Alice Cooper Is Mr. Nice Guy Offstage


August 22, 2008

Danette Dooley of The Telegram reports that anyone who’s ever seen Alice Cooper perform live will be expecting snakes, spiders, straitjackets, skulls and a truckload of other props when the “legend of shock rock” brings his Psycho Drama Tour to Mile One Centre in St. John’s Oct. 21, and Corner Brook the following day.

According to Cooper, they won’t leave disappointed.

“I always come with a show – that’s what I’ve done for 40 years and I’m never going to change that,” Cooper says during a recent telephone interview.

The show will include 28 hits, including “Billion Dollar Babies,” “Welcome to My Nightmare,” “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” “I’m 18,” and “School’s Out.”

When asked how, at age 60, he manages to perform “I’m 18” as if he really was, Cooper says, “It’s been the only job I’ve ever had in my whole life.”

And, he adds, he’s in better shape today than he was decades ago.

“At 30 I was a mess. At 60, I feel really good.”

At any rate, it’s the character, Alice, who performs and not the man born Vincent Furnier on Feb. 4, 1948 in Detroit, Mich.

And Alice is ageless.

“I don’t know how old Alice is but when Alice is doing ’18,’ he’s 18. When Alice is doing ‘School’s Out,’ he’s probably 12.”

Role playing

Playing the villain is a role Cooper’s in no hurry to relinquish.

He’d hate to play the hero, he says, and he leaves that job to singers like Bryan Adams, Bruce Springsteen and Sting.

“It’s not in my nature to be the hero, where it’s totally in my nature to be the guy that shows up and makes the audience go oooowwww,” he says, horror lacing his last word.

It’s an image Cooper relishes.

“I always used to say if the Rolling Stones were The London Times, then Alice Cooper was The National Examiner,” he says.

Would you rather read a story with the headline “President cuts taxes,” or “Boy born with dog’s head,” he asks.

“You know which way I’m going on that. We are the sideshow and we don’t mind being the sideshow. It’s all based on sensationalism. And I think that’s what rock ‘n’ roll should be.”

And it’s a sideshow that is not fuelled by alcohol. Cooper says one of the reason he’s in better shape today than when he was younger is because he hasn’t had a drink in over 25 years.

Coming clean wasn’t really a choice, he says.

“I kind of floated through the alcoholism not knowing that I was becoming an alcoholic. … I didn’t even know you could be an alcoholic with beer,” he says.

“You get up in the morning and you’re in a band. You’re 18 or 19 or 20 years old. You get up and play and you have a beer. You get to rehearsal and you have another couple of beers, and pretty soon beer is almost like a Coca-Cola. You’re on this golden buzz all the time and you don’t realize that it’s chipping away at your insides.”

Cooper says “in his worst alcoholic haze,” he never drank on stage.

“Out of the 24 hours in a day, the two hours that I didn’t drink was onstage. That was the part of my life that was in control. I never missed a line, I never stumbled, I never missed a show.”

Character shift

Alice is even stronger now that he’s stopped drinking, Cooper says.

“In the early days, Alice was more of a victim than a villain. When I got sober, I decided, well now it’s time for Alice to be the dominatrix-type of Captain Hook/Jack the Ripper character.”

Cooper legally changed his name in the early 1970s.

“People called me Alice,” he says simply. “They never called me Vince. ‘Hey Alice,’ ‘hey Alice,’ ‘hey Alice.’ Then Groucho Marx started calling me ‘Coop,'” he says of his late friend.

There are many stories floating around about the name change, including the urban myth about his being driven to change his name when a Ouija Board spelled out Alice Cooper.

“Everybody loved that story. They looked at my picture. They looked at what I looked like, they saw our stage show and they went, ‘Ouija Board.’ In those days, we never denied anything and that’s a better story than the real one.”

Cooper lives in Paradise Valley, Ariz.

His new album, “Along Came a Spider,” was released this summer and he kicked off a world tour July in Europe.

And while Cooper is good at shocking fans, he leaves the horror on stage at the end of the evening.

Family man

He’s been married for more than three decades, has three children and says he’s never cheated on his wife.

“Just sex, sex, sex, sex is not really sexy,” he says.

“Now, before I was with Sheryl, I was with a lot of different girls … But when I finally found the right one, then I certainly wasn’t going to jeopardize that.”

What’s sexy, Cooper says, is working at romance.

“I still spend a lot of time trying to get my wife into bed after 32 years, the same way I did before I even married her. I think that if that romance is ever gone, then the love is gone.”

It’s clear from talking to him that the romance he has with fans is also still alive and well.

“If I leave my house and I go to the mall and somebody wants a picture and an autograph, they deserve it. I never say no,” he says.

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