Inside Alice

Page 3 of 5

*     *     *

Press conferences are held in every city. They are, by and large, boisterous and boozy affairs in which the local reporters only rise to the oft-heard straight lines.

Midway in each local Meet The Press, just when it would begin to appear that Alice might imminently keel with teenage boredom from keeping the Bulletin, Dispatch and News-Herald gnomes and cretins amused as the questions become fewer and duller . . . Midway through each press conference, Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan, who are Flo and Eddie, suddenly heel into the conference room, rendering an offkey "Stout Hearted Men." They sit down with Alice to face a nation's free press like The Three Stooges Revisited.

Volman, who once played with the Turtles, spreads an immense belly in front of him like a biologically selfsustaining organism. Furthermore, peppery shocks of frizzed-out curls lift straight out and up from both sides of his head. Volman revels in the display of his undeniable sheer grossness. But, on the other hand, he usually wears a pith helmet on top of which perches his pet flamingo, Hawk. "Talk about flash!" wrote Bill Krayon in that afternoon's late editions.

Alice still hasn't publicly revealed his real name.

"I told the press today," he reports later, "that I was Jimmy Piersol's illegitimate son. I think that's a great idea. For some reason that really fits my sense of humor. Did you ever see The Jimmy Piersol Story? He was totally nuts! He was the Alice Cooper of baseball. He was always hitting people with bats. I decided today that I was going to be his illegitimate son. Now that the Eddie Haskell thing is finally dead, people are going to think I'm young Piersol.

"Oh, I love to lie. That's one of my favorite things in the world, coming up to somebody, especially press people, and telling them some enormous lie that couldn't possibly be true. You can throw in anything you want."

Alice chooses to have Flo and Eddie join him at the daily press preliminaries rather than the members of his own band. All four of his own musicians appear, once offstage, to be manicdepressive in varying clinical degrees. They tend to hang together, wary of outsiders. This is due in some measure to their lack of importance in the show as individuals, but primarily to the years of constantly beating off the attacks Alice provokes in factory town bars, California truckstops and other likeminded hangouts. Alice is quite frank about it.

"Every once in a while Alice will pop up when I'm not expecting it," Alice explains. "Especially though in bars when I'm real wiped out. Last night, I got carried out of another one. I was saying some awfully bad things about cripples and I was telling thalidomide jokes. I was just awful. And I was telling Kennedy jokes, too, like how they had to recall all the Kennedy half dollars 'cause they forgot the hole. But then I blurted out about the thalidomide child that could count to 11 on one hand. Helen Keller jokes – I mean these are sick! For some reason, when it's one of those things that you're not supposed to say, it's always a lot funnier. I love sick jokes. We had a Bangla Desh one: 'What's the last thing that they need in Bangla Desh?' 'After dinner mints.'"

*     *     *

Backstage in Detroit, Alice quietly introduces his mother. "Have you met my mom? Isn't she just like Tammy Wynette?"

Now, what can this healthy and genuinely pleasant middle-aged woman, wife to an ordained minister, think of her son? In the first place, why does he call himself Alice? But what must "Mrs. Cooper" ponder on while she watches her son greet the demi-monde's atavistic backstage set in a moth-eaten dressing room which, like dressing rooms of most civic auditoriums, favors the brightly-lit public lavatory ambience. What or who does "Mrs. Cooper" possibly hold responsible for the uglyduckling son who chose the life of a truly weirded-out, somewhat magical – yes, magical – swan? Not to mention, for a moment, his stage costume, the white leotards, torn in spots as though gnawed by rats, conjoined to one of Alice's personally designed pairs of aquashaded leopard-skin thigh boots with six-inch platform heels.

It's what you have to do for a living these days, she easily teases to neighbors, after Alice's occasional family visits. There's a Rolls Royce, a gift from Alice that "Reverend Cooper" drives, which is testament to that. Indeed, America has approved of Alice with its most glorious honors, and that justifies the "Coopers'" private hopes that their son was only calculating it for these last seven years, and didn't really believe in it as a way of life. It's only that first album cover, Pretties For You, which still makes her throat tighten.

"I've been throwing up every single morning on this tour," Alice is telling her, "but it's not from drinking. I've got a real bad head cold and it's in my chest now. Every morning, I wake up and watch all my quiz shows and drink two or three warm beers, 'cause it's good for your stomach in the mornings. Then I get phlegm in my throat and gag. I just throw up water, but then I feel great! It makes you feel so alive. The doctor came over today, and we all got shots, B-12 and things like that. He examined us all and said I'm the healthiest one in the group. As bad as I look."

"Alice has always been unusual," she says. She pulls out the wrinkles of her pants-suit, nods her lightly lacquered beehive and in a brave, matter-of-fact tone concludes: "Alice has always done exactly what he's wanted to. He's always been Alice to us."

*     *     *

Hello Hooray,
Let the show begin
I've been ready
Ready as this audience
That's come into a dream
Loving every second, every
moment, every scream.

*Copyright ©1973, B.M.I., Ezra Music

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