Times

Originally Published: September 16, 2001

A Life In The Day

Author: Danny Scott

Alice Cooper, 53, releases his 28th album, Dragontown, on October 8. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with his wife, Sheryl, and children, Calico, Dashiell and Sonora.

I know this isn't going to sound very rock 'n' roll, but I'm always up early. Even on tour, 6:30 is not a problem. On stage, Alice is a night person. But me, I'm a day person. Here are Alice Cooper's grooming secrets. I tie back my hair and put on some shades. Well, when you see perfection staring back at you, there's not much you can improve upon. First thing, I turn on the TV, then I eat a huge breakfast. I'm one of those people who can basically eat what I want. I probably weigh no more than 135 or 140lb.

The reason I can eat so much is that I burn off so many calories. I walk incessantly. It doesn't matter where I am, I take off and I can cover 10 or 20 miles in a day. I'm an addictive shopper. Flea markets - that's where you'll fine me. I collect wristwatches, my wife collects Victorian jewellery and my son collects Star Wars stuff. The last time I went on tour, I came away with two suitcases and I went back home with 14.

Things were different in the 1970s. Instead of walking from shop to shop, I used to walk from bar to bar. I drank all day and every day. I remember when I first knew it was getting our of control. It was about 20 years ago. I was doing five shows a week in front of 15,000 people for two whole years. I was a complete wreck. Every night, I would drink a little more just to help me get by. And the more I drank, the better I felt. It was an addiction that was feeding itself.

I should have stopped the tour, but that's not in my nature. I have to be on a hospital bed before I can say: "Stop." And that's what happened. My wife put me in a limo and sent me to hospital. Actually, it was an insane asylum. I was supposed to be in a holding tank for three days, but that turned into a month, and when I came out I was dry. I haven't touched a drop since. Now I've quit, I have to find something to fill all that time I used to spend in the bar. That's why I walk, that's why I shop and that's why I golf - golf is very therapeutic. I hate downtime. I get bored very easily. And when I get bored, I get depressed. The trick is never giving myself the chance to get bored.

Come lunchtime, I'll eat whatever's around. Usually something very light, like sushi. After all those years of touring, my body is conditioned to expect a night-time show. A live show is like an intense aerobic workout. When I go on stage I want to feel light and hungry, but when I come off I can eat anything. Double cheeseburger, chocolat shake. The doctor told me I need to pile on some carbs after a show or I'll waste away.

I never cook. I can barbecue. I go out on the ranch, rope myself a steer, slap it on the grill and eat it. I've just opened a couple of Alice Cooper-themed restuarants in the US, but I'm no food expert. Home is Arizona. A place called Paradise Valley, which I always think sounds like a funeral home. I have some cool neighbours - people like Stevie Nicks and Leslie Nielsen. I suppose people expect my house to be dark and gothic. There are rooms you know are Alice's - full of relics from the old tours - but I think people would be surprised by the rest. It's a big old ranch house. It's got a kind of Santa Fe/Mexico hacienda feel.

I treat my home like I treat my music. My house is an art project; it's an extension of my personality. All the kids live at home at the moment, but my daughter's about to move to California. She wants to be an actress. I've tried to encourage my son to start a band, but he's more into things like hockey. I think I'm a pretty good dad. At least my kids can never say, "Dad, you don't understand how we feel," because I do understand. I say: "Wait a minute. I'm the one that designed your generation." I must be the only father that bangs on the bedroom door and says: "Turn that music up!"

The birth of my first daugter, Calico, coincided with me straighening myself out. It was also the time I started thinking about Christianity. The doctors told me that if I had been drunk another week, I would have joined the guys upstairs. When you get that close to dying, you come back looking for something more than limos and mansions. I guess it's not too surprising I turned to Christianity. My father was a pastor.

These days, I rock harder than ever. If I write a song about horror, I'm writing about real horror - eternal damnation. I find the real world very shocking. Look at the genocides in Albania, Bosnia, Africa. Locking a six-year-old in a closet for three years - that's horror. People think it's ironic that Alice Cooper, this rock 'n' roll rebel, is a Christian. But it's the most rebellious thing I've ever done. Drinking beer is easy. Trashing your hotel room is easy. But being a Christian, that's a tough call. That's real rebellion.

Dinner is a big deal at our house. Not that I often eat much, but I do like to get the family together and sit down at the table. People might think we're a strange bunch, but we like to hang out together.

Bedtime is after The X Files. That comes on at 11. I don't sleep much, but I sleep well. I think that keeps me healthy. Once I get in bed, I switch off whatever's going on in my head. Sometimes, though, I lie and think what an amazing life I've been blessed with. I've done so much. I've travelled. I've hung out with people like Brian Wilson, John Lennon, Keith Moon and Jim Morrison. I guess when I'm about 70, it will hit me all at once and my head will explode.