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Cleveland Plain Dealer
(March 16, 1990)
Originally Published: March 16, 1990
Author: Michael Heaton
For two generations now Alice Cooper has been specializing in being parents' worst nightmare, while his rolling circus of rock, blood and guts keeps finding a new and younger audience. Call him what you want, but Cooper, nee Vincent Furnier, is an affable, engaging and easy interview.
Ever looking for the story angle just a bit askew, I wanted to ask him about his golf game. he's a well-known golf maniac with a six handicap.
But first I asked him why he was ever taking the time to do the inteview. His concert at Music Hall sold out in two hours weeks ago. Most rock star weenies, having that information, wouldn't give a local newspaper the time of day, the money having already been made. I was curious about why he bothered.
"Alice is a media event," he said, referring to his alter ego in the third person the way he always has. "When Alice Cooper comes to town it's like the circus, Barnum and Bailey. I've always though of the Alice show as being an extra Halloween. So Alice and the media has always been a good marriage. I'm also especially fond of the Midwest hard rock towns like Cleveland and Detroit have always been here for me over the years."
And it's been a lot of years. Twenty-one to be exact. Back in 1969 Cooper was playing small clubs like Cyrus Erie West near Lorain, and if you think he's weird now, imagine the impact his neoglam-transvestite-horror-hard rock act had upon the public back then. He's experienced quite a bit since that time, including excessive trappings of superstardom and a Budweiser havit that had him sucking down a case a day in 1973. Still moderately in control, Alice kept the train rolling but began to wobble seriously in 1977 when it took a bottle of whiskey as well as the make-up to get him onstage.
As he told RIP magazine, a national heavy metal publication, about those days, "I was a wreck. I was still doing shows every night. I was throwing up blood every day. I just drank whiskey. that was hoe I'd start my morning. I'd make two or three drinks and get ready to go. There I'd be. Fine. Flying."
When the real-life, booze-induced horror began to eclipse the fantasy of his shows early in the '80s, Alice gave the entire trip some much-needed rest adn rehab. Alice at 42 is now older, wiser and sober - but no less outrageous.
"It's been seven years since I stopped drinking. It took about three years to get straight and another one to get in shape, but right now I'm in the best condition of my life. Before, I was onstage doing the boozy Alice number and if I missed a lyric I figured so what, it's all part of the routine. Now I'm a real task-master. I have something to prove. Now I make sure the show is dead on. I try harder and it's actually more fun. I'm in better shape now then I was when I was a kid," he said.
The new and improved Cooper also has a new and improved record deal with Epic. His debut album on that label, "Trash," has sold in the neighborhood of 2 million and is attracting a whole new audience.
"It's amazing for me to see all those new faces out there," said Cooper. "Maybe last night was a phenomenon, I don't know, but in Roanoke, Va., last nigth I'd say the audience was 85% young kids seeing me for the first time. The age range was 14 to 17 and in the first three rows it was mostly girls. The songs they want to hear are from the 'Trash' album. Songs like 'Poison,' which is getting a lot of play on MTV. I mean, they like the hits like 'Eighteen' and 'Under My Wheels' but I get the impression they're hearing them for the first time."
The music on "Trash," like Alice himself, has been updated and revamped to attract the new crop of rockers. All of the songs were co-written with Desmond Child, who has worked with the likes of Bon Jovi, Joan Jett and Aerosmith. Members of Bon Jovi and Aerosmith also play and sing on the album.
While the record is louder and harder than anything you're likely to hear on the radio these days, the songs do have a distinctive power-pop sound that seperates them from the heaviest of heavy metal. Cooper insists that this tour provides more music for the money.
"We do an hour and 45 minutes and the emphasis is more on music than on theatrics. There is a 30-minute nightmare section becuase the kids love it, but basically we're a hard rock garage band like Guns N' Roses or the Stones," he said. "I've got a four-man band - mostly L.A. street rockers whose ages range from 22 to 28. Some day they'll be able to keep up with me. I drive 'em hard."
Despite all this renewed vigot and record sales, Cooper still has to deal with the wrath of parents and groups like the Parents Music Resource Centr who feel the music is potentially harmful to the youth of America. The cries of protest may seem to be a phenomenon new to the '80s and '90s, but for Alice it's the same as it ever was. It's difficult to be a hard rocker in an era where everything from music is sex has to be "safe" for public consumption.
"I would hope it's not safe," said Cooper of is splatter and gore revue. "Once parents approve of me, I'm finished. I have always disavoed Satanism; I woul dnever tell a 15-year-old kid that drugs or suicide are OK. I never have, I never will. But kids today aren't dumb. They know the difference between real violence and watching choreographed violent theatrics that I do. If they want to see real violence all they have to do it turn on the TV news.
"I know this kind of heavy metal thing is the pet peeve of the '90s, but violence in theater, which is basically what I do, has been around forever. English teachers are forever trying to get kids to read 'Romeo and Juliet.' What's that about? Teen suicide. All of Shakespeare is violent. 'Macbeth' is more violent than any of the 'Halloween' movies. If the music has to become 'safe,' who wants it?"
Yes, Mom and Dad, like it or not, there's still a market out there for Alice Cooper. He's gaining ground and picking up steam as he enters middle age. What he's lost in youthful enthusiam and mindless zeal he's gained in ambition and business acument.
"In the early '80s when I was home doing nothing, I was noticing the band that were out there really kicking ass," Cooper said. "The Bon Jovis, the Motley Crues, the Aerosmiths. And I saw a lot in those bands that I had inspired years ago.
"I missed the idea of the stage, of performing. I missed complaining about how much I hated being on tour. I want to compete with the bands that are up on the charts today. And I've got the band that can do it.
"We've got 10 more months to go on this tour and then it's off to Australia and Europe," Cooper said.
So clean, sober and unrepentant about the mayhem his music makes wherever he goes, Alice Cooper carries on unconcerned about what the public thinks about him or his act. Well, almost.
When I asked him if we could talk about his golf game, he declined politely but firmly. "I won't talk about golf on the record," he said. "It's bad for my image."
(Origiinally published in Friday! on March 16th, 1990)