Originally Published: November 1972
Author: Maureen Donaldson
Who is Alice Cooper???
"I think he's a bizarre freak!"
"Visually, I really like them."
"I don't know anything about Alice Cooper and I don't want to know anything about Alice Cooper. He's too weird!"
"Alice is neat."
"I've heard the name."
"I bought their LP 'School's Out' and then left it in the car and it warped. When I took it indoors, the album exploded. I saved the panties though."
These comments were voiced spontaneously by teenagers throughout the United States. Who... and WHAT is Alice Cooper? Form your own conclusions after you read 'TEEN's exclusive on-tour report with America's most talked-about rock group.
"And as we leave Hollywood, we leave with a fond farewell... and a lot of bread!" Alice remarks as he fastens his seat belt.
"You're next, Minneapolis," he laughs as the plane jets down the runway, ready for takeoff.
"Have you met Yvonne yet? She's my new snake. I bet you'll love her by the end of the tour; she's very affectionate.
"My first snake, Cachina, was lost down a toilet in Knoxville, Tennessee. We had to leave town to make another show and so we bought Yvonne for forty bucks at a pet shop on the way to the airport. Cachina's still roaming the sewage drains in Knoxville," he chuckles.
"Yvonne wouldn't eat when we first got her. Finally we had to force-feed her by shoving a rat down her mouth."
Under usual feeding procedures, if a mouse survives over one-half hour in the bathtub with a snake, Alice and the guys let it go free!!
"We ended up with a whole menagerie of mice though," Alice says. "We had to get rid of them, so we just left them at the baggage claim area of La Guardia Airport!"
Alice in Wonderland re-visited with another Alice... Alice Cooper. And this is only one small incident in the strange bizarre happenings that surround the group and its entourage!
To set the record straight, Alice Cooper is the name of the lead singer. Alice Cooper is also the name of the group, which consists of drummer Neal Smith, lead guitarist Glenn Buxton, bass player Dennis Dunaway and organist-guitarist Michael Bruce. It is rumored that Alice's real name is Vernon Harlipp, Alice Cooper is his mother's maiden name and the family is distantly related to the late Gary Cooper. However, Alice refuses to comment on any of the above.
He claims that they chose their name because "It had a nice ring to it. We were all sitting around at a friend's house in Phoenix. We had to change our name from the Nazz because Todd Rundgren's group was called the Nazz then too. We were just about ready to invade L.A. so we decided we needed a name that was truly original. We figured Alice Cooper would be a great idea for a rock group because people would be expecting a folk singer, but instead they would be getting us... a really raunchy group!"
At Minneapolis airport, the group creates quite a stir as it waits for the limousines.
"Play the Burt Bacharach tape," yells Alice to the chauffeur as we slip away to the hotel.
"I really dig the Carpenters' music too. People don't expect us to like that kind of music but I really dig it! I LOVE Burt Bacharach," he grins, breaking into a convincing Bacharach imitation. "I don't like soul music though!"
"I love beer!!!!!" he exclaims as he flips open a can of Budweiser. (Since we left Hollywood, Alice hasn't been without a beer can in his hand.) "It's in our contract, you know, that there has to be beer backstage before we go on. When we arrived for one gig recently, there was no beer in the dressing room so we refused to perform. The promoter got scared when he realized we were serious, and he went out to a bootleg place and got us our beer!"
"Hey, do you guys want to come to a party? I've got a huge mansion with 14 bedrooms a couple of miles from here!" someone asks Alice and the guys at the local discotheque in Minneapolis, where they are relaxing on one of their rare nights off.
"Do you remember me, Alice? I was sitting in the first row at your last concert here," asks a wispy-haired blond.
"Sure I do. Weren't you wearing a pair of red pajamas?" Alice quips.
"Hey, man. How's it going? I dig your music. It's outasight, man!"
"Alice, I want to introduce you to my cousin and his friend. They're big fans of yours and have all your records!"
And so on. There's little time to yourself when you're in the Big Time. Alice, however, doesn't seem to mind the constant interruptions and handles the people with ease and genuine interest.
"I like meeting new people. That's why I go out to these clubs when I get the time," he says. "I have fun!"
Back at the hotel, the lobby is filled with a weird assortment of people, their curiosity aroused, waiting to catch a glimpse of Alice.
"I'll be honest with you. I watch television about eight hours a day and drink beer. I'd rather do that than anything else," Alice confides as he relaxes the following afternoon in his hotel room.
Alice Cooper, offstage, without the makeup, is a total contrast to the bizarre, devilish figure he portrays during his performances.
"I'm really two personalities," he smiles. "It's like Jekyll and Hyde."
When did the bizarre trip of Alice Cooper begin?
"It's always been there. We always needed attention so the group just did things to catch people's eye all the time. They'd carry me out on stage in a bathtub or we'd perform behind a giant spider's web we made out of rope. We always had a certain flair for theatrics. We'd do something to outrageous we knew people would come to see us!"
Alice believes that kids flock to see them because their parents hate them.
"A lot of kids hate us too, though," he laughs. "They just hate the whole idea that it's a totally new thing. We are forcing them into something they have never thought of before. The idea is we're not just another rock band playing up there on stage for them. We're actually doing something that is totally revolutionary."
Along with his manager, Shep Gordon. Alice is mainly responsible for the bizarre theatrics the group performs on stage.
"I take care of most of the ideas for the theater part of it, write the lyrics, handle the interviews and the whole image of the group while the rest of the guys take care of the music."
Alice's inspirations for these ideas stem from "a little bit of James Bond, a little bit of 'Barbarella' and the rest from Burt Bacharach!!!"
He feels that the group has a different effect on everyone. "It brings out different things in different people," he expands. "If I bring out Yvonne, for instance, one guy might see something evil whereas his friend might be scared or see something beautiful. Our show affects everyone on a different level. We just throw all these things out and let the kids take whatever they want out of it. That's the validity of it. We're not preaching anything. In England, they think we're like America's voice to the kids, but that's not true!"
Alice glances at his watch. "It's almost nine o'clock. Time to turn into Mr. Hyde!"
As we pull into the stadium, everybody cheers. Inside the dressing room Alice quietly plays black jack in the corner with Glenn and Neal. Mike throws suckers to the kids who are hanging on a ledge peering in the dressing room window. Finally the guys invite them in.
"Don't tell anyone we saw you do this," warns Alice.
"Where's my whiskey?" he demands in the same breath.
Alice interrupts the game of cards as he helps himself to a bottle. "Drugs don't interest us - we're just a bunch of drunks!" he jokes, waving to the kids gathered outside the door.
"Hi there! Thank you for paying your $4.50 to get in here tonight!!!!!"
"Let's go - show time!!" Dave Leibert, Alice's competent tour manager, yells.
The powerful force of energies build up; the devilish worship from the audience is used to the utmost as Alice steps on stage.
"Oh, that was awful! I'm so depressed. The gallows didn't even work. I was so embarrassed for Alice tonight, I could cry for her!!!" Alice sighs under his breath as he waves good-bye and smiles at the fans mingling around the backstage door.
"Did you notice the snake tonight? She was really itching to bite. I didn't care though because everything else was going wrong. I know that 90 percent of the kids at the show feel that everything went okay, but I don't feel that way and that's what's important to me. I'll go to sleep with that on my mind and probably wake up in the middle of the night and worry about the lousy show we put on. I hate that!!" Alice mutters.
"I didn't sleep well last night. I knew I wouldn't," he exclaims in disgust in the hotel lobby the next morning.
Next stop Chicago, where Alice Cooper is scheduled for two performances at the Amphitheater. Both shows have been sold out for weeks.
"Somebody got the bull's eye tonight. That damn frisbee someone threw on stage hit me right on my sore," Alice groans as he rubs his leg in obvious pain. His body is a battlefield of scars and bruises from his crazy antics onstage. He's even chipped a tooth on a microphone stand.
"I want to have a gold tooth put in, with a little diamond in the center. I think that would really be neat. Every time I'd smile, the kids would catch a gleam!!
"Usually after doing two shows in one night I'm beat, but tonight I'm surprisingly wide awake. We'll only do two shows if the money is right though," he adds.
We sit up and rap in his hotel room until the sun comes up.
Alice feels that teenagers today are "a lot smarter than when I was a teenager. I think it all boils down to sex. That's probably the most important thing you ever learn in life - the sexual responsibility. Kids today are doing things I didn't even think about when I was their age!
"I think kids should be thrown out into society and learn how to survive. I don't think it's such a big deal to run away from home. It makes them much stronger people. I really believe in survival."
Are the kids today smart enough to pinpoint Alice Cooper as a put-on?
"It's not ALL a put-on. There's a certain amount of our show that we really mean. We're there; take what you want from us. To some people, we're very, very serious and could never be a put-on."
The rumors circulating across the country that the members of Alice Cooper are all homosexuals doesn't bother Alice in the least.
"I don't think that's our image any more. It used to be but a lot of kids have realized it's all a big front. Well, it's not a front, it's just not our personalities! Our image is that we're having fun with everybody's problems. I can also see the part where some kids might think we are all homosexuals. That might be Alice. Alice is a whole different person!"
Can you describe the changes you go through when you step on stage?
"It's a really powerful feeling. I enjoy that feeling of power in front of all those people. I can feel all the electricity in the audience as I walk out on stage. A lot of kids idolize us, that's our main thing, you know. I release a lot of anger when I'm on stage. It's a combination of rebellion and satire on everybody. You’ve seen us offstage, we make fun of everybody, including ourselves. On stage I get rid of all my hostilities; that's why I'm so unhostile offstage. Alice is a total release. I wish everybody could experience it a few times because when I'm finished with a show, I'm so drained of hostility that I'm really totally sane again!"
How did you release your anger before Alice Cooper?
"I was only 16 and how angry can you get before you're 16?" he replies as he grabs another beer from the bathroom sink.
"I never had any worries when I was a kid. I was lucky because I had a great childhood.
"I used to go to church a lot," Alice continues. "My dad and Granddad are both ministers. I went to church four or five times a week so I was completely drowned in religion."
How does Alice's father feel about the bizarre publicity that surrounds the group?
"My parents are really open about it. They didn't used to be but now they see that it's successful and that I'm sincere about it. My Dad has his idea of religion and I have mine. I think that religion is more personal than sex is."
Alice believes in God but he "doesn't want to know who he is. I don't even want to know what form he is or anything because that has got to be the most mysterious thing in the world and I don't want to know the answer."
Do you feel that Alice, on stage, is a rebellion against the religious life you led when you were younger?
"I think part of what he's doing on stage is... the evil part is," he answers truthfully. "But I always thought that there was something religious about the devil. I think the only thing the devil is, is going against knowledge. Somebody once said that you have to be a genius to sin because you do most of your sinning out of ignorance or lust. I don't think that lust is a sin. I think it's a natural human instinct. A lot of people would like to think that I am subconsciously relating to the devil through Alice because that's the closest comparison they can think of. But I have no ties with the devil!! Not any more than anybody else does."
"We have a special treat in store for you today!" the guys laugh as we speed down Chicago’s Dan Ryan Expressway to Midway Field airport. "We're taking 'The Flying Mink' on her last flight. We hope she makes it!!"
"The Flying Mink" is the prop plane that Alice Cooper leased for the summer, but due to technical difficulties she is "giving out" before the tour's end!
"Unfortunately it doesn’t look like Glenn will be with us when she goes down. I couldn't get him out of bed this morning so I left him at the hotel. He'll have to make his own way to Detroit," Dave reports.
"He’ll probably beat us there too!" Alice comments.
"How come my seat doesn’t go back? Doesn’t anything work on this plane?" Neal complains.
"Today we have the biggest payoff on the tour so far!" Everyone cheers and yells as Dave opens his briefcase to reveal the $60,000 the group earned from their two Chicago concerts.
"You are going to be rich!" he laughs, as he throws the money in the air.
"We might never make it to our next port of entry," Mike declares, "but when we go down, we’ll be singing ‘We’ve got lots of bread’!"
"What are we waiting for?"
"The limousine went back to the hotel to get Glenn. We couldn’t let him miss this flight. If we go down – he’s going too!"
"Wow, nice of you to make it," someone yells as Glenn appears on board.
"And our special guest star, GLENN BUXTON!!!"
"Glad you could make it for the show today, Glenn. I know you’re on a rough schedule," Alice teases.
"Do you think The Mink has one more left in her?"
"Well, we’ve got a lot of extra weight on board today and it’s a very short runway!!"
"Everybody take off your bras and throw them overboard!"
"Take ALL your clothes off and throw them overboard!"
"If there’s too much weight on the plane, first throw the luggage, then the people… leave the beer!!"
"Everybody’s gone nuts on this flight because it may be our last!"
"I just love it – all this excitement!" Alice remarks drily. "Pass me another beer. I need it. Good-bye any and everybodies. I think we’re taking off. Maybe our album will make No. 1 next week now!"
"Hey, the piston’s gone on the plane and a Volkswagen has to push it – but that doesn’t matter – and the oil’s leaking out – that doesn’t matter either!"
"I can’t find the beer," Alice interrupts. "And that DOES matter!!!"
"I’m really an incredible liar. I lie to everybody. That’s my own little perversion, to lie and see what I can get away with!" Alice openly admits as, safely on hiome ground in Detroit, he puts on his makeup, ready for the evening’s show.
"I’d never tell any malicious lies that would hurt anybody. I don’t believe in that, but you can lie theatrically and get away with it and entertain yourself. That’s a great art. It’s one of my main joys in life, entertaining myself."
What is the biggest lie Alice has ever told?
"I don’t know. I guess when I told someone I was in this for fun and not for the money. Seriously though, I don’t think I’ve told my biggest lie yet. Whatever it is though, it will be phenomenal!
"Some of the rumors we’ve had circulating about us have been incredible," he chuckles. "We’ve planted a lot of them ourselves. When the rumor started about us killing chickens, I never denied it! You don’t know how popular that chicken incident made us! It all started when someone threw a chicken on stage and I threw it back in the audience. The next thing I heard was that I had cut its head off and sucked all the blood out. That’s where it had gotten to the next day! So, for the next show, we put a couple of chickens on the amplifiers and the next thing we knew it was "Alice Cooper Slaughters Chickens" and everybody was down on us. But we were drawing enormous crowds because people would come to see if he really killed chickens."
"A long time," Alice says with confidence. "I think that what we’re doing is really vital. We’re doing something that’s exciting to the kids. I think we really entertain them. Therefore I think we’ll always draw crowds because the kids know we’ll do our best to give them a good show. Alice Cooper is a mystery and people thrive on mysteries. It lets their imaginations run wild."
Alice feels that the release he gets from these bizarre performances have made him feel much freer in his personal life.
"I feel that I don’t have to answer to anybody for anything. You see, there are things I can do that are totally outrageous and I can get away with them because people expect Alice Cooper to do outrageous things! Alice is supposed to be a showoff so I have a great release there. I have a lot more self-confidence because I’ve been able to experiment more with me. I’ve done things that I never dreamed I would ever do!"
What is it that motivates thousands of teenagers to flock to see Alice Cooper?
What is behind Alice Cooper? Are they five bizarre freaks exposing their way of life to the world, or five intelligent human beings who have carefully planned a successful career in theatrical rock?
Are they symbolic of the last days on Rome, with all its decadence and perversions?
What is it that excites the crowd to the point of hysteria when Alice performs? Is it animalistic sexual desires and frustrations that are released through Alice?
Who is this demon they call Alice Cooper? Walking across the stage in black with shiny black loves molded on his tiny hands, his hideous facial makeup give him the appearance of an evil figure as it augments his twisted expressions.
A sickly grin is pasted on Alice’s face as, like an echo from the dead, he taunts and hypnotizes his prey.
Dressed in glittering scales like a slippery serpent, laughing in hideous mockery, he is – on stage – the manifestation of a new personality. The spirit of a man who possesses his audiences as he overwhelms them with his staggering chronicle of theatrical rock. He excites their imagination; he intensifies their curiosity. Shivers pierce the bones of the listeners as the explosive sound of Alice Cooper ring in their ears. Their minds come crashing down into a world of fantasy and they love it! The beautiful, terrifying confusion of Alice Cooper concert…
Alice seductively writhes and curls across the stage with the actions of a totally demented psychotic. He drives the crowd insane with his bizarre movements. He brings out his snake Yvonne, who unwinds herself, coil by glistening coil, around Alice’s body as he passionately kisses her on the mouth. The crowd is tense. Next, a knife-stabbing scene where Alice bursts blood capsules and smears the blood over his face, while the rest of the group viciously kicks at his shattered, clawed body. Alice’s eyes glint spite as he pulls out a knife and cruelly stabs one of them to death. Police sirens holler and the audience reaches a peak as Alice is dragged to the gallows to be hung for his crime. Smoke pours form the stage as the executioner drops the handle and Alice hangs from the rope.
Boom! He returns to the stage amidst the billows of smoke, dressed in white top hat and tails to signify his resurrection. Gleefully, he throws posters and money into the audience and delights in watching the crowd rush to the stage, fighting like animals to grab the goods.
Amidst all the confusion and fighting, Alice yells to the crowd.
"You know what – you’re crazier than we are!!!!!" He disappears offstage.
NOTES: This interview took place during the later part of July 1972, where Alice performed LA on the 23rd, Minneapolis on the 27, Chicago on the 28th, and Detroit on the 31st.