Herald Sun

Herald Sun - August 7th, 1994

Herald Sun
(August 07, 1994)

Originally Published: August 07, 1994

A Clown Like Alice

Author: Christie Eliezer

A five-minute cameo in the movie Wayne's World brought Alice Cooper to a whole new generation of fans. Scarcely a day goes by without someone flinging themselves at his feet and chanting "We are not worthy, we are not worthy!" as did the stars of the movie.

When English comic book writer and novelist Neil Gaiman flew to the US to collaborate on The Last Temptation, Cooper's current project, Wayne's World had not been released in Britain. But it had taken America by storm, particularly in Cooper's home town of Phoenix, Arizona.

Cooper and Gaiman met in a hotel lobby. As they were chatting, two fans fell to his feet. "We are not worthy, we are not worthy!"

Gaiman blinked but said nothing. Ten minutes late, as they entered a restaurant, three more fans rushed up and went through the process.

"My god, does this happen to you all the time?" gasped Gaiman, who's a cult hero in Australia for his monthly Sandman comic.

"Oh yeah, man, it happens all the time," Alice explained as casually as he could.

"Of course, they're not worthy. They're my subjects."

It would be a day or two before the penny dropped for Gaiman.

"But right until then, he really believed I was some kind of rock royalty," Cooper chuckles, speaking in his Melbourne hotel room.

"When my record company asked Neil to work with one of their acts, he thought it was either Michael Jackson or Mariah Carey.

"He jumped at the chance of working with Alice Cooper because he always liked him as a character.

"But as for the fallout from Wayne's World... a lot of young kids got excited about this new band called Alice Cooper. They were a bit surprised when they realized that 23 albums had come before.

In 1973, Alice Cooper made $17 million, became the biggest act in showbiz since the Beatles and had his own jet as he drove the stake through flower power.

He was without a doubt the most evil of rock stars. His act included decapitating dolls, singing about mass murder and waving around a boa constrictor. Calls to have him banned resounded around the world.

When he appeared at the Woodstock festival, organisers warned the audience in case anyone on LSD freaked out, thinking they were on a bad trip when watching him.

Unlike other relics from that era on the comeback trail, Alice Cooper will never face the prospect of looking old or out-dated. Being a character, he - like Mickey Mouse or Fred Flintstone or Spiderman - will always remain young.

But rather than coasting on past glories as a pale parody, Alice Cooper has made himself relevant by playing the X-Generation at its own game.

The Last Temptation comes with a comic book and a computer game. Alice argues that he has always liked to give his fans gifts with his records, like the panties accompanying School's Out and the billion dollar bill with Billion Dollar Babies.

But this last move creates an instant bonding with a generation more excited by Nintendo and comics than rock and roll.

The songs are held together by Gaiman's tale of a gang of jaded boys in a Midwestern town who think they've done and seen everything there is until they stumble upon an old vaudeville theatre.

Steven, the innocent child who first emerged on the Welcome To My Nightmare album, now battles Showman, the evil side of Cooper's persona.

"In Welcome To My Nightmare, Steven confronted all the imaginary monsters under his bed and in his closet," explained Cooper.

"Now he faces monsters that are more scary - needles, guns, gangs, AIDS. I've never seen such temptations and consequences as I see today. You can get blown away into eternity just for wearing the wrong kind of shoes.

"Reality is far more scary than fiction.

"Showman is the face of all these temptations. Steven, comes in as a victim, but he becomes the hero purely by the act of saying 'I want to live!'

"To many Generation X-ers, it's a case of 'so I die, so big deal'. I cannot consider that life is that cheap. If I can somehow use this record to combat an idea like that, then I will."

Last Temptation, of course, will strike a chord in a generation still trying to come to terms with how Nirvana's Kurt Cobain, one of its most brilliant spokesmen and whose songs soundtracked their lives, ended up killing himself.

"I cannot image how deep his depression much have been," says Cooper. "We all get depressed. But I guess depression coming off heroin can sink you low.

"I went into a depression coming off alcohol, but I never once thought about dying. I was sad at his death because he was such a good write. He had a lot of humor. he made himself the brunt of his jokes and a lot of guys can't pull that off successfully."

Possibly Vince Damon Furnier (Cooper's real name) survived simply because he could hid behind the character.

It wasn't always that way. In the mid-70s, trying to be this monster every day became such a battle that he ended up an alcoholic.

"I probably did hate Alice for a time," he recalls. "A psychiatrist at my last detox told me that I was trying to kill Alice at each show; that every time I hung him or electrocuted him, I was was trying to destroy this Frankenstein thing that I'd created."

These days, Furnier, 46, learns to stop being Alice when he walks off the stage. He goes back to being the father of two children (Calico and Dashielle) who plays golf, attends church and PTA meetings and has 25 TV sets at home, which are on 24 hours a day.

He admits he hates routine with a passion. But he's work-orientated, particularly when it's doing what he does best - shameless self-promotion.

I wonder how Alice would react if he met Hannibal Lecter and Nicholson's Joker. Would he be competitive or treat them as kindred souls?

"Well, they're all characters with no soul, so I think they'd get on. The three have something in common - they're never to be trusted. Alice has got that nasty streak a ob ut him where he'll turn on you.

"That's why I like him - when he's friendliest is when he'll stab you. I might like Alice, but I have no desire to be like him. I didn't like facing audience so I created him to stand behind. At the time, rock was full of heroes, so he need to be a villain."

(Originally published in the Look Hear supplement of Australia's Herald Sun, August 7th, 1994)