Circus

Circus - 15th May 1977

Circus
(May 12, 1977)

Originally Published: May 12, 1977

The Transformation Of Alice

Author: Salley Rayl

"You know I lie all the way through these things doncha?" Alice Cooper asks as he walks up to his silver and green Rolls Royce outside his Benedict Canyon home. In bright, sunny California blue and yellow, the license plate read: A CLUE. "Yeah?" I said. "So do I"

For Alice, 'Killer' (WB) seemed to be the start of an endless trip to the world of always-always land. And so far he's - among other things -welcomed the world to his nightmare and gone to hell. Now, he's going to the movies. Today it's to Robert Altman's office to view the edited portions of the promotional film of the new Alice Cooper single " You And Me," another ballad-type song in the vein of "Only Women" and " I Only Cry." Later, he'll be on the set of Altman's latest venture, 'Breakfast Of Champions' (from the Kurt Vonnegut book of the same name). And the time in between he'll be performing the latest Cooper stage surprise on the road, which follows the release of 'Lace And Whiskey' (WB), his eleventh album.

"It's a conception package," Alice says of 'Lace And Whiskey', "that has nothing really to do with the music. The whole concept is in the packaging of this one - a sort of ' Farewell My Lovely' type of look."

The essentially musically themeless 'Lace And Whiskey' is a different approach for Alice, whose last several albums have focused on a conceptualization of songs. "'Lace And Whiskey' sounds like one of those novels ," he says, "like 'Die, Die My Darling.' You know - those detective novels. But that's the whole thing. I play a detective in it. I'm gonna introduce Inspector Maurice Escargot to the public."

And with Maurice Escargot, the black makeup, black tights, spiders, chopped-up babies and guillotines give way to a light brown suit and hat, circa late '40's. As the Coop sees it, "It's just another character. You write the music," he explains, "and all of a sudden you say 'Who do I have doing this song?' And a character is always a sort of whim in your mind anyway - somebody that you kind of want to be. Like I kinda want to be Alice all the time, 'cause he's really aggressive and a sex symbol type. And the thing with Maurice is that he's a real Clouseau character. And that," Alice says, "has always been somebody I've wanted to be kind of."

'Lace And Whiskey' is just like a new movie for Alice. There's never any question of whether the new album or the new stage show will be progressions of the previous or, in terms of quality, whether they'll surpass earlier efforts.

"I don't go for the 'This one's better than this one' or 'This one's better than that one.' I just go for the fact that it's gonna be different than the last one. Quality-wise, the music I've been writing has been much better as far as I'm concerned. I've just been writing better lately. With more flow. More flow," he laughs, "and less Eddie."

But just because Alice Cooper on stage will transform into Inspector Maurice Escargot doesn't mean that the Alice we've all come to know will become completely latent.

"This show's really gonna be different, 'cause I'm gonna do the whole show in three parts. I'm gonna do an oldies part . Then I'm gonna do a Hell part. Then a Lace And Whiskey part. And, it's gonna be straight through."

Alice started his 1977 tour in March in Australia and New Zealand with the American attack scheduled this summer. Coop just finished filming 'Sextette' with Mae West - and Ringo and Keith Moon.

"I played a singing waiter." He laughs. "I can remember the place and everything. Open the champagne." Alice pops an imaginary bottle. "And go into a song"

Acting, outside the realm of theatre-rock, is definately part of the Cooper future plan.

"Every actor seems to have started on the stage somewhere - either stage acting or singing or some other affiliation with show business. It's like a natural thing to go into acting from rock and roll. It's just like a natural thing for Alice Cooper to be an actor I think."

The self-training in acting goes back a long way for Alice.

"I've had 14 years of trying to convince people we were a good band. Even in interviews it took a lot of acting. So, when it came to on stage, it was no problem at all."

And, 20 years from now, Alice may be directing films or stage musicals.

"More than acting, I love directing. I love to get the idea and then put it to work and then watch it work on stage. People have certain knacks and I know that I can direct a film or I know that I can direct a stage show for sure, 'cause I've done that - I'm doing that now."

Coop will be on the 'Breakfast Of Champions' set sometime this year, though an actual date for filming has yet to be set.

"Whenever they put it together," he says. "I told 'em I would cancel everything when it came to do that movie, 'cause I want to do that movie so bad. I read the book five times, 'cause I loved it so much."

After a year off ("I said to myself, 'Give me a rest.'") and solving an identity problem with Alice, Coop is ready to go.

"I used to have a real crisis with Alice," he says. "Because I thought I had to be Alice off stage, too. I was drinking two bottles of whiskey a day. It was so dumb. When Jim Morrison (The Doors) died, I realized that he was one that was playing his character off stage, too. And it killed him. He was so damn reckless with his body and I just realized after that, 'Hey, listen, you get paid to bring Alice on stage and let him work and then after that you don't have to be that character'."

And, the rampage of terror continues.

"That's what I was designed to do," Coop says. "At least with a new concept on every album, I don't get stuck in one place. Probably the worst thing in the world would be to be mundane. The albums have gotta always have that Cooper surprise. That's the only thing that keeps me not bored."

The show-biz - the entertainment - of it all is really important Coop.

"The whole phoniness and sincerity about show business. It's like a habit now and I can't get away from it." His elaborately expensive stage sets are evidence of that. "That's what you're in the business for. It's show business and that's the whole idea behind it - to entertain."

And, if you ask Alice, rock groups of the future that don't put on a visual show, aren't going to make it.

"You've got a whole stage up there and you're supposed to fill it up with visual and audio. The bands now that aren't doing a visual number are really ripping the people off for 50 percent of the show. And, it's the ones that can't that say it shouldn't be done. They just don't know a damn thing about the stage. Why waste a stage?"

There's always a strategy, be it contrived or not, to everything that works and for Alice Cooper that strategy is simply to keep it interesting.

"As long as you keep it interesting," he reasons, "they can't get tired of it. Once I get on stage and the audience doesn't react then I know I'm doing something wrong. But, I've never really tasted that. As long as I keep the mystique about Alice Cooper - it always works."

Reflecting on parts of that interesting mystique that have come back to haunt him in the form of exaggerated stories of his on-stage violence, Coop says:

"It was great. People were inventing rumors about Alice Cooper and I didn't sit back and deny any of them. It was to our advantage really."

It kept Alice Cooper in the media and Coop just sat back and laughed at it all.

"By the time they got five mouths away they were ridiculous stories. I read once in this newspaper that I filled up a weather balloon with earthworms and helium and sent it out over the audience and then took a beebee gun and shot the thing so that everybody was covered with earthworms. That was in a Shreveport, Louisiana paper. And, I hadn't even been to Louisiana."

Coop is well aware of his reputation for getting 'bad press' like that, and his bad-influence image among parents. "But, the kids are so much smarter than their parents. And the reason is they don't take Alice Cooper seriously. It'd be like taking Captain Hook seriously. That's what Alice is - rock's Captain Hook. The kids come and laugh. They're being entertained. Besides," he chuckles, "bringing home Alice Cooper albums is sort of an excuse to bother their parents. Sort of. And the parents - I could care less. They're not coming to see my concerts. If they come, they'll be entertained, but I don't cater to them."

"We started in 1964 - 13 years ago - and we were doin' the makeup thing then. We were ahead of our time and we sorta warped out. For like six or seven years, we were totally hated. Even other bands hated us. We lived in a world of our own."

In Phoenix as Vince Furnier, Alice recalls:

"I went to high school with The Tubes. They were a surf band and we were a Beatles/Rolling Stones band. Isn't it funny that The Tubes and Alice Cooper came out of Phoenix from the same high school?"

And isn't it funny that one of, if not the, most socially and politically conservative state in America would produce two of rock's most bizarre stage acts?

"It must be the water," Coop says laughing. "But, really, things like that amaze me. I think about what I was doing 10, 15 years ago and it's so startling to see what happened and how I got to this point. Then I 0.say "What the hell am I doing here'?"