Alice Cooper Interview

Alice Cooper and the Cossacks

The essential part of any great work of art is it’s ability to cause a revelation in the mind of the viewer. Since often this results in the horror of seeing a part of oneself that is not part of one’s self-image, defense mechanisms are activated and the piece of art is called “trash,” “in poor taste,” and “decadent.” Alice Cooper’s stage theatrics and music have been called all this, because they are a great work of art.

Both Cameron and I were excited at the prospects of meeting our very first rock and roll superstar and guzzling potables at record company expense and just generally hobnobbing with the show biz elite of San Diego. The party was alright, but not the bash that we had expected. It seems things are different here than they are up in Hollywood where all of the truly legendary press parties occur.

Right off when we walked into the seventh floor suite overlooking the San Diego Airport and Harbor we could detect a distinct, division between the people at the party. At one side of the room, guzzling the Almadene Pale Dry Champagne, and stuffing cold cuts, break and hors-d’oeuvres into the their pockets like a troop of thirsty cossacks was the underground press, represented by the collective members of the staffs of the OB Rag and the San Diego Door. On the other was the AM Radio Boss Jocks and Program Directors resplendent in suede Buckskin and turquoise. They spent most of their time talking to each other. There was little interaction between the two camps.

Wasting no time, I sat my girl down at a nearby table and went over to get some of the bubbly. There were about forty small bottles of the stuff being opened by a red-haired cocktail waitress whose inch-long false eyelashes and beehive hairdo were a crowning touch to her red, white and blue knit hotpants outfit. It was great. After my first few trips, she handed me a bottle which I took into the corner and polished off. Later, Cameron managed to snag another one for me. It was somewhere during this time that Alice Cooper walked into the room.

The problem with first impressions about Alice Cooper off-stage is that there isn’t that much impression. He stands about five ten on the thin and lanky side, tending towards the soft. His stringy, shoulder-length hair was framing a face crowned by a mammoth beak of a nose. He was wearing a pair of sewn leather pants and a faded green poloshirt that looked like his old lady had boiled it the first time it was washed. Only constant stretching had made it wearable, if a little baggy. In his hand were two twelve-ounce disposable bottles of Budweiser. After buttonholing him when he first came in, I sat back and watched his manager lead him around to the different tables introducing him to the different notables. It was somewhere around this time that things, got a little foggy. I’ll let Cameron who had been drinking Cactus Cooler, tell what happened next.

Well, at this point an oblivious Art, and I walked over to where Alice was sitting. We conversed for over a half-hour about a wide array of different topics. Cooper’s favorite subject of which were the characters of Family Affair and Leave it to Beaver‘s Eddie Haskell.

“I’d give ten thousand dollars,” Alice tossed out, “to sacrifice Buffy and Jody on stage.” Art and I nodded our support. Art, who was still under the relentless influence of the Almadene, mumbled something about playing for the top-forty crowds. “My favorite audience,” Alice replied, “are the ones that I can still shock. I love the teenyboppers.”

Cooper went on to tell Art and me that Laura Nyro was his favorite artist, that Pretties for You he feels was the group’s best effort, and that Schools Out will be the title for their new album.

All the time, the Evening Tribune “rock journalist” was busily jotting down Cooper’s replies to Art and my questions.

About this time, Alice Cooper went to take a nap and I foolishly began conversing with the local top-rated, top-forty disc jockey. Not only did he tell he received a salary last of “22,716.59 not counting the stuff I get under the table” but he volunteered the information on the making of the “Osmond Collage.”

Art then began to pester me to rip him off some more champagne, giving away his rapidly advancing sobriety. So… back you art, Art.

The next thing that I have clear memories about is riding the elevator down to our car. After Alice had left and the Champagne ran out, and after the National-Warners promo man handed out tickets for the concert, we headed downtown. Sitting in front of the open window while we drove down to the Concourse cleared my head somewhat.

It was an average night in Downtown San Diego. What sailors who weren’t at the concert were hanging out around the Pussycat Theater. The Porn shops were open, their cute little signs like “Don’t Squat to Read,” and “Five-Minute Time Limit” adding a little felt-penned color to the otherwise drab shelfs with endless copies of seemingly identical books. My partner and I were standing across the street from the Horton Plaza watching the Salvation Army Band perform. Little Quebie dolls were coming up to me and shoving bible tracks into my hand until I had trouble fitting them into my pocket. A wino came up to me and tried to panhandle a cigarette. I gave him a quarter and told him not to buy cigarettes, but get some gallo port which was much better for his health. He grinned and tipped his hat at me as I walked away. It never ceases to amaze me, this downright gentle courtesy that winos have. If only some of the spare change kids roosting around the door of the Convention Hall could have as much class, they’d find themselves richer in the ways of this world.

Pure Prairie League started their set with some cuts from their really great new LP (RCA LSP-4650_ “You’re Between Me” and my own personal favorite “Tears.” The band’s sound has a lot to share with Poco, setting up with a steel guitarist, two guitarists and a drummer. Definitely an excellent performance.

At this point in the original story, Art describes an amazing carnal encounter. But alas, Mr. Grupe, somewhat taken with the spirit of the event, ventured into territories unacceptable for publication.

Sorry folks.

But I will attempt to discuss Badfinger’s performance in the vacant space. Actually the group proved two things. First, No, they aren’t the Beatles, Second. No, they aren’t the new Beatles. Their set was sloppy, amateurish, and overly loud. Their lead guitarist, Peter Ham, just forced me into a state of regurgitation with his “riffs.” Besides that, they were great. Art?

When the lights dimmed the crowd started stamping their feet for Alice. A voice announced over the P.A. system “And now, the most exciting rock and roll group in the world… Alice Cooper.” The spotlights hit the stage and there is the band, resplendent in sequined capes, pants, and boots. Alice enters stage right, dressed in a leather body stocking.

The antics Alice uses on stage are incredible. He sang “Eighteen,” the band’s first hit single in Chanteuse fashion, ala Marlina Dietrich. I didn’t realize how much television and old movies on TV in particular influenced Alice’s stage act until after the hanging sequence, when he came out from behind the gallows singing, “We’ve got a long way to go . . .” dressed in tails, top coat, and cane. I saw Fred Astaire do that in a movie a long time ago, and Alice had it down pat, complete to soft shoe.

That he would do something like this after the chopped baby and hanging sequence shows a great deal of consideration for the audience. The show could have ended with Alice swinging from the gallows, with the strobe light flashing and recorded thunder like some sort of surreal nightmare, but it didn’t. Understanding his audience as well as he does, he kept up the music, but on a lighter note.

The show finished in a grand climax, with Alice throwing posters and dollar bills to the eager crowd who jumped for them like fish for a baited hook. Hands were grabbing at Alice whenever he would lean out over the people with a handful of posters to the audience and then dangling others one by one over the heads of the people who would jump for them greedily.

Alice was having his effect on the straight members of the crowd as well. The police guarding the foot of the stage stood there the whole evening, arms crossed and grim-faced. I glanced over at the straight couple next to us during “Dead Babies.”

His mouth hung open, a blank look on his face. Her arms were crossed across her breasts and her legs were crossed at the knee as she stared coldly at Alice as he slowly, methodically, chopped the baby doll up and threw the limbs into the audience.

Courtesy of the Door (aka San Diego Door) – Art Grupe and Cameron Crowe –  March 9, 1972  – March 30, 1972