Sun

Originally Published: February 23, 2000

Interview

ALICE COOPER once matched Elvis and Hendrix drink for drink and babe for babe. He has survived alcoholism and outraged politicians on both sides of the pond.

Yet nowadays, the self-styled "king of all rebels" is more likely to be found on a golf course than in a hotel room full of lust-crazed groupies.

Tonight Alice hosts Top Ten Stadium Rockers (C4, 9pm). But have he and fellow long-hairs like ZZ Top and Kiss turned into a bunch of sad old wrinklies going through the motions?

Alice, 52, laughs. "What are you expecting this programme to be, Garry?" he asks. "Me sitting there saying 'This is what we looked like when we had teeth?'

"I can't speak for anyone else, but I have more energy on stage now than I ever did at 30.

"I insist that the amps are all cranked up to ten."

The legendary U.S. rock star has just finished recording a new CD - Alice Cooper's Brutal Planet, released in the UK this May.

"It's the heaviest album I've ever done," Ol' Black Eyes says with pride. "It's loud, tough, BIG! Sonically it's a monster."

Alice Cooper's Brutal Planet is also the name of a 16,000ft walk-through pavilion at a U.S. adventure park. The place sounds even scarier than gay day at the Dome. It runs for a week every Hallowe'en in Denver, and may become a permanent attraction.

"It's awesome, like the ultimate Haunted House," says Alice. "The floors are grilled, the music is loud, the door slams shut behind you. There's smoke and state-of-the-art lighting. There are headless men with meat cleavers, dwarf aliens, flying gargoyle women. It's really got an edge to it, but it's a fun show."

Of course Alice's career has smacked of glorious horror film ham since it began in '68. On stage he has appeared to cut off his own head with a guillotine. He's strapped himself into an electric chair and thrown the switch.

"Alice has always been a sideshow," the father of three says approvingly. "Always! We're the Weekly World News of rock 'n' roll" (that's a U.S. mag full of invented stories).

"If U2 is World Peace, we're Boy Born With Dog's Head. We never wanted to be an alternative to showbiz. We set out to entertain in the most spectacular way possible."

Unsurprisingly, Hollywood beckoned. Alice, once worshipped in Wayne's World, is about to star in new horror film The Addict Expedition "about a guy in a mental institution who believes he is shrinking."

Cooper's musical nightmare began in 1968. The band famously wanted to "drive a stake through the heart of the love generation."

Alice recalls: "They were into love and peace. We were into blondes, money and switchblades."

Did you ever get bored with blondes? "Never."

Alice gave up the groupies when he married former dancer Sheryl in 1976. He knocked lager breakfasts on the head six years later - at a time when he was merrily quaffing a liver-busting quart of whiskey a day. His drinking buddies included Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Keith Moon - all dead. So how did you survive? "I learned from them," he says. "All of them tried to live off-stage like they were on stage. They partied hard.

"I did too. There are four albums I don't remember writing, recording or touring. But I was always a happy drunk. A lot of those guys had a death wish."

Preacher's son Alice was born Vince Damion Furnier in Detroit on February 4, 1948, and grew up in Phoenix, Arizona. He was 24 when he topped the British charts with the awesome pupil power anthem School's Out.

More hits like Elected and No More Mr Nice Guy followed. Alice's flame dimmed but then burst back gloriously at the end of the 80s with stomping rock anthems Poison and Hey Stoopid.

His deranged stage act has attracted some seriously messed up people over the years.

"During our Madhouse Rock tour everyone dressed like doctors. We all wore white coats. The stage looked like a scene from One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. When we got to Minnesota we held an Alice Cooper lookalike contest in a mall.

"The prize was dinner with me.

"This guy won and half-way through the meal, two men came up in white jackets and started leading him away. I thought it was a gag. Turned out the guy was a dangerous lunatic who had escaped from a mental institution.

"He looked exactly like me!"

Behind the mascara, the real Cooper is a bright, funny guy with a disturbingly normal life-style. He watches The Simpsons and The X Files on TV, goes to the movies - "I just saw The Beach, which I liked, and Scream III's great."

And he gets wound up "by little things," he says. "There's even a lyric on the new album about it. People who talk in a movie make me mad.

"I love Britain, though," he goes on. "We'll be touring here in the summer. I do a lot of walking when I'm in London. I leave the hotel and roam the streets. You'll generally find me in Portobello Market, stocking up on my watch collection. I walk fast, so if people recognise me I just tend to hear 'Nah, that can't be him'."

Golf is his abiding obsession. Alice plays in pro-am tournaments with the likes of Tiger Woods.

In January, in the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, he played four rounds and collected thirteen birdies.

Alice, a "5, 6 handicap", took up the sport in the 70s. "I got bored with being in hotel rooms when we were on tour," he says.

"On my first game, I nailed a 7-iron right down the middle and I've been addicted ever since. I've always been competitive. I was a pretty good baseball player when I was a kid. And I coach my son's soccer team."

His best ever golf round was a 67 he shot at Camelback, near his home in Scottsdale, Arizona.

"I think it's funny when I can come in and shoot 74, 75 and beat the dads of my younger fans," he says. "If you beat the dads, they can't say 'Alice Cooper, what a jerk'. It's like, 'Dad, he beat you by six strokes'.

"I love beating them at their own game