WA Today

Originally Published: August 07, 2009

An ageless clown like Alice

Author: Bruce Elder

Vincent Damon Furnier may be getting on but his alter ego is ageless, writes Bruce Elder.

THE problem for any artist who creates an alter ego is always: "Who the hell are you?"

In the case of musician Alice Cooper, this is an issue that doesn’t cause a moment’s hesitation or reflection.

His manager is on the phone, politely introducing me to "Alice Cooper" – not Vincent Damon Furnier, who usually plays Alice Cooper on stage.

Then, two minutes into the interview, the chatty person on the other end of the phone starts talking about Alice Cooper as though he is some kind of distant relative, some kind of shock-rock equivalent of Ziggy Stardust, Bob Downe or Dame Edna Everage.

"I don’t know how old Alice is," Furnier/Cooper says. "He’s a character like Batman or The Joker or Darth Vader, who doesn’t really have an age. When I play him, he’s as vital as he ever was. If you have anything physically wrong with you, you can’t play the character. So, at 61, I am in better shape than when I was 30. So I get up there now and do two hours and I feel great."

So where do we go from here? Was it Alice who became famous for playing golf and was it Alice who was such an infamous alcoholic he once fell off the stage in a drunken stupor and used to drink a case of Budweiser every day?

Well, Furnier/Cooper is happy to announce that he is still addicted to golf but no longer to booze. He explains with a certain manic intensity: "I only play every morning. Some guys get up and they run, some guys get up and they work out. I get up and I play my 18 holes. That is how I start my day.

"I quit drinking 28 years ago. When I quit drinking, Budweiser had a huge dip in their profit. Almost went out of business. I think I created a monster with my golf-playing. I mean, Bob Dylan now plays golf, Iggy Pop plays, Lou Reed, of all people, plays. The entire underground, all the guys who should have died in the 1970s, all play golf."

This old, rocking golfer is, amusingly, rather dismissive of the younger generation.

Ask him about the new breed of shock-rockers and he is confident that they are poor pretenders.

"I look at Marilyn Manson and Slipknot and Rob Zombie as my disobedient children," he says. "I will still put my show up against theirs any time.

"One thing we have in our corner, which has always worked, is the fact that a lot of the newer bands don’t have that roster of hit songs.

"Whereas an Alice and an Elton and a Bowie, we’ve got two hours of hit songs apiece."

And, if you were ever doubting the quality of such hits as School’s Out, No More Mr Nice Guy and Only Women Bleed, Cooper has a clear view about the old versus the new. "Some of that rock just doesn’t get old. You listen to My Generation from the Who or Teenage Wasteland [Baba O’Riley, also the Who] and any kid will respond to it. Newer bands are riff-rock oriented without a lot of substance. They are not writing classic songs like they used to."

So what can the audience expect from his new show?

"I’ve got the director of Beauty and the Beast from Broadway, who is helping to produce the show and he is bringing new ideas," he says.

"I love to look at the audience’s faces when something happens they are not expecting."

And the audience? Are they all going to be old codgers dreaming of their youth, with melting, black eye make-up and standing there waiting for the decapitation scene?

Cooper knows his audience and he knows exactly what they want.

"The first 20 rows will be 15 to 25 years old. They know all the songs," he says.

"They want to get the blood on them. They had the eye make-up on.

"The older audiences graduate into the upper seats so they can see the show. The younger audience want to be in the show."

Alice Cooper plays the Palais Theatre on August 27 and 28. Book on 136 100.

(Originally appeared on the WA Today website on August 7th, 2009.)