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Inside Alice

Page 5 of 5

"Hey, The Creature from the Black Lagoon is on now," Alice says, flicking the dial to another station. "He is the coolest monster that ever lived. I mean it, I want you to get a look at him when he comes up dripping from the Black Lagoon. There's something almost handsome about this monster . . . "

At Alice's feet is a petite, straightlaced 19-year-old college student named Joyce Ciletti, from Wampum, Pennsylvania. She is doing a psychology thesis on Alice Cooper. During the past two years she has distributed several thousand questionnaires in which people are asked to give their responses to the Alice Cooper phenomenon. At the moment, she is deeply engrossed in studying the form that Alice himself just finished filling out for her.

Also in the room is Detroit's only hip rock critic, who met Alice that morning at the airport. He is not interested in The Creature from the Black Lagoon. From a couch across the room he beckons Joyce Ciletti over. In one hand he is holding a Budweiser and in the other one of those sturdy little battle-gray Sony Cassettecorders.

"It took me a year to write the final questionnaire," she explains. "You have to use certain words so they understand it completely, and it must be set up in a certain fashion, scientifically. I'll be passing them out at probably nine concerts on this tour, about 3000 at each concert.

"The questions about Alice start out asking what part of the concert did they like the most, dislike the most, and what would they do onstage if they were Alice Cooper. The second part is completely empirical. It's a series of statements they respond to on an agreedisagree scale: 'I feel that Alice Cooper is one of the top groups in the country today.' And then it says things like, 'Alice promotes attitudes in favor of violence.' 'Alice promotes attitudes in favor of homosexuality.' 'After seeing Alice's concert I was more excited than after another concert.' 'Alice's appeal is primarily a sexual one.'

"At this age level, it's a commitment age. The kids are really committed and they're being very underestimated.

"I see Alice as comprising the elements of temper in this era: confusion, sadism, masochism. With Alice, sex and violence is not completely differentiated. It's a combination. For instance, the hangings that he used to have. You'll find that that sexually arouses an audience. They had to quit having hangings in the 1800s because there was extreme debauchery afterwards.

"On death row, for instance, the reporters that are there to see a hanging frequently have an orgasm after the hanging. They stopped having public hangings. But it did sexually arouse the males. We don't know what it does to the females. I don't know exactly how that works for Alice, but a lot of girls that I interviewed say, 'Oh, it gave me such supreme satisfaction.' I'm sure they don't know why, but that's the reason. A lot of people have written in and said that's what they liked the most.

"It seems to me that after a concert they are left amazed. They are not left violent, at least from what I see, they aren't. Alice more or less drains them. They're left stunned. Many people say that he's decadent, and that the kids – because they perceive him at a visceral level – aren't getting anything out of it. But some of the comments on the questionnaires are amazing. A typical one would be 'I believe in what Alice is saying in his lyrics, because he's satirizing our society and holding us up to see that he is not the one that's sick but the society's sick.' So on and so forth. Do you mean do I think it causes them to do something violent or sexual?"

"Well, do you think it alters their attitudes?"

"For some people I've talked to, it has a little bit, as far as their attitudes on sex. A lot of them feel different after they see the concert."

"Is it altering attitudes towards bisexuality and homosexuality?"

"No, no. That is the one thing that has not come up in the preliminary results at all. Uh, there's maybe three people, so far, out of all these results, that have said that."

"Then what's it about?"

"Alice is the picture of America 1970s. He's definitely Middle-Class American. There's no doubt about it. It's symbolic from his Budweiser through his whole act. And we are definitely a very violent society. Just watch TV for a while, or go see The Godfather. Alice understands this, and exactly what it implies, completely."

"What is his insight?"

"He sees that we're all mad, that there is no truly sharp differentiation between abnormality and normality – it's simply a matter of semantics."

*     *     *

After Joyce leaves, in the company of Detroit's only hip rock critic, Alice has a whim to leave a fish head from his dinner plate under Mark Volman's door, and within the instant he is tiptoing barefoot into the hall. Ten seconds later there is a shattering crash. Mike Ramsey flies from his chair, tearing out the door and down the hall. There, two adolescent girls who've been hanging around the hotel all day, have spotted Mr. C.

"Hey Alice," they call, "can we come and talk to you?" Their mother, who just got off work in the downstairs coffee shop, is with them this time.

"I want your autograph, honey," the older one with the peach breasts demands in the nasal accent of the upper Midwest. And the other one starts whining, too: "Give me your auto . . . "

Alice is drunk. He sees piranha fish all around him, nipping at him, ready to start tearing his arms. Suddenly, he faces them, spinning towards them on his heels like a gunslinger, and in one flashing instant pulls down his pants and his jockey shorts, swings it right out and wiggles it at them: the flaccid little beetlenut pecker of the superstar.

This story is from the May 10th, 1973 issue of Rolling Stone.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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Song Stories

“Vicious”

Lou Reed | 1972

Opening Lou Reed's 1972 solo album, the hard-riffing "Vicious" actually traces its origin back to Reed's days with the Velvet Underground. Picking up bits and pieces of songs from the people and places around him, and filing his notes for later use, Reed said it was Andy Warhol who provided fuel for the song. "He said, 'Why don't you write a song called 'Vicious,'" Reed told Rolling Stone in 1989. "And I said, 'What kind of vicious?' 'Oh, you know, vicious like I hit you with a flower.' And I wrote it down literally."

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