Today's Arizona Woman
Originally Published: January 2003
Author: Sally Spasovski and Cindy Miller
Legendary rock performer Alice Cooper is on an honorary roll. Last year, the dark prince of shock rock and native Phoenician was awarded the 2001 Living Legend Award by the International Horror Guild at Dragon*Con, an annual science fiction, fantasy, horror and comics convention in Atlanta. It was recognition for a career of creepy horror rock concerts chock-full of fake blood, ghoulish make-up, gallows, guillotines and baby doll decapitations.
"Maybe next year I'll make the sci-fi hall of fame," Cooper quips. "That would be three in a row."
Maybe so. But for now Cooper is Today's Arizona Woman Man of the Year. It's quite a segue. Last year's honoree was sports mogul Jerry Colangelo. There's symmetry here. Cooper and Colangelo attend the same Valley church.
"I see him every Sunday," Cooper says.
Now 54 years old, Alice Cooper, who is quick to point out that he's in the best physical shape of his life, shows no signs of slowing down, mellowing out or toning down an ostentatious stage act that was the precursor to bands like KISS and The Sex Pistols. In December he completed his latest world tour - he says he's lost count of how many world tours he's been on since the early 1970s -and claims his current live concerts and CDs are actually more heavy metal than they were before. But along with the horror-theme lyrics and theatrics and being recognized for blazing a trail for current shock rockers like Marilyn Manson, there's an interesting dichotomy here.
Alice Cooper, the former Vincent Furnier, is a born-again Christian.
In the early 1980s Cooper found himself swimming in the dark abyss of alcoholism and, as he says, "kind of drifting away." He and Sheryl, his wife of 26 years, almost separated because of his drinking.
"I certainly wasn't planning on alcoholism," Cooper says. "You plan on getting a Ferrari, a mansion, a fabulous wife, but you don't plan on the alcoholism. It almost broke up my wife and I. Part of the deal we had instead of separating was that I was going to go to a hospital and stop drinking and we'd start going to church. Sort of get back to our roots. I got very convicted and that's when I changed."
The teachings and beliefs of Christianity were familiar to Alice. His grandfather had been an evangelist for 50 years. His father was a pastor. Even Sheryl's father is a Baptist pastor.
Cooper discovered sobriety and reconnected with Christianity's main headline act: Jesus Christ. Alice espied that both he and Jesus had something in common: Both were revolutionist.
"I always looked at Jesus as being probably the biggest rebel of all time," he says. "He rebelled against everybody. He's saying instead of a guy hitting you in the face and hitting him back, turn your cheek. And everybody said no way! But that was rebellious to our nature, that's what made it so different.
"Where I'm at right now is probably the most rebellious I've ever been because I'm in rock and roll, and in a lot of ways, my life style does not reflect that at all. I'm still doing the hardest show I've ever done. I'm doing the most devastatingly, and to some people very disturbing, show. Maybe to a lot of Christians it's disturbing. But the message is pretty strong."
Cooper doesn't preach on stage, claiming his lyrics say everything. Song lyrics promoting drinking and promiscuous sex have been axed. Also, the songs he writes are for Alice Cooper, the character.
"I certainly don't think I'm ever going to be (well-known Christian singer) Michael Chapman," Cooper says. "I think I have a different calling, and that's being the Prophet of Doom. I think I'm the perfect candidate for that. So when Alice is talking about the apocalypse and the end of the world, he's saying not only is it coming, but when it does come you're going directly to hell and there's no way out. I'm saying once you get there, you don't kind of work your way out. You're there, that's it. So you better plan your life now because what you're doing now is going to depend on where you are for the rest of your life. That scares a lot of people. It should."
Along with Phoenix youth pastor Chuck Savale, Cooper founded the Solid Rock Foundation, a Christian-based nonprofit, dedicated to helping inner-city youth in areas of education, food, medical care, clothing and housing. A fanatical golfer, Cooper presides over the annual MTX/Alice Cooper Celebrity AM Golf Tournament. The event is a major fundraiser for the organization.
"You would think Phoenix is a big resort, but Phoenix is the fifth largest city in the United States," Cooper says. "It has the fifth-biggest drug gang and gun problem. Every day you pick up the paper and some gang guy is shooting this guy and that guy. There's so much going on out there. So we said what could we do on a charity level. We wanted to make it so the money went directly to inner city kids and none of the money stayed in the organization."
And what about Marilyn Manson, who has been quoted as saying he hopes to be remembered as the one who brought an end to Christianity.
"I think Marilyn Manson is about as Satanic as Colonel Sanders," he says. "If you really want to find the Satanist, you're probably going to have to go to lawyers and politicians. Satanists want power. Rock and rollers are not into power. They're into rock and roll and what comes with it: sex and money. They're typical and what I expect to come out of this generation. I was the one that certainly opened the door for those bands; who knows what's going to crawl through. But I also know that 99 percent of it is because they're smart enough to know that anything that pisses off a parent is going to sell."
When not on tour, more than likely Alice Cooper can be found wearing a polo shirt and swinging a nine iron at a Valley golf course or at home with Sheryl and their three children: Calico, 21; Dashiell, 17; and Sonora, 9. He hints at retirement, but for now he believes he can promote Christianity through his stage act and concerts more effectively.