Truly, alcohol is a battle that Alice has to fight on the road every day. Although he has been drinking only four years now, by his own estimate he finishes a case a day.
Gordon and his partner Joey Podell (who is taking care of business back at the New York office) have been managing Alice Cooper since the late Sixties, back when the group was known only as a rank of transvestites from Van Nuys. Those were the days when even the imprimatur of Frank ("Genius") Zappa could not convince such a small audience that they were anything but a band of no-excuse Queen Geeks.
"I had some money to spend and I thought it would be fun to somehow get involved in the rock & roll scene, where people at least seemed to get laid a lot," Shep Gordon recalls. "But gradually I saw Alice's real potential and put more and more of myself into it. Even when all my money was gone, I still stuck with him. We used to have to sneak out of six-dollar-a-nite motels to beat the bill. Alice's girl Cindy used to cook up a big pot of spaghetti or rice on Mondays and we'd all live on it for the next week."
The tour is pegged to gross out in the general neighborhood of $4,500,000. It started on March 5th in Rochester, N.Y. and ends three months later on June 3rd in Madison Square Garden, after taxing in and out of 56 American metropolises.
Just yesterday, at the plush Knoedler Galleries in New York City, Salvador Dali had unveiled his well-publicized 360° hologram of Alice. Cooper and Dali had descended the gallery's nearly airborne marble staircase together to meet an angry, surly Gotham press corps. Dali flaming in layers of flowing white and gold robes, strode grandly to the microphones as Alice bopped along beside him, in a motorcycle jacket slung open at the breasts.
The fingers of Alice's black leather, elbow-length gloves were wrapped, as usual, claw-like around the inevitable bottle – Michelob this time instead of the stubby proletarian Bud, perhaps in deference to the moment's pomp. The pair got down to the business at hand. Alice sat bemused, sipping his beer and making coy faces at the press while Dali hovered over him, circling Alice's head in huge gestures with a shining index finger. He trumpeted a booming monologue in his incomprehensible accent about how he, "The Dali," had produced a perfect replica of the brain of "The Alice Cooperpopstar."
One flight up, contained within a cylinder the size and shape of a standard popcorn machine, was an image of Alice performing behind which could be viewed – from all angles – the image of a human brain inset with Dali's trademark, the limp watch. At the very back of the brain rests a chocolate eclair, which, Dali claims with inarguable logic, is the symbol of Alice's music.
"Has Dali ever heard your music?" someone asked Alice.
"I don't really know," Alice replies. "But that's what I love about Dali – he makes absolutely no sense.
"He told me the reason he wanted to do the hologram with us was because we were the most confusing people he'd ever met. That's the only thing that we really have in common – confusion. We don't make any sense at all to each other in a conversation. He speaks in five different languages at once, and you're supposed to understand what he's talking about! We just stand there and then I'll say something that has nothing to do with what he's talking about. And then he'll say something back that has nothing to do with what I was talking about. We just go on like that."
The collaboration makes a lot of sense from Alice's point of view, since it points out his own legitimate relationship to the established avant-garde, and to surrealism in particular.
"The power of our show, the way it moves from Flo and Eddie, into us," reminds Alice, "is just the whole idea of bringing back cabaret. We are really doing a Seventies stage thing on decadence. The cabaret was a period in German history when they were interested in decadence. And that's exactly what we're doing. Only we're doing it with rock music instead of the old beer drinking music. And that's not too far away either – we do beer drinking music too.
"The whole idea behind the Billion Dollar Babies album was exploiting the idea that people do have sick perversions. There are so many sick people today, and they always come off the business guy who's working at the Holiday Inn in Omaha, and can't get off with his wife. But down deep he's got different sexual perversions – maybe the guy does go up in the attic with his daughter. That's what Billion Dollar Babies was showing – the whole album is about sexual perversions, American sexual perversions. It's got to be American – we're very nationalistic."
Which are the hottest ones these days?
"You can make up a million of them. I know I have some weird ones."
What's your favorite perversion?
"I keep picturing Tuesday Weld – and her bee-stung lips, right? Her big lips – in a dirty slip, with a beer can by her side, and no shoes on. Heh! And a cigarette. And dirty hair and everything, like a real Tennessee Williams character. And then I rape her.
"I'm not really too much into sadism, except for mass sadism. In other words I'm not into sadism with a woman, but I love to go on the stage and torture audiences to the point where I know that they are all going to scratch and jump on each other just to get a little piece of the poster. I love to watch that and laugh at it. And they know it. The audiences are masochistic."
As the ride from the Detroit airport to the Howard Johnson's Motor Lodge proceeds along the cheerless highway, Ashley Pandel, head of Alice Cooper Promotion, breaks into the smoky silence to announce that "No More Mr. Nice Guy" was just-next-to-hot on Detroit radio and was being played on all the AM rockers. Alice orders the driver to turn on the car radio and certainly enough, there it is, the Angry Alice Cooper, easily the most hip of au current primordial voices:
I used to be such a sweet thing,
Until they got ahold of me;
I got no friends 'cause they read
They can't be seen
And I've been shot down
And I'm feelin' mean.
No more Mr. Nice Guy,
No more Mr. Cle-e-e-ean;
They say, 'he's sick, he's obscene—'
*Copyright ©1973, B.M.I., Ezra Music
Alice Cooper's combination fuck-off and put-down message to the press is so cosmically timed to this slightly uptight moment that even one of the very culprits to whom the message is addressed can see the clear-cut and unabashed irony of it all as he sits squeezed next to Alice. And on top of that insouciant insult, Alice is actually singing along, just kind of carelessly grooving with himself, but maybe just a hair too carelessly . . .
The song must have provided Alice with a nice sense of nobility; all at once he assumes the benevolence of a man of significance who knows that he has made his point and made it well. His hand suddenly darts into his carpetbag to tap the last can of Budweiser. Snapping off the poptop and assaying a professional swig, Alice passes it to his early morning guest.
"I can empathize with anyone who drinks beer in the morning," says Alice in simple tones, edging toward the graciousness which befits a billion-dollar baby. Many other worlds are befitting him these past three years as well, he feels.
"I just bought a house right next door to Barry Goldwater. It was a tax shelter thing where I had to get rid of some money, and bought a house. Heh! In about five years I'm going to move there. I'm renting it right now to the president of a chemical corporation, and it's a good investment, anyway. He probably knows by now but what I'm going to do is have a mystery neighbor party, wear a bag over my head, and invite all the neighbors. A lot of the Phoenix bigwigs live right in this area, Paradise Valley. When they're all there I'm gonna take the bag off. The cool thing is my house is bigger than his! And I have more money than him. But Barry Goldwater's really a pretty good guy."
Phoenix is Alice's hometown, where he claims he had "a real cool childhood." His return there will no doubt be prodigious, but it will also be only private; the city will not allow him to play any of its concert halls.
"I'm not trying to kill myself," Alice continues, "that's silly. I have a lust for life; I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't really like seeing new places and doing new things. I love the idea of life, yet I have this other self and he goes up there and makes fun of death.
"Offstage, I'm Ozzie Nelson. I'm gentle. I walk around eating cookies and milk – well, not milk, cookies and beer. I work in opposites. Offstage I'm pretty . . . nonviolent. I'm stable. I have a girlfriend, the same girl for five years now, Cindy. She isn't on the tour because she hates us. She hates our music and she hates our image. She's a gorgeous, beautiful girl – one of the most sought-after ladies in New York. I really like the fact that she hates us.
"I work in opposites. If I'm exposing myself that much onstage – not physically, but mentally exposing all my problems onstage – I would rather not let a lot of people know what I really do."
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