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Originally Published: March 19, 1997
Author: Jim MacDonald
A week of bar hopping that put rising Canadian musicians in the spotlight ended with hundreds of people packing the Metro Convention Center to listen to the legendary Alice Cooper. Even though he's from Detroit, Cooper might have been the best person to close Canadian Music Week because of the history he has with Toronto.
When the original Alice Cooper band broke up before the recording of Welcome To My Nightmare in the 70s, Cooper recruited most of his new band members from Toronto. And of course, there was the riot he caused by not appearing for a scheduled concert at Exhibition Stadium in the early 80s.
"I've had asthma all my life, and when I got into Toronto that day I literally couldn't breathe," he said. "I got on a plane back to the United States to see a doctor, thinking they were going to reschedule the concert. I didn't know there was going to be that kid of reaction. If I did, I would have gone on stage and died," Copper laughed. "Hey! Watch this one! It's for real."
Dying in front of an audience is nothing new for Vince Furnier's alter-ego. Being hung, electrocuted and beheaded on a nightly basis during concerts is one of the main reasons the 49 year old has stayed on top since 1968.
The death image started at Cooper's first show. Then known as Nazz, the original band played at their high school variety show dressed like the Beatles. Since it was a Halloween show, they brought a model of a guillotine on stage to deliver an impact, which they definitely did. "For some reason that macabre image stayed with us," Cooper said.
Keeping the theatrics as part of their show, Nazz moved to Los Angeles after high school. Although they had a following back in Detroit, the band members decided they needed something new in order to compete with other bands in the industry. After performing under his real name for six years, Furnier was transformed into Alice Cooper.
"It seemed like a really safe, sweet, All-American, little girl's name," he said. "It didn't match what we looked like at all."
Although Cooper still uses theatrics as part of his concerts, the veteran's life style is completely different today then when he started. One of the biggest changes is he quit drinking.
"I did three or four albums I don't remember doing," he said. "The alcohol had really taken a toll on me, I was drunk all the time, I was just in a black out for five or six years."
One of these albums cooper wishes he was too drunk to remember doing, was the band's first live record. Saying if it wasn't for the alcohol dictating his life, the project would definitely be better.
"I had just done two years of the tour and I was physically sick from the alcohol, but we had a contract where we had to do a live album. I was just getting ready to rejuvenate myself when they said you have to go to Vegas and redo the show."
"They almost had to handcuf me, literally, to take me there. There was never a time when I hated being on stage, but I hated being on stage that night."
Now sober for 15 years, Cooper is proud of being able to say he's so healthy, he "defies all the laws of rock and roll". Of course, Cooper is getting better feedback from his fans about his defiance than Pat Boone is getting g for his, Boone surrounded himself with controversy by appearing with Cooper at the American Music Awards.
But even if Boone's bible-thumping peers have criticized him, Cooper said he not only sympathizes with the preacher, but has a log of respect for him.
"I think Pat Boone has go more guts than me," he said, "The guy has lived an image for 50 years now, then he shows up in black leather and has a great time poking fun at his own image."
If Cooper took a page out of Boone's book about living an image his whole career, Cooper feels he, along with the rest of society, could be in a lot of trouble.
"I would hate to live my image, he said. "First of all, I'd have to be dead or in jail."