News Segment


May 7, 2007

Alice Cooper made a career of singing about rebellion, drug abuse and booze. Now, he spends much of his time trying to get kids to avoid those vices.

The 59-year-old Detroit native became a cult hero in the ’70s to millions of disillusioned teens, and scared the hell out of twice as many parents. In a way, he’s revolutionized that label — not for his impressionable lyrics, but for his philanthropic efforts.

In late summer, Cooper and longtime golf buddy Chuck Savale plan to break ground on a $7.3 million teen center on the campus of Grand Canyon University, a private Christian college in west Phoenix.

“The community right around there is economically challenged, a lot of single-parent homes,” said Savale, a youth minister. “It will be a great help for the immediate neighborhoods.”

Phoenix’s social problems among youth are well documented. The city continually ranks low in student achievement and high in teen pregnancy and high school dropout rates.

The 29,000-square-foot Solid Rock Teen Center, planned at 33rd Avenue and Camelback Road, will feature a coffee house; a recording, sound and game room; a computer lab and sports facilities. It also will include a dance area run by Cooper’s wife, Sheryl, owner of Destiny Dance International in Phoenix.

Solid Rock is seeking an additional $3.3 million through a capital campaign to fund the center.

Given the founder’s pedigree, the center will focus on music education and expression — disciplines often cut during school budget crunches.

“Keep the arts in school,” said Cooper, whose biggest hits happen to include “School’s Out.”

He believes music defines generations and is a link among teenagers, whether they hail from Maryvale or North Scottsdale.

“Music is universal. It’s the common denominator between every kid,” he said.

Savale and Cooper met at a parents’ meeting in the late ’80s and quickly struck up a friendship, united by their faith. Cooper, the son of a pastor, has been a Christian for more than 18 years and turned to religion after decades of turning to the bottle.

His touring days were filled with foggy memories, empty whiskey bottles and beer breakfasts.

“It was killing me. My spiritual hunger was missing,” Cooper said during a brief break from a recording session in Los Angeles. “What I needed was a relationship with Christ.”

In 1995, Cooper and Savale founded the Solid Rock Foundation, a nonprofit with the mission statement “to honor Jesus Christ by helping meet the spiritual, economical, physical and social needs of teenagers and children.”

But Cooper promises that when teens come to “the Rock,” “we will not be beating them over the head with the Bible.”

Six years ago, Cooper established “Alice Cooper’s Christmas Pudding,” a night of comedy and music entertainment at the Dodge Theatre. Last year, the event raised $155,000 for Solid Rock.

Since its inception, the organization has donated more than $1.2 million in the U.S., the Navajo Nation and Haiti, and established scholarships for students at Grand Canyon University. Get connected

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