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Originally Published: June 30, 1994
Author: Mark Weisblot
The Last Temptation, the 22nd Alice Cooper concoction, is what happens when Vincent Furnier's unassailable alter ego collides with modern-day mass counterculture -- which means the well-hyped collaborations with Chris Cornell (Soundgarden) and Don Flemming (Gumball) collide and coalesce with input from Jack Blades (Night Ranger) and Tommy Shaw (Styx).
But Alice is still Alice, enshrouded in the egregious on record and never failing to impart his gregarious grin with tales of his capricious career.
At 46, Alice has become quite candid about his battles with the bottle and his pernicious period in the early-'80s (it's not like he disowns all those records, it's more that he doesn't remember making them). Where with 1989's Trash he cunningly adopted Bon Jovi-provoked pop-metal, The Last Temptation is an unabashed concept album, where Cooper's conceptions of fantasy vs. reality have never been more thoroughly defined. From the outset, Alice was intended to be comic-book compatible -- even if the type of comic has evolved from the stuff of crude R. Crumb-style doodlings to Heavy Metal bombast to the ornate gothic graphic interpretation of his latest project by Neil Gaiman.
Still, with all the misconceptions, his latest visit to our 'hood provided a prime opportunity to gauge where he's at and where he's been. Let the debunking begin!
Well, it actually is, but... "It could've been Mary Thompson, it could've been Brenda Starr, but the first thing that came to mind was Alice Cooper, and it stuck. This was part of the image we wanted to project, wearing smeared makeup, ripped-up dresses and combat boots -- nobody in the group was gay, we were just trying to look like this gang from the future.
"On those early albums, I was still Vince, but I've legally been Alice since Love It To Death, because it was apparent I would never again be recognized as anything besides Mr. Alice Cooper."
Still, his notoriety was secured 25 years ago this fall, while performing at the Varsity Stadium festival headlined by the Plastic Ono Band.
"In every show, we'd tear open a pillow and just let the feathers fly. One pillow was enough to cover the entire Madison Square Garden -- for this show, we had 10 pillows. Then, while the whole stadium looked like it was blanketed in snow, somebody threw a live chicken onstage. And I'm from Detroit, I figure a chicken is a bird, it can fly. I whipped it into the crowd, and then it came flying back at me, piece by piece -- and it was the handicapped people who were sitting at the front of the stage who tore the chicken apart.
"The next day I got a call from Frank Zappa. He asked, 'Did you kill a chicken onstage?'
"'Well, whatever you do, don't tell anybody that.'"
Not really, anyway. "When the press wanted a particular question answered, they'd ask Nixon, then Kissinger, then Alice Cooper. We spoke for an entire generation. After a few years of that, the idea became to put Alice in all the wrong places -- we had five hit ballads in a row, then I went on Hollywood Squares, and then The Muppet Show. This was the only way I could've maintained an outrageous image.
"I figured the public would just have to get the joke. They didn't get the joke."
In 1978, he performed a blazing disco number in Sextette, to the apparent delight of its senile star, Mae West. "At the time of that movie she was 84 years old, and she had to wear this receiver in her ear, feeding all of her lines. The director would say, 'Darling, I love you,' and she'd repeat, 'Darling, I love you.' And then he'd tell her, 'OK, take two steps to the left,' and then she'd say, 'Take two steps to the left...'
"After we did our scene, she actually looked at me and said, 'Why don't you come up and see me sometime?' -- and she was very serious. But here I was on the same set as Tony Curtis and George Hamilton, and I was no match for those guys, especially when I was made up to look like a sleazy Italian waiter."
... But it's the first where Alice's clothes stay on
In 1978, his diary of dementia, From The Inside, was transformed into a one-off issue (Marvel Premiere, #50). "The best thing about Marvel Comics is that they draw you with a much better body. I was given these great abs which I'd never had to work for. And actual muscles -- muscles where I'd never had muscles before."
However, his current interest in the medium was sparked by Sandman creator Neil Gaiman (author of the three-act graphic interpretation of The Last Temptation). "Until I met Neil I didn't realize there were 17,000 comic characters out there that I'd never heard about. Now, I'll drag Neil into a comic store and get him to explain everything. 'Hey, who's this guy?' 'What does this guy do?' 'Hey, here's The Crow -- hey, how come he's got all my makeup on?'"
But he did spend a copious amount of time in Toronto, recording here in the mid-'70s with producer Bob Ezrin, in between babysitting duties for the family who occupied the lower floors of his temporary habitat. "I stayed in the top floor of this big Japanese house owned by this woman whose little grandson was always hanging around. And this boy's name was Keanu. Actually, just last night I went to see Speed, and as I sat there I thought, 'Aah, I know that kid.' "