a dad does. But when it's time to play Alice, I play Alice to the fullest.
Doesn't that confuse your fans?
Maybe. Some think I should be Alice at all times.