Words & Music

Originally Published: April 1973

Alice Cooper Reveals Other Self: An Interview

Author: Dino Orlando

Up the steps and through the portal of an impressive three-floor, 40-room mansion (formerly owned by Ann Margaret), in ultra-conservative Greenwich, Connecticut, we entered Alice Cooper's house. Two dogs - a St. Bernard and a beagle - greeted us. Alice's group was rehearsing, with Stephanie Smith (Michael Bruce's pretty lady) prepared dinner for Alice.

Our entourage, in alphabetical order, consisted of Bob Brown of Warner Bros. Records' publicity department; photographer Bob Gruen; Dino Orlando, fashion consultant; Ashley Pandel, who does Alice's publicity; publisher/editor Pauline Rivelli, and Bob Weiner, Contributing Editor.

A tall, slim, handsome, long haired gentleman in a beautifully tailored white flannel suit and butterfly bow tie said, "Hi, I'm Alice Cooper." No bizarre makeup, no satanic smiles, no wild attire, just a dashing young man in a white suit and tie.

Upstairs, in Alice's private quarters where this interview took place, was Yvonne, the boa constrictor. Kochina, Yvonne's predecessor, was lost in a toilet in Phoenix, Arizona, where Alice has yet another house. In a glass cage atop a heater, Yvonne writhed lazily. We were invited to "play" with her, if anyone cared. All declined.

Dino: Alice, do you know you're doing a tremendous amount for the fashion industry.

Alice: On what level?

Dino: Well makeup is fashion. And you've done a lot for makeup.

Alice: I think if you need makeup, you should use it. But I don't try to look pretty in makeup.

Dino: Why isn't your makeup pretty?

Alice: I don't think it should be. I'd rather look like a villain than a hero. I believe in characteristic faces more than pretty faces.

Dino: But you do it onstage more than any other time. Therefore, it's really stage makeup.

Alice: Not really. This is the first time I haven't worn makeup in days. I'm never completely without it. I like whorey looking makeup.

Dino: But it's just makeup. You put it on the way you feel - like painting a mood.

Alice: Yeah. Usually I just take some mascara and rub it in.

Dino: As for your stage makeup, is there a reason for doing a certain kind of makeup at one time or another? For instance, you went from the big eyes with false lashes to bit black eyes with no lashes. Was there a reason for that?

Alice: Yeah. I thought that with a few strokes I could look like a washed-up carnival... a carnival that had closed down for years and was rotting away, and I looked like a clown. Only it's black makeup instead of red. And that makes a whole lot of difference.

Dino: The makeup of clowns expresses the feeling of what they are doing. Since yours is circus makeup, more or less would you use it as a prop in putting forward what you're trying to say in music?

Alice: Oh, yeah, I overdo it. I'm an exaggerator. I like to exaggerate on everything.

Dino: At that particular moment, does it connect with your music?

Alice: More or less. Our music is a black humor type of thing anyway. So, in black humor you think of a very sick clown. That makes sense, see? Our music... dead babies can't take care of themselves... this works and that works, and you don't use elegant makeup on those points. It should be handsome and diabolical, but at the same time, elegantly ragged. I like torn things; that always looks good. And that's the Alice onstage. Now offstage, Alice comes out. I refer to Alice as a different person actually. I'm really Fred MacMurray offstage.

Dino: Why do you say Alice is not a person?

Alice: You see, I have to use Alice as Mr. Hyde. I'm really a gentle person. Ozzie Nelson and Fred MacMurray are who I am offstage. But when you step on that stage, it's immediately electric. It starts getting a little more distorted and then all of a sudden you feel the power - the fact that you're going to be entertaining 20,000 people and you can make them thing something. You don't have to, but if you know how to do it with your face, you can take the audience and just grab them and say 'alright.' I go through more or less a ritual as far as knowing how much to drink before I go on. I used to drink a lot - a lot of whiskey. Now it's to the point where a half hour before I go on, I know exactly how much whiskey to drink and exactly what brand to put me in exactly the right place to entertain. I perform probably for myself more than for the audience. If I do something really good, I have to do it again.

Dino: Does the makeup change from show to show?

Alice: From show to show... The first show, Love It To Death, was the one with the spider makeup. That was the one that sort of introduced the idea of the makeup - the tarantula-type makeup. And this one [referring to his tour starting in March], I don't even know what this one is going to be. This whole show is going to be developed into three stages: white, black, and red. It's going to be very positive at the beginning; the middle of it is going to be dangerous, I think; and the end, the red stage, is going to be totally sex orientated.

Dino: Are you going to change your makeup for all three stages?

Alice: Yes, it'll be changed on all three. But the audience won't know. You see, the audience will be seeing this white section and it will make them think really positively. Then, all of a sudden, it goes into a thing where I have to go back, change, and get evil.

Dino: Have you always done this makeup thing?

Alice: Oh yeah, we've done makeup from the very beginning... 1964.

Dino: Do you believe in this more now?

Alice: Yes. It works. I had a motorcycle guy come up to me, a really heavy cat with sunglasses on, you know; and I thought, 'Oh God, this guy's going to kill me, for sure he's going to kill me!' He says, 'Are you Cooper?' And I said, 'Yeah.' He takes his sunglasses off and he's got the most beautiful, elaborate makeup on and he says, 'Nobody's gonna bug you tonight, I'm taking care of you.'

Dino: Evidently you've created a fad.

Alice: Well motorcycle gangs pick up things like that easily.

Dino: I think it has commercial value. Has anybody approached you for makeup tips?

Alice: Yes, and that's because things are getting closer and closer to Sodom and Gomorrah!

Dino: That's psychologically not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about commercial makeup tips.

Alice: I'm always very psychological. I look at commercial things as being psychological too. I think that by using psychology you can make something commercial.

Dino: Well, it's called market research in business. But you're an artist and, therefore, know those things by intuition.

Alice: Yeah. I'm into that. It's a game for me. I just want to see if this will work, if that will happen. There has ben an influx of people buying boa constrictors as pets. I like the idea of influencing a lot of people. And it's always like 13 and 14 year old boys. Younger kids are getting so much smarter. The kids now are becoming more sexually aware at 14, so they are going to be relating more to makeup and everything else.

Dino: It's not only because of that. I think it's a generally wider acceptance of things.

Alice: It's that too. But I think kids are getting sexier earlier, and that has a lot to do with how they're going to react to me. If a kid goes to school at 14 with a little eye makeup on to look cool, he says, 'Well, Alice does it.'

Dino: Has anybody approached you commercially for lines of makeup?

Alice: No. I want to create my own company. I think it would be a great idea. Just dealing in men's makeup though.

Dino: But some products right now are more or less for everybody - the men's lines are used by women as well.

Alice: I am talking about on a commercial level. Like Mickey Mantle with Brut. You can take that one step further - get a guy like Mark Spitz selling bathing suits.

Dino: What else would you like to endorse?

Alice: A cosmetic company... a beer company... on a whole different level.

Dino: Budweiser would furnish your beer free as you only drink Bud.

Alice: They should. We're working on that right now. They may be sponsoring the tour. We may have a chartered plane painted like a Budweiser can. We have our own jet, but can't you just imagine this enormous Budweiser can landing? I'd like that.

We figured we spend about $37,000 on beer a year, just on beer for our concerts, because we insist on four or five cases of beer at a concert. Just for Europe I figured it cost $6,000 because we had to air freight it in from America.

Dino: And about makeup. We've decided that it's going to be commercial and it's going to be for me. But what about the drabness and the scariness of it? Can you expect men to repeat your designs when they put the makeup on?

Alice: I think so. It will be more like designing the eye for somebody else. When I was in London last, at one of our concerts all the girls had their eyes made up exactly like mine, and their mouths too. I'd open the curtain and look down and there'd be 30 or 40 girls all made up exactly like me. It was so weird, you know! I've got photographs of it to make sure I got this picture. One day some others others surrounded our car. I was climbing the wall! And they think I'm sick.

Dino: See what a translation from stage to people does? How a relation of one to many stands?

Alice: Well it's still more or less letting people play.

Dino: Let's say it's giving them the awareness of what you can do with makeup.

Alice: Theatre makeup - because all these kids were doing the same thing. They were all around the limousine; I had the doors locked; they were crazy. And they were all growling - sort of a tribute to me. And I'm sitting there and they're all going gr-r-r-r-r. I was scared. I would not go out there. But it was a nice little piece of theatre they created.

Dino: But then it could get to the dangerous level.

Alice: Well, I don't think anybody's going to come after me. I've never suggested guns or anything like that because I'm afraid that someone will think that'll get them in the history books. We've caught people in the audience with things. We caught these two guys with lead pipes in their pockets, they were on every drug you could think of, and they were right at the front of the stage. They were saying 'you,' and I was being Alice then, right, and I said 'Okay, anytime. Come here, come on.' And they were just ready to go and finally somebody came up and grabbed them, and they took these two lead pipes out of their pockets; and they were just two heavy cats. I said, 'Ya-ya-ya.' I was just such an asshole on stage, I was just such a bastard. But I was really being stupid because they probably would have killed me or something.

Dino: You were playing the Jimmy Cagney role.

Alice: Yeah, the tough guy, and I believed it at the time. I actually believed that I could have taken them. And I probably would have been killed.

Dino: But at the moment you weren't frightened.

Alice: At the moment I couldn't have cared less because, well, I had a switchblade in one leg and a sword over here and my road manager had a pipe. What were they going to do? In fact, one girl jumped onstage one night and we did an Apache dance. One of Warhol's people. She was really built. Anyway, she jumped onstage and came running at me and it was just like she had planned it. I don't like anybody on my stage; and when I'm on stage, that's my stage. She came running at me and I grabbed her by the hand, flipped her, and she fell on her back, like this [re-enacts scene]. And she went da-da-da-dum-dum, and she played it that way. Then she same across again and I grabbed her and just tripped her. She got so mad she just burst open her blouse. Then they took her off the stage and she was really dramatic - going like this [pant, pant]. It was so great, I wish we could do that now. I had to look as if we planned it, but it just happened out of nowhere. I like that Hellzapoppin' thing.

Dino: Do you think your makeup has cosmetic uses - cosmetic meaning correcting: making you more attractive, since you never use makeup to make yourself more attractive onstage?

Alice: No, no really. And right now I don't think it's necessary because I think it's coming to the point where people are using makeup on a Clockwork Orange level. You can do you mouth, and instead of doing it straight, make it look down or make your cheeks look hollow...

Dino: Well this is part of the '70s. I think this is why you're so contemporary. There's a bit of violence everywhere and I think it's very exciting; it's the essence of the era. I think some people who are considered pretty are not pretty at all. To me, David Bowie is very violent. I don't think he's pretty and he's also very 1970s.

Alice: I've seen pictures where he's looked great and some where he's really looked more distorted than I. He's on a Clockwork Orange level too.

Dino: Do you find violence being very now, more than any other time, more than the '60s?

Alice: For sure. Because you have to look at what works.

Dino: At one time it was all peace, love and flowers.

Alice: I never believed in that. I thought that it was boring. Ecology, I hate that stuff. I couldn't care less about it, you know. I think that if I ever had a breath of fresh air I'd probably die because I'm so used to living on smog. I don't like the country; I don't like ecology; I don't like anything like that. I had to move from here because there were just too many tree and things around here and it was driving me crazy. Birds singing. [Alice recently moved to a new duplex penthouse on New York's upper east side, where his only view is rooftops.]

Dino: During that time, how do you remember you fans? Was there violence in the audience?

Alice: At the beginning you mean? Yes, but not as much. You see we were always involved in a violent audience because we tried to make the audience as tense as it could be. We made them tense so that their arms were tight and they were gritting their teeth a little bit. We'd always take it a little bit beyond what they wanted.

Dino: You act is very violent and your fans are mostly very young. Do you think there are reasons why these kind of feelings are easier to arouse in very young people? Why do they like you in spite of your violence?

Alice: I think people are looking more for anti-heroes than heroes. The kids are. When I was 16 years old my parents were just used to the Beatles. Then the Rolling Stones came on - T-shirts, ragged T-shirts - and my mother said, 'I can't believe it, I just can't believe it. You can look like the Beatles, but if you ever look like that, I'm going to throw you out of the house.' I went immediately. I was rebelling against that age bracket. All my life they told me what to do, but at 16 I thought I was old enough. I didn't hate them, I just wanted to destroy their whole thing.

Dino: Today you represent a rebellion for the kids, so you should be happy. They put Alice Cooper on the stereo and that's their rebellion.

Alice: That's right. We've had letters that said: 'My mom let me keep every album except yours,' or 'My mom likes me, she really likes everything, and she's groovy, but she made me take your poster down off the wall.' And there's really nothing bad about our posters except for the fact that they are afraid that their kids are going to be perverted too early. They're going to be perverted anyway, just from living in this time, and mostly by their parents. When I was a kid, if you got away with drinking a beer or smoking a joint, that was really cool.

Dino: You know, it's funny how they say, 'Isn't he horrible looking!'

Alice: Yeah, I'm really good-looking. I don't really go out of my way to look ugly. I just try and make myself look more characteristic, so when people go home and try to think of this one face, immediately it's Alice Cooper. Nobody looked like Spencer Tracy, and nobody looked like Jimmy Stewart, and nobody acted like them. They had such unique qualities about them. I would hate to look like somebody else.

Dino: What about your clothes now. You wear women's and men's clothes?

Alice: Mix and match.

Dino: That's where I lose you.

Alice: Raggedy blue jeans and $100 Pierre Cardin shorts. I'm a person of opposites. I like opposites.

Dino: Do you choose men's and women's clothes just like that?

Alice: I'm really impulsive.

Dino: Do you go into a women's boutique and buy something you like?

Alice: If I don't see something in the window, I never go into a store. If there's something in the window I like, then I'll go and buy it. For the new show I've got great things - I've got a pair of red vinyl pants with a lightning bolt on one side and flames coming up the other side in yellow, and this great motorcycle belt. It really looks tough. Did you ever see Baby Doll?

Dino: Yes. They're playing it again.

Alice: With Carol Baker. She has this real dirty slip and she was always getting raped by everybody... and there's nothing sexier than a dirty slip, and she was always barefooted. I love that. So I got this red one, that's cut off right about here [indicating waist-high] so it seems ragged. It doesn't look it, but you got this Barbarella thing against this whole Carol Baker thing and it looks great, with red tights, it's really Tennessee Williams.

Dino: Are you going to create an image in clothes as well?

Alice: I would probably put out real ragged things. Very garbage-looking clothes; expensive clothes, expensive material. Make something that really fits and just start tearing at it to make sure that it hung. As long as it's nice and tight and ragged. I guess it's the fact that I think we're going to get blown up some day. When the bomb hits, everyone, no matter what they live on, is going to be ragged.

I think the things that I wear are more of a prophecy on the level of what I was just talking about. I just have this thing about people blowing up, just walking down the street and blowing up.

Dino: Would you wear women's clothes onstage?

Alice: I wore a cheerleader's top one time, on the front of the first album. Only I made it into a vest. It was real tight when I put it on so I just split it down the front and it just hung open, and this glitter was falling off of it, and there were threads hanging down.

Dino: You know with makeup and women's clothes one thinks about drag.

Alice: You know that's going to be dead after a while. Drag's going to be one of the most popular pastimes soon.

Dino: You never did that?

Alice: No I never went in drag once. I was said to have gone a million times but I never did. I doubt if a lot of people who you think would be in drag are.

Dino: It seems to be a very contemporary pastime, however.

Alice: When I was in London, Danny LaRue performed for the Queen. I watched the TV show and he was the master of ceremonies, and everytime he came out after an act he would be in a different drag. He'd be Carol Channing, Paulette Goddard, and do it very well. And he's considered one of the highest paid performers in England.

Dino: No, but the thing about drag today seems to be a mixture between man and women. I am thinking about some sort of drag-rock act.

Alice: Glamour-rock, you're trying to say. Nobody's really a drag-rock act. It's glamour-rock. The stars have been born again now, see; you're finding more and more people are becoming stars because they are working at becoming stars. It's not just where you go up and play a guitar on stage and someone says the guy's great. If he has no glamour, it he has no class, if you saw him on the street, you'd probably say, 'Hey, want to have a cup of coffee.' You would never do that with Lana Turner. You would never do that with any of these great stars because they've made themselves stars. But now you're finding it's happening again. Stars are creating... Bette Midler is a star. The first time I saw her I had never heard her sing or anything. Then I saw her onstage and she was a star. And she is now.

Dino: Are you glamorous? Are you a star?

Alice: I think if you assume yourself to be a star, then you are a star.

Dino: How do you compare yourself to movie stars - glamorous movie stars?

Alice: Well, they're glamorous today.

Dino: They also don't think in terms of glamour. Paul Newman is not glamorous.

Alice: He's not glamorous, but he's an enormous star.

Dino: That's not what I'm questioning. I think you create glamour.

Alice: Well, if you create an image, you can create glamour. I think I create an image. Bela Lugosi was glamorous, because there was only one Bela Lugosi. There was nobody even near him. He was no competition. He was a star because he was unique. That's what make you a star. You have to be a very arrogant person to be a star. You don't have to be that in with people. But when you're in the general public, you have to be arrogant I think.

Dino: Do you think one is compelled to use psychological props today? Like suddenly David Bowie's bisexual.

Alice: I dont' think suddenly he was bisexual. I think, and this is just my idea, the whole generation changed and the landslide happened. The whole sexual thing came to a head and everybody finally... is coming out of the closet.

Dino: Is it important for a performer to bill himself as bisexual.

Alice: Well does he?

Dino: Yes he does.

Alice: Wow, I didn't know that. Well I don't follow the rock business that closely.

Dino: Some of the photographs may suggest that you're bisexual, homosexual, or anything.

Alice: Yeah, well, I don't mind looking that way at all. I don't like creating the mystique.

Dino: Therefore you won't answer my next question.

Alice: I already know what it is.

Dino: Then, are you bisexual.

Alice: No, everybody is.

At this point, somebody walked in carrying a black jacket with large furry spots all over it. We all took a better look and realized the furry things were RATS: nine stuffed white rats ornamented on the black quilted jacket with red sequins placed where their eye used to be.