Rolling Stone

Originally Published: April 12, 1973

Check Your Guillotine, Sir?

Philadelphia - Extravagantly colored in shades of the Rolling Stones, Three Dog Night and Neil Diamond, the 1973 Alice Cooper tour burst forth from Rochester, New York, early in March for a three-moth, 56-city assault on North America.

By now, the entourage is somewhere between Hershey, Pennsylvania, and Fort Wayne, Indiana, with no looking back until June 3rd and the finale at Madison Square Gardens.

Missing from the show this time is Alice's celebrated prop-trademark snake. The thing has been coiled permanently into the shape of a dollar sign and sprayed on the tail section of the tour's F-27 prop jet, a 48-seat machine named "Billion Dollar Babies."

Manager Shep Gordon predicted the tour would be the largest grossing one (financially speaking) in the history of rock & roll, with 800,000 persons expected to pay $4.5 million (Three Dog Night, however, claim a $5.5 million gross in 1971 for a year's work, playing huge ballparks before an audience of more than one million.)

Gordon called the show "the utmost, in a Broadway-theatrical sense of the word." He hired Joe Gannon, who previously worked for Tiny Tim in Las Vegas and Neil Diamond at New York's Winter Garden, to design the staging, lighting and choreography. Gannon responded with eight tons and $150,000 worth of stage. The set is 25 feet high, and resembles the structure used on the TV game show, Hollywood Squares, with open cubes framed by gold metal-flake rods.

The tour has a "party" budget that chief underwriter Warner Communications figured wouldn't exceed $31,000. The first bite into the budget was a junket for 48 members of the New York press corps, who were dosed with champagne at a West Village restaurant and flown to Philadelphia. Upon arrival in Philadelphia, the junket went like this: from plane to a bus, to a motel, to a cocktail party, to the concert, to a cocktail party on someone's boat, to a bus, to the hotel, to champagne breakfast, to a bus and to a train back to New York.

"This is the only way to appreciate the show," said one guest. "With Alice the hype is half of the art."

A week later, Gordon was still counting the bills. "It's a little closer to 13 or 14 thousand already," he said. "Tomorrow morning it might be closer to 15."

The new show is Alice's most lavish. He appears in virginal white and gold, displaying a trimmed down bare mid-riff. In deference of his stature as a star - and his higher income - he puts himself through less of a physical beating than last time. In the spirit of one of his songs, "No More Mr. Nice Guy," he has become more aggressive battling the evils of tooth decay for the affection of fair maiden Happy Tooth. The gallows has been replaced by the guillotine on which Alice is beheaded. It is manned by guest star "Tha Amazing Randi" of A Clockwork Orange.

The finale features the unfurling of Old Glory while the voice of Kate Smith sings "God Bless America."

On the lower deck of the party boat in Philadelphia, Alice swayed to the Burt Bacharach medley drifting down from the bandstand and made a promise:

"The sicker all you kids get," he said, "the greater the show we'll have for you."