Browse content similar to Alice Cooper. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
In 40 years, Alice Cooper has gone from being a man who respectable
God-fearing Americans wanted to hit with a golf club
to someone who plays golf with the same section of society.
The angry reaction at the start was in response to the stage persona,
the long-haired satanic radical figure who sang anthems of rebellion including School's Out and Elected,
and wrapped snakes around his neck before being executed.
Off-stage, Alice Cooper is a polite, thoughtful, non-drinking man
whose only addiction is golf, but some people are still confused
by the gulf between the rock monster he created
and the man born in Detroit as Vincent Damon Furnier.
I'm interested, with people who become famous under a stage name,
is there anyone to whom you're still Vince?
Yeah. My mom. My mom still calls me Vince.
It's funny cos she still lives with us. My dad passed away, so my mom lives with us.
It's still with her, "Hey, superstar! Take out the garbage!"
I didn't become a star to her until I brought home a picture of me and Frank Sinatra.
When she saw that, she went, "OK. Now you're something!"
To her, that was like the passage.
She'd seen me on TV, but that didn't mean anything until she saw the Sinatra picture!
-Which I understand.
-So on your passport, it is Alice Cooper?
Oh, yeah. Absolutely. I changed my name legally about 1972.
My manager, who's been my manager for 43 years now, Shep,
he said, "We've got to own the name. We've got to make it a brand.
"You need to be Alice Cooper." I said, "OK.
I had to say to my mom and dad, "By the way, I'm Alice Cooper now."
My dad's reading the paper, "Oh, that's nice."
You have this double life, which I know from people who knew I was going to interview you today.
Lots of people, including my teenage children, said, "He's really scary. Be careful."
Yet a very posh London lawyer said, "I played golf with Alice Cooper."
This is your curious double life.
I like the juxtaposition of me and Alice.
I grew up in a Christian home. My dad was a pastor.
My grandfather was an evangelist. My wife's father is a pastor.
I grew up in, not a strict, but a very Christian home.
Then I went as far away as I could.
I was the prodigal son. Came back and became Christian again.
And so, you know...
When I did go out there, I created this Alice character,
because it is so easy to be the villain,
even though my real life is nothing like Alice at all.
It's fun, though, to put on his skin and the make-up,
and become this arrogant Alan Rickman-type of condescending villain!
Because it's nothing like me.
It's probably the same with Anthony Hopkins and Hannibal Lecter.
If you meet the two, you go, "How could you be playing that horrific guy?"
That's the fun of it. I don't take a lot of responsibility for Alice.
I talk about Alice in the third person, you know.
But it's more complicated. Anthony Hopkins has played CS Lewis.
He doesn't go around with people calling him Hannibal.
-LAUGHS I do!
But it is more complicated for people because it's a permanent persona for you.
Yes, I think so, and I think there was a time
when I didn't know when to turn Alice off.
There was that early... When they recognised me as Alice,
I didn't know where the grey area was, where he began and I ended.
That had a lot to do with alcohol. I was the most functional alcoholic.
As soon as I got sober,
I realised there had to be a break between me and Alice.
Because that Alice really didn't want to be married.
He didn't want to play golf, go to the movies, have kids,
do all the stuff that I like to do.
So I said, "Why shouldn't we do that together? You be Alice.
"I'll play you on stage and when the curtain comes down, you're gone
"and I become me again."
Honestly, it's a very good relationship we have together!
In that hour or so before you go on stage,
in the way that an actor gets into character, is it the same thing,
-or can you do it quite easily now?
-Now I do it quite easily.
It used to take me half the day to psych up into being this character.
Now it's at a point where the curtain's down, I'm in the make-up,
I'm talking to my guitar player,
"Hey, we have a 7.30 tee-off time tomorrow. Da-da-da..."
The curtain opens and it's...
And I'm Alice. My posture changes.
My face goes like this. Everything is now Alice.
And you're Captain Hook up there, really hamming it up.
It's nothing like it. You could have a toothache or have pneumonia.
You could have six broken ribs
and nothing's gonna bother you while you've got that adrenaline rush.
# I'm driving in my car now.
# I got you under my wheels
# I got you under my wheels... #
There's a huge amount about this basic question,
whether performers become addicts or addicts become performers.
Rob Lowe the actor, in his recent memoir, he says that he believes
that addicts are attracted to show business
because of the gamble of it.
The fact that you can be on top one minute and down the next. Do you buy into that?
I tell young guys all the time,
"In this business there's very few guys that just keep riding the top."
The Beatles, OK. The Rolling Stones have their roller coaster career.
Michael Jackson had a career that stayed up there.
There's a few people like that.
I say, "If you're not ready to take some defeat,
"if your ego is so fragile that you can't take a slap in the face,
"if you can't lose a few rounds to win the fight, I don't know you're going to survive in this business.
"You're going to get knocked down.
"Your ego's going to get bruised.
"You just have to find a way to fight back up."
There are various theories.
Some people say that stars simply have more money for pills and booze.
-And a lot more time.
-A lot more time.
Other people say it's about recreating off stage the buzz that you get of being on stage.
-Do you have a theory?
-It's just pure decadence.
You're a kid in a candy shop!
You're 21 years old.
You have a hit record that's Number One.
Money is pouring in and there's nobody to say no.
What could go wrong?
Everything, if you don't have somebody there to kind of direct it.
Of course, the first thing we did was we'd go party with Keith Moon
and all these insane rock stars.
Cos we were now one of them.
We were buying Rolls-Royces, doing everything you could decadently do.
Luckily, Shep was watching the money.
"Yeah, go ahead and get that, but, you know, keep a lid on it."
But partied every single night, and we felt it was our job!
It was our job to read in the paper the next day
that Keith Moon and Alice Cooper were caught in a 7-Eleven stealing a candy bar or whatever.
It was in the press, "Well, they're rock stars.
"They're allowed to do that."
There was no such thing as a night that wasn't a party - no such thing,
when somebody says, "He's staying at home tonight."
What? What are you talking about?
How many years are we going to be in this situation? We'd better take advantage of every night.
Reading your book,
four times, we can say you've cheated death.
I'm not a doctor, but if you'd gone on drinking you probably would have died.
He gave me two months. He said, "I'll be really generous with you.
"The way that your internal organs are right now, if you're throwing up blood, you have pancreatitis.
"That means this has shut down, that has shut down. Your liver's probably ready to go.
"I'll give you...a month to two months."
He said, "Now the ball's in your court.
"You could either join your buddies Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix,
"or you can quit and it will all repair itself, but it will take a lot of time."
I think everyone that's still around right now - Lou Reed, Iggy Pop...
-All the guys that are here my age that are still working came to that crossroad also.
Had to decide if they were going to live or die.
The ones that are here decided to live and that was where I was at.
The other side, which is admirable, is that some people who try to get sober,
it's very hard and they fail.
Was it a struggle, and does it remain so?
Well, it was an interesting thing. We talked about...
I talk to atheists all the time. "There is no God. There is no God.
"There's no miracles." And I say, "You're looking at a miracle."
I was the most addicted alcoholic on the planet.
You never saw me without a drink.
My natural thing was to always have it with me.
I was drinking all day, yet I would never miss a show.
I would never blow a line in a movie on television or anything like that.
That was probably my problem.
I never got drunk enough.
I was on that Dean Martin kind of buzz, you know.
And so... To me, there was just no problem with it at all,
but I was buzzed all the time.
The alcohol was my prop of props.
I went in the hospital. I came out. I went right into a bar.
I sat down and ordered a Coca-Cola, waiting for the craving to come.
I said, "I'm going to have to face it. I'm going to face it right now."
Nothing happened. I had my Coca-Cola and I left.
"Boy, this thing's gonna hit me like an avalanche. I'm going to wake up in the night needing a drink."
30 years later, I've never had that craving. I have never had that...
Even in the most pressured situation the thought of having a drink never occured to me.
I really believe God just took it away from me.
Even the doctor said, "You've never been to an AA meeting?" "No."
"You don't have a sponsor?" "No."
"Then your willpower..." I said, "No. I have zero willpower.
"It's just gone. It's like I had cancer one day.
"I don't have cancer the next day."
I said, "It's just that simple."
I can't tell you... I didn't do anything miraculous. It's just gone.
So I have to attribute that to a higher source, you know.
There's that disparaging phrase for people who haven't gone through the programme,
-the white-knuckle drunk clinging on to sobriety, but you're not remotely that.
-Not in the least bit.
I am probably the most stress-free person in the world, you know.
I am more surprised than anybody else.
My doctors would call months later and go, "How are you doing?"
"Fine. Do you want to play golf? Do you want to go to a movie?"
They would shake their heads and go, "I don't believe this.
"You should be having all kinds of reactions."
It was just a medical miracle.
A lot of writers and actors who've got sober,
they panicked the first time they went to the page or the stage sober.
They thought that somehow the talent was connected with the addiction.
Did you feel that?
Oh! I wore a hole in the carpet the day that I played Alice sober.
I decided to go back on tour.
I said, "What if I go out in all this leather and Alice doesn't show up?"
I was truly worried about it.
The music was ready. The band was ready. Everything was ready.
The only thing I could do was just stand up and just be angry.
And this new Alice was born, this really arrogant...
The only way I could approach it was to be vicious,
to treat the audience like I was a dominatrix and they were my trick.
That's how it felt, too.
I realised that the audience loved that. Alice never said thank you.
Alice just kind of went...
I really enjoyed playing it like that.
So I said, "Good. I have a new Alice to play."
# No more Mr Nice Guy!
# No more Mr Clean
# No more Mr Nice Guy They said I'm sick, I'm obscene... #
The other thing is whether there is such a thing as an addictive personality.
There's a running gag through your autobiography
that golf has become the replacement addiction.
It's almost that you have to have as much golf as possible, and the best.
I am the most addictive personality there is.
When I was a drinker, I always had a drink in my hand.
If I watch television... I had 28 televisions in my house!
I still have a lot of televisions,
but you learn to be addicted to the right things.
I've been married 35 years.
I've never cheated on my wife.
The things that I love, I am desperately loyal to.
My band, just rock n roll in general.
I'm very loyal to Alice Cooper.
A lot of times, Alice should have hung it up and moved on.
But I said, "I will not let this Alice die!"
So there were about five different careers with Alice.
And so, yeah, golf became...
When I quit drinking, I said, "I've got all day here.
"To do what?
"I don't work till nine o'clock at night.
"Am I gonna watch TV all day thinking about alcohol or what?"
I didn't know how I was gonna react to being sober.
"I've gotta find something that's a positive addiction."
I picked up a golf club and I hit the ball and I think I was immediately addicted.
The ball took off, had a little draw on it,
landed in the middle of the fairway and it was like a ballet to me.
I just went, "That was great!"
So golf is the perfect way of becoming addicted.
You might hit 60 bad shots, but Lord help you if you hit five good ones.
Then you're addicted, cos next day, you hit six good ones.
Then you hit seven or eight good ones and now you don't want to go to work any more.
Because of the example you are to people,
there clearly are people who are in trouble,
do you want to get in contact?
I almost feel it's a duty.
I've had people call me, major actors call me, and say,
"Keep this quiet but I really have to go some place and get sober."
I say, "Let me tell you one thing. You don't go in there to slow down.
"'I'm gonna take this vacation from alcohol, drugs or whatever.
"'Then when I come back, everything will be OK.'
"It won't be. You're going to go right back. Maybe more."
People go into Betty Ford 15 times. They didn't go in there to stop.
I think you have to get down to where you can't go any lower
before you raise your hands and go, "Help!"
You think you have that moment where you can save yourself. You can't.
You just gotta get to the lowest rung then give up.
Something that's less serious but you have to face in a long career
is this pressure that there are fans who want the early stuff, old stuff.
Some performers resent that.
To me, that's suicide! LAUGHS
I'm a fan. I go to see the Rolling Stones.
I wanna hear Brown Sugar. I don't wanna hear the reggae version.
I wanna hear the version I know.
I wanna hear them do ten or 15 of their greatest songs.
The Who, Paul McCartney, everybody. My youth is invested in those songs.
I don't want to see you do them differently.
Now I'm in that same position.
When we go on stage, we may do 28 songs in the show.
I'd say 18 of those songs are standards that you have to do.
-School's Out. Billion Dollar Babies, No More Mr Nice Guy,
Poison, Only Women Bleed, all those songs they have to hear.
-Elected is a favourite of mine.
-It's our last song in the show.
And I realise,
if I was in the audience and didn't hear that, I'd feel a little angry.
# ..Doodle dandy in a gold Rolls-Royce
# I wanna be elected... #
But there are hits and then there are what you'd call stage hits.
Dwight Fry was not a radio hit, but they expect to see Dwight Fry on stage,
the straightjacket, the guillotine.
I would never take that away from them.
I stage it differently. I set it up differently.
I light it differently but when they see the nurse with a straightjacket,
the place goes crazy, they want that more than anything.
I'm not going to not do that.
SCREAMS: I gotta get outta here! I gotta get outta here!
I gotta get outta here! I gotta get outta here!
I gotta get out! I gotta get out! I gotta get outta here!
Going back into your childhood, you were born in Detroit
just after the Second World War,
Vincent Damon Furnier.
The significance of Damon, Damon Runyon, creator of Nathan Detroit.
Famous in print and more so in Guys N Dolls.
My dad and my brother... and his brothers, all my uncles,
were Daschiell Hammett characters, Damon Runyon characters.
They were actually those wise guys on the corner.
You know, my Uncle Vince, my Uncle Lefty!
-You even had an Uncle Lefty, which sounds a fictional character.
I never saw my Uncle Lefty without a tuxedo on
that was kinda half undone and a martini glass and cigarette.
He was one of the Rat Pack. He was dating Ava Gardner.
My dad was sort of in the middle. My dad was a really sharp guy.
My dad and my mom were jitterbug champions.
They could dance.
They had all kinds of trophies for that kind of '40s swing dancing.
So they were all in that world of Damon Runyon.
Guys N Dolls, when I watch that movie,
it looks like I'm looking at a family reunion, you know!
-Uncle Lefty was "lefty" because he was a boxer?
-He was a boxer.
These guys were all real characters.
They would sit around. Everybody had a cigarette and a beer.
They were watching fights on Friday night on this black and white TV.
I was the only boy in the family.
I'd sit there watching the fights.
I'd take a sip of the beer and say, "That's just awful!"
Cos it tasted awful! I'd take a hit of the cigarette and go, "Who would ever...?!"
But they were my uncles and they were great. They were really...
Even when I became an international star, they were still the same guys.
So when I saw Guys N Dolls and Westside Story
and those kind of shows...
Or the Thin Man, William Powell and Myrna Loy,
I was looking at my family cos they all were those guys.
Your dad would have been a fantastic Damon Runyon short story.
The secondhand car salesman who is fatally honest and therefore...
My dad sold used cars in Detroit in the '50s and couldn't lie.
He couldn't lie. Honest Mick, they would have called him.
Cos he would sell the guy the car.
The guy would be driving away and he would stop the car and say, "We turned the odometer back."
He says, "The axle's broken on the back." He had to confess!
And the other guys, who were all criminals, would go, "Mick.
"You can't be a used car salesman and tell them the truth.
"Become a preacher. Become a pastor or something."
And he ended up being that.
It's in many ways amazing that we're talking to you now.
Before the age of 20, you almost died twice, I mean, seriously.
-First of all, burst appendix at the age of 11.
-11 or 12, yeah.
Peritonitis. They seriously didn't think you would survive.
I was gone. They took two or three quarts of peritonitis out my stomach.
The problem was that my appendix broke
and I didn't get that immediate doubled-over pain that you get.
I just got sick. I thought I had the flu.
So for two days, I was throwing up, I thought I had the flu
when it was peritonitis that was dripping through my system.
The doctor took my blood then went, "Get this kid to hospital right now!"
I got there and my white corpuscles were just...
The doctor was looking at me and thinking I was going to die.
So I was in the hospital for a month and a half, two months
before they could even take the appendix out.
They said, "If we opened him up right now, all of his organs would be like mush.
"We have to keep draining this poison until he's strong enough to get the operation."
I weighed 68 pounds. I couldn't eat. I couldn't do anything.
And once again, another miracle.
When they did the operation, the doctor told my mom and dad, "When we go in there, he might not be alive."
They walked in. I was reading a comic book and chewing gum.
Going, "Hey! How you doing?"
So I was... The doctor went, "What?" LAUGHS
"The kid has a real will to live!"
1967, by then you were in a band.
It was The Nazz at that point.
-The band van was flattened on the freeway.
-On Good Friday morning.
Coming into Los Angeles. Can't say that we hadn't had a few beers.
Cos we had. There were six or seven of us, with all the equipment.
Coming down, a lady cuts us off and the van starts going like this.
It flipped over three times, landed on its roof and just spun around.
It was literally, you could put the whole van... It was like pancake.
The amps all over the freeway.
I woke up and I looked up and I was laying on the freeway.
Glen our guitar player was on the freeway. Dennis was over here.
We all kind of woke up at the same time and looked around.
I think the worst injury was a cut here, on one of the guy's shoulder.
Nobody had a broken bone. Nobody had anything.
It was just... And the van was destroyed.
There was nothing left of it. The guys in the band were fine.
Everybody that was working on the freeway that day said, "Well, everybody's dead."
And we all got up and sat down on the kerb. We were in shock.
We were all in shock, but nobody was hurt.
It was insane that that was...
If you looked at the van. You would go, "Ah! That's impossible."
The fourth near-death experience, the most weird one, in Brazil, on stage,
somebody pulled a gun, which could have been an attempt to kill you.
There's a picture. It's 158,000 people indoors.
It was the loudest crowd. It was the biggest indoor concert of all time.
And there's a picture from back here with us on stage.
It wasn't the security, it was the army that was in front, there was that many people.
One of the army guy's gun is gone out of his holster,
and right behind him there's a guy and he's pointing it right at me.
Maybe he was just going to shoot it in the air,
but it was pointed right at me.
So that was a weird one, that one was.
Your musical influences in childhood.
You say Elvis was out there, but you didn't take much interest.
Your dad sang Sinatra in the car but it was Uncle Lefty, he gave you a Chuck Berry record.
A Chuck Berry record. Sweet Little Sixteen, or something like that.
It was the first time I'd ever heard that guitar...
Just that blues riff.
And I was immediately this.
I was already bought into it.
And I didn't really hear that kind of riff again
until the Beatles and the Stones, who went back to Chuck Berry.
We didn't know anything about Sonny Boy Williamson or Willie Dixon or any of these blues guys.
I thought the first Rolling Stones record, they wrote it all.
Then I looked and it was all blues guys from the south.
So they basically sold us back our own music!
But it was great! They did it so good. They were so cool about it.
We suddenly started buying these records,
these old blues records, trying to find songs that we could redo.
Sixteen, the Chuck Berry, must have been an influence on Eighteen, when you came to it?
It probably was.
We did Eighteen during the Vietnam War.
I think the crux of that song was that "I'm a boy and I'm a man".
You know. "I'm confused. I can get killed but I can't vote about it.
"I can't even drink because it's not my age.
"18 is just miserable - and I like it."
The punch line at the end was not "I'm 18 and I hate it."
It was "I'm 18 and I...like it. I love it."
It's like the confusion of being 18 was great.
I think that was the punch line of that song. The audience love it when you go, "I'm 18 and I like it!"
# I gotta get outta this place
# I'll go running in outer space
# I'm 18 and I like it
# Yeah! #
We've talked about the various ways you might have died in your life.
-You could have died in Vietnam. Many of your generation did.
-We were all 1-A. Everybody in our band...
To explain, 1-A was that you were good to go.
If there would have been another big resurgence.
-We were in college and we should have been 1-Y, but they were getting to the point...
-1-Y was exempted.
Exempted, for being in college, but we were all 1-A.
And, er... I think we would have gone.
I don't think there would have been any problem. I was not anti-war.
I was always taught to be extremely loyal to America.
And at the time, it was a righteous war.
At the time. Later, it became something else.
A couple of years later, we realised we could have won it, and we didn't.
Why? It was a money-making machine.
Everybody started protesting the war but at that time, I would have said,
"Yeah. Let's go get the commies." I would have been happy with that.
But it was a lottery system that we came out way back on the other end of it, so we never got called.
But, no, I would have gone! The guys in the band were very much the same.
The long hair, which you kept throughout your life,
that was a direct rebellion because in the army you had to have very short hair.
We lived in Arizona, where hair this long would get you killed
from drunk cowboys.
And there were many times when we had to fight our way out to the cars
to get out of town because in 1965, '66, you would leave...
There'd be a rock club and a cowboy club.
They both let out at the same time.
So we'd be trying to get to our cars and there'd be five, six cowboys
leaning on your car going, "Hey! You a boy or girl?"
Lots of times, somebody would break a bar stool, give us one in each hand and say,
"The only way you're gonna get to your car."
It was just a melee!
But there were guys that had long hair that got killed in Phoenix...
-Guys that were beat to death. They were out on their own.
Car load of cowboys come up, you know, and that was it.
Now the cowboys have all got hair like me! It's OK to have long hair.
But back then, if you were in the wrong place at the wrong time,
it was like rockers and mods, you know.
Arizona in the 1960s. Not only having long hair but taking a girl's name.
-That was quite...brave.
We couldn't have been more slap in the face.
We were way out on a limb on that one!
But, yeah, that was it.
That was going to be the thing that was going to make us different.
We had no problem wearing our girlfriend's slip,
as long as it had blood over it, black leather pants
and motorcycle boots and make-up smeared on.
We were probably scarier then than we ever were any time.
There was nothing to compare us to.
Five of us would walk in, everybody would go, "What the hell is that?"
So that got Frank Zappa's attention, anyway.
"I love these guys." You know.
Alice Cooper is such a famous name, it's one of those amazing things.
You were sitting round in one of the early bands, looking for a new name.
-And just for some reason, that came out of your mouth.
It was one of those things. The guys in the band were all art students.
Nothing was just going to be what it was.
It was always more surrealistic than that.
When we decided to change the name from The Nazz, we said, "We've got to come up with something."
"How about the Husky Baby Sandwich?" You know! Ridiculous names!
The Blood Of A Dragon and all that.
I went, "We've got to come up with something that's the opposite of what we are.
"What if we had a name like a little old lady that lived down the street?
"Like an Alice Cooper." That was the first name that came out.
I could have said Betty Thompson or Martha Franklyn or whatever.
Alice Cooper was the first name I could think of that sounded like an old lady that baked cookies
and sat and knitted on her porch.
Then we started thinking.
Alice Cooper, Baby Jane, Lizzie Borden.
It had a rhythm to it that kind of was macabre.
It had that sort of strangeness to it.
You never had one of those moments years later thinking, "My mum knew a woman called Alice Cooper"?
No, but I lost my bank card and I went to my bank.
And I said, "I lost my bank card."
The girl didn't look up. She said, "Name?" I said, "Alice Cooper."
There's 20 Alice Coopers at my bank!
She said, "Which one are you?" I said, "Probably the only mister."
We had a thing for every city we went into, it was,
"If your mother or grandmother or aunt is named Alice Cooper,
"she gets a free pass backstage."
We would get backstage, there'd be like nine old ladies with blue hair.
"I'm Alice Cooper." We'd take pictures with them.
That became a funny thing. Who's the real Alice Cooper?
Your manager is like your dad being too honest to be a car salesman.
He took an amazingly honest stand for somebody in the rock business.
-Even now, you don't have a formal...
-We have no contract.
We've been together 43 years. Jimi Hendrix knew us.
We were living in the basement of this black band called The Chambers Brothers in Watts during the riots!
We were the only white guys.
We had to look up. There were tanks outside.
Jimi Hendrix knew who we were. He knew Shep.
And he says, "Shep, you're Jewish, right?"
Shep goes, "Yeah." He said, "You need to be a manager. I know a band that needs a manager."
He put us together. The next day he was my manager and, you know...
The very next day we got signed by Frank Zappa.
Everything major happened in two days.
There are so many stories in rock,
so many bands end up suing the manager who has stolen the money.
This is the opposite, with Shep. When you've run out of money,
you discover that he's locked it away for you.
Yeah. He was very, very... Shep and I had this thing that we...
I don't know why I trusted him with my life.
He doesn't know why he trusted me with his life.
I never questioned him, ever, on any business deal.
I said, "Shep, you're the smartest business guy I know.
"You do the business. I'll do the art.
"We'll meet in the middle and figure out how this works."
There was never a discussion of what the percentage was, discussion of where the money was...
And I might have been the only guy in the business for my whole career that had cash.
Shep made sure I always had cash somewhere.
Even if I thought I blew all the cash, he had it.
So, I mean, that was the relationship, always has been.
-It's another of those narrow escapes. It could...
-In this business.
-There are so many people who ended up with nothing.
A million-to-one that you find a manager that's not going to take advantage of that money coming in.
50 million albums, you know. It's a lot of cash coming in.
And I never once, ever...
even questioned anything.
He never questioned anything for me and there was never a problem.
So, to this day... We might get a contract in ten, 20 years.
Just to see how it works out. MARK LAUGHS
A lot of the Alice character was planned, but some of it, the notoriety, was accidental.
1969, I think, the legend
that you killed a chicken during a stage show?
-In the more exotic versions, it goes on that you drank the blood.
-Oh, yeah. Never killed a chicken.
The audience killed a chicken.
At the end of our show, we would open up feather pillows.
Two pillows would fill this room.
The next thing I know, there's a chicken on my stage.
60,000 people out there in Toronto.
A Canadian had brought a chicken!
Somebody said, "I've got my wallet, my drugs, my keys, my chicken!
"Let's go to the show!"
We didn't bring it! Somebody threw a chicken on stage.
Being from Detroit, never being on a farm in my life,
it had wings, it had feathers, it was a bird, it should fly.
I picked it up and chucked it into the audience,
hoping it would fly out, somebody would take it home as a nice pet.
It plummeted into the audience and the audience tore it to pieces.
Nice hippy Toronto audience tore it to pieces
and threw the parts back up on stage.
Next day, "Alice Cooper kills chicken, blood everywhere."
Of course, it never happened.
The kicker to the story is the first five rows were in wheelchairs.
They were the ones that killed the chicken.
That made it more weird to me. "I'll kill this chicken and throw it back up!"
Frank Zappa called and says, "Alice, did you kill a chicken last night?"
I went, "No." He said, "Don't tell anybody. They love it!"
I went, "They love it?"
And realised that I was suddenly this...
vicious, insane killer of chicken.
Nobody ever said anything about Colonel Sanders kills a billion chickens a week!
But this rock star killed a chicken.
You know, I can deny it now because it never happened,
but at the time I didn't deny it.
The more conscious decision was the snakes.
I was surprised by this because I'm frightened of snakes,
but apparently, as long as they're well fed, they're not dangerous.
I was just like you. I was backstage in Florida at a concert.
One of the girls backstage had just a little...boa constrictor.
This big. I jumped!
And immediately thought, "Wow! If I jumped like that,
"what would a snake five times that big look like on stage?"
So I had to learn to like the snake, too.
I had to learn to pick up the snake, put it around my neck and go, "OK."
I knew it was going to get a reaction.
I immediately went out and we found this big eight-foot snake,
put it on and, honestly, I was just like everybody else, like that.
Until I realised that it really had no problem.
It kind of liked it up there.
# Now, is it my body?
# Or something I might be?
# Or something inside me, yeah... #
And for your parents.
Your dad, as you say, was a preacher,
and in the British newspapers you were often called the Antichrist.
I wasn't in politics, so I couldn't have been the Antichrist.
-But was it uncomfortable for them?
I think there was a period of time when my dad and mom both paid for it
because the press did paint me as being
the worst thing to happen to anybody's kids ever, of all time.
And we milked that. I saw that as an opportunity.
The more the parents hated me, the more the kids liked me.
But my parents did go through a lot of stuff.
My dad, though, had a great sense of humour. My mom did, too.
My dad would actually address the church,
and say, "Look, you all know Vince, since he was this big.
"You know his sense of humour."
And they had to agree that that was my dark sense of humour.
I was either going to be an actor or this and this is what it ended up being.
So they gave him a pass on it, you know.
There was nothing anti-Christian about what I was doing.
I always had that core of believing, so I would never cross the line.
You know, I never claimed Satan as anything except an enemy.
I always looked at Satan as the enemy.
-Never as my ally.
-It's been said that you've been crucified on stage.
-Is that a myth?
-I never did that.
I would never do that. That would be something Alice would never do.
That would go totally against Alice's grain.
First of all, he would think that that was too...obvious.
He would think that that was too sacrilegious.
Obviously, they cut my head off. They hung me.
I would never do a crucifixion.
That would be going totally against what I believe.
That would be blasphemous.
It's strange. Few people thought David Bowie was Aladdin Sane.
They saw it as a character he took on, but it was odd with you.
People thought that you were Alice.
Yeah. And, I mean, there was a...
Well, you have to remember, we did not have internet.
We didn't have immediate information.
We had a lot of good urban legend.
By the time it got to Mary Whitehouse, we were the worst things that could come to England.
They immediately banned us.
So the notoriety of Alice Cooper became even more.
"What did he do?" "He set a German Shepherd on fire!"
"He did this and he did that."
By the time I got here, I was the worst human being on the planet.
But the public, the British public...hated the fact
that Mary Whitehouse was telling them what they couldn't see.
My allies were the British public. They crusaded for me and said,
"Even if we don't like him, let us decide we don't like him."
But when they did see it they liked it so, I mean...!
I always credit the British public for actually
being a very big part of Alice's career.
The American public didn't get me till the British public got me.
I think they got the tongue-in-cheek sense of humour behind what I was doing.
It's interesting you say that your parents would say at the church, "It's Vince's sense of humour."
It is very funny. School's Out is a funny song. Poison.
"I'd like to kiss you, but you're next of kin." They're funny songs.
Yes. To me, the cleverness of the lyrics were very important to me.
I'd say, "Nobody has written more clever lyrics than Chuck Berry."
So I would listen to Chuck Berry.
I said, "What you do is you write the punch line first,
"then back up the song.
"That's how you write these songs."
Ray Davies was very good at that, writing Lola and Dedicated Follower Of Fashion.
So I learned from watching those guys, how they did it.
Then I did it and took it one step further and said, "Here's a story in three minutes.
"Here's a bigger story in 12 songs."
So it became a bit more of a Broadway theatrical piece for me.
The key thing about Alice, which we've mentioned, was that parents hated Alice Cooper
and young people liked Alice.
-The key song in that respect is School's Out.
It reflects what students think rather than their parents.
You figure this, how many chances do you get to write an anthem
that everybody on every continent's going to get?
What can you say that's gonna unite that many people...?
-Did you think as consciously as that?
We knew there was Happy Birthday, there was Merry Christmas.
I said, "What is that common denominator?
"School. What about school?
"The last day of school. The last three minutes before you have three months off!"
The biggest release of all time. You knew you didn't have to go to school for three months.
If we can capture that three minutes
and that reaction in a song, it's gonna be huge.
We started writing "school's out", "school's been blown to pieces",
"school's this, school's that."
It has a built-in guitar part that was almost...
It was really bratty.
That was the only song out of all the hits that I was sure was a hit.
All the other ones, I went, "Maybe. I don't know. Maybe."
You listened to it for three minutes and you went,
"It's the anthem of all anthems."
# School's out completely
# School's been blown to pieces... #
Then you start writing and thinking,
"What's the next one?" You try to write, School's Back In.
Nobody's celebrating that! Nobody says, "Yay! School's back in!"
You get one of those in your life.
School's Out was ours.
My Generation was The Who's. Satisfaction, the Rolling Stones'.
When you hear that one song, that's the one that connects you with that band for ever.
So that was our... sort of our key song.
-Alice began to have interesting fans.
You'd started as an art student interested in Surrealism.
-He was our hero.
-Then you end up with...
He actually did specifically say he liked Alice Cooper?
He didn't just like it. He created a piece of art around it.
He said, "I'm going to do a three-dimensional hologram."
He didn't say that. We couldn't understand a word he said!
But it was Alice Cooper on this pedestal, singing a song
with all these diamonds on.
It took three days to shoot it, and you could put your hand through it.
But it was moving. I don't know how he came up with the idea how to shoot it, but he did.
Then the third day he comes in and he had his hand behind his back,
and he goes, "This is the Alice Cooper brain."
And it was this plaster brain that he had built that night.
It had a chocolate eclair running down the back.
It had ants crawling all over it, painted on, that said, "Alice and Dali."
And I went, "That's great. Can I have it?"
He goes, "Course not. It's worth millions!"
The idea was in this painting that this brain was falling out of the back of my head.
I wonder, the darkness that is there in the Alice act,
the many references to death and guillotines.
-You've got skull and crossbones socks on.
-Yes. Very scary socks.
Is there a connection there, that you've had to think about death a lot?
I think that it's classic that there's no...
There has never been any commercial movie,
any Shakespeare play, any book,
anything that's been a commercial success, that didn't have to do with sex, death or money.
Those are the three things that everybody's most interested in.
Death is something that, since we don't know exactly what happens...
As a Christian, I know what I think happens.
It's always that mysterious place to go. What happens afterwards?
My show was always a morality play.
If you're the bad guy, no matter how much fun you have, you're gonna get it.
Alice always got his head cut off, or hung. The villain has to get it.
So, what happens after that?
Next time you see Alice, he comes out in a white top hat and tail.
Fred Astaire style. Balloons with confetti. He's back.
The party's started again. That's always been the style of the show.
# ..Baby, baby
# Come on and save me, save me
# My, my baby, baby
# Come on and save me now... #
There are lots of horror movie references.
You've also become involved in various horror movies.
As an actor - Prince Of Darkness, Nightmare On Elm Street. You're on the soundtrack of Scream.
Being involved in those movies was something I really liked.
I liked being asked to do that.
Cos I always looked at myself and Ozzie as the new monsters,
the new generation's monsters.
So when we got asked to be involved in those movies, which were the modern...
They weren't Dracula and Frankenstein. They were the new killers, the boogie man, basically.
I enjoyed either writing songs for it or doing a cameo in it.
Playing Freddy Krueger's father,
I had to be this Southern, kind of real horrible sorta...
you know, Tennessee Williams kinda drunk.
'That was fun cos I didn't play Alice. I got to play somebody else.'
Are you ready for it, boy?
You've been a waste since the day I took you in.
Now it's time to take your medicine.
'And because of Scream and the Alice stage show,'
you curated a season at the National Film Theatre of horror movies.
Does that go back to teenage years?
Oh, no. This big. In Detroit, we were this big.
On Saturday, our parents would drop us off at the movie theatre, we would sit there all day.
And have the best time of our life. They were a little bit scary. We would run out then come back in.
Cos you wanted to see it.
When they asked me to put together a list of the best Halloween movies, it's fun for me.
I go through the list and go, "Oh! I forgot about that one."
The Haunting Of Hill House. Claire Bloom and Julie Harris.
That's a good one. You never see the monster. It just scares the hell out of you.
I like finding those old ones that everybody forgot about.
A lot of the newer scary movies aren't anywhere near as scary as some made in the '60s.
One thing you've been doing in England is filming the new Tim Burton film, Dark Shadows.
That goes back to your adolescence. It was an American TV show.
It was an American soap opera which was so out of place.
It would have been equal to Coronation Street or something like that, only it was vampires!
And they had all the same problems that the people next door had.
The daughter getting pregnant.
All of a sudden, his brother had a twin that nobody knew about.
All the same plot things, except they were vampires.
And only Tim Burton would remember that soap opera enough to bring it back to life.
And I think only Johnny Depp would be the guy to play the main vampire.
So when they called me to play it, I went, "Dark Shadows? Really? I'm in!"
It's really going to be...
Tim Burton has to be a long-lost brother or cousin of mine.
We talked the other night and every single reference point we had was the same reference point.
The same movies, everything.
We grew up, basically, together, but never meeting each other!
It struck me, he must have been influenced by Alice.
-It's the classic look that Tim Burton goes for...
-When it came to rock n roll,
I was his guy
because I was, basically, the rock n roll monster that he wanted.
I came along, and there it was. He knew all the songs, the lyrics, everything. So did Johnny.
I'm a fan of theirs. They're a fan of mine. That worked out well.
We talked about people becoming confused between you and Alice, the character,
people who think you're going to be scary and difficult and frightening.
-You must get a lot of, "You're actually really nice!"
I'm Mr Nice Guy. I never say no to an autograph, no to a picture.
I generally do like people, you know.
Which, I think, surprised people.
When I first started being Alice, I didn't know, "Am I supposed to go to the movies with a snake?"
"Do I put my make-up on in order not to disappoint people?"
That's when that grey area started getting clear.
That guy couldn't live in my world and I couldn't live in his.
So I started going, "I just gotta be me and let Alice be Alice."
People go, "How come you don't live in a big dark castle somewhere?"
And I go... What can you do?
In golf or music, do you still have ambitions?
Are there things you think, "I want to do that?"
I think there should be an Alice Cooper Broadway play.
-Whether I'm in it or not doesn't matter.
-A sort of Mamma Mia?
-Using the songs.
-There's so much story involved.
The songs are already written and who doesn't want to see a play
that's sort of written in a nightmare?
It could be a lot of fun.
I think that play will probably happen...
probably as an homage to Alice Cooper
after I'm probably done,
because it's a really good story and the songs are right there.
I've always wanted to do Welcome 2 My Nightmare on Broadway, without watering it down.
Without taking an orchestra and making it palatable for 75-year-old people from Iowa.
Let them go see Mamma Mia. Great. The Alice Cooper show would be rock.
It would be a real band playing at full Alice volume those songs.
What would happen on stage would be, not just visual, not just auditory,
but smell, have the seats wired a little bit for a little shock.
Never knowing who's sitting next to you,
if they're in the show or not.
A guy next to you might all of a sudden go up into the ceiling.
A sort of Hell's-A-Poppin', where the theatre itself IS the show.
You kind of don't know if you're in the show or not. That would be a great show.
I think it's not going to happen till I'm, like, 70.
Maybe another seven years, but I would like to direct it.
I would like to sit back there and have the fun of directing somebody else playing me.
I think that would be a lot of fun.
I would say, "Alice wouldn't do that! Are you crazy? Alice wouldn't say that!"
-Do you have a cut-off date? Can you see yourself being Alice 70s, 80s?
-I don't see why not.
I think if you're physically able to do it.
I always said if I get fat, if I lose my hair,
if I get on stage and I don't want to do this any more,
if the audience doesn't show up,
those are all things that would make me go, "OK, enough."
None of that's happened, so there's no reason for me to stop.
At 63, I'm probably in better shape than I was when I was 30.
When I was 30, I felt like I was 63, cos I had partied that much.
But when I quit drinking, 30 years later, I'm 63,
I have got more energy now than I ever had when I was 30.
I don't see where the cut-off point is.
Mick Jagger's four years older than me. He does three hours on stage.
He's kind of a prototype for me. I look at him and go, "OK!"
You know. "Party on, Mick!"
You talk about being loyal to Alice.
We've all seen comedians who have a particular character,
they retire the character and go off on another one.
-Have you ever thought, "I'm going to cut the hair..."
-"..and get an acoustic guitar"?
I like the idea that Alice became
woven into the fabric of rock n roll as a character.
50 years after I'm dead, I hope there's somebody else playing Alice.
I just think he's now a true American character.
I think he's now... You could go to a halloween store and buy an Alice costume.
And I'm very happy with that.
I'm very, very happy to have created a character the way Edgar Allan Poe
created a character,
the way that Tom Sawyer was created or any fictitious character.
I'm kind of proud that I did create a character that will, hopefully, live on.
-Alice Cooper, thank you very much.
MUSIC: "Eighteen" by Alice Cooper
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]