Toronto Star

Originally Published: June 14, 1994

Ghoul-rocker is all charm

Author: Jane Stevenson

Toronto - The man they call Alice can still pack 'em in.

The leather-and-denim crowd from tattooed headbangers to kid-toting housewives, squeezed into HMV's huge flagship store on Yonge Street to rub shoulders with '70s ghoul-rocker Alice Cooper.

And although it's been two decades since he topped the charts with angst-ridden teen anthems such as I'm Eighteen and School's Out, fans still gush over the 46-year-old rocker.

"I used to have dreams about you," said 37-year-old James Sheppard of Conception Bay, Nfld., as he got Cooper's autograph.

"Oh," Cooper said with a chuckle, "I didn't have dreams about you."

Cooper's latest album The Last Temptation (his 22nd) was released June 6. But his fans were definately packing more vinyl than cassettes or CDs at HMV. One bought him 10 records to sign.

Another showed him a lizard-type creature tucked inside her leather jacket. ("He's my mascot," she explained. "He's so cute," said Cooper, stroking the animal.)

Monique Nagy, 16, and her twin sister Brigitte of Aurora, led the block-long lineup - they arrived at 8:30 a.m., seven hours ahead of Cooper.

"I could get black," said Monique, her hands trembling as she presented Cooper with a dozen roses.

"That's OK," said Cooper. "I like red ones."

Cooper is charming and funny, not to mention patient.

He spent 90 minutes signing knapsacks, calanders, videotapes, yearbooks ("Carol, I hope we have the same English class next year," he wrote) and even people's backs - between appearances at Much-Music and radio station Q-107.

"I did this 20 years ago and it's exactly the same audience," said Cooper, stretching his skinny black-clad frame out in the limo.

"I don't get it. Sometimes, I guess it's just the fact that the Alice Cooper character is legendary . . . So when I show up, I think people come to see the legend and I think they're surprised when they realize I'm sitting there laughing and joking with them.

"I think they maybe expect me to be some vicious thing in a cage."

Given Cooper's bizarre stage antics over the last 25 years, that's not exactly a big leap.

His over-the-top theatrics included dressing up in drag (with his trademark white makeup and blacked-out eyes), simulated executions (electrocution, hanging and beheading); chopping up baby dolls and wearing a strait-jacket.

But he insists the only thing that used to stun audiences was a thing called "the magic screen," in which Cooper appeared to move between the stage and a movie screen.

The Last Temptation, based on an original story idea by Cooper and comic book writer Neil Gaiman (Sandman), has been released in conjunction with a special three-part comic series by Marvel Comics.

Chris Cornell, lead singer of superhot grunge group Soundgarden, also contributed two songs (one co-written with Cooper.)

But Cooper claims neither the comic book tie-in or Cornell's appearance was a calculated attempt to reach a younger audience. He says that already happened in the film Wayne's World when he appeared as Mike Mayers' and Dana Carvey's object of unworthiness.

In The Last Temptation, a teenage boy tempted by an Alice Cooper-like creature called The Showman, is taking "one day at a time."

It sounds like an Alcoholics Anonymous mantra but Cooper, who was hospitalized for alcoholism in 1978, says he never went into AA and has been booze free for 11 years.

His choice of drink these days appears to be Diet Coke (no caffeine).

On the way to the radio station, Cooper asks the limo driver to pull over at the nearest 7-Eleven for a Big Gulp.

When one doesn't appear on the horizon, he settles for a mini-mart where he wanders around the store shouting "You got any ice?"

A negative response leads him to buy a jumbo bag of ice, plastic cups, Coke and corn chips.

"I refuse to let them beat me," says Cooper.