- The Washington Times - Monday, August 7, 2000

PHOENIX Alice Cooper has spent most of his adult life trying to look like a cadaver, and even without his ghoulish makeup, he is hard to miss. Eggbeater hair, jet black to match his leather outfit. Rail-thin physique.
In many places around the world, the 52-year-old shock rocker is mobbed by fans who bow and deliver the "We're not worthy" line from the "Wayne's World" movies.
Here in his hometown, however, Mr. Cooper is something else: pitchman, business owner, churchgoer, golfer, model citizen.
Or, as he puts it, "Bela Lugosi on stage and Fred MacMurray off stage."
"I'm sort of a man about town. I do have a presence and a lot of dimensions," says Mr. Cooper, sitting in his sports-and-rock-themed restaurant, Cooper'stown, which opened two years ago and has done such brisk business that he plans to expand to Denver, Cleveland and Detroit, his birthplace.
The '70s star and his new four-man band began a world tour this summer to promote "Brutal Planet," his first studio album in six years and the 24th album in his long career.
In Phoenix, Mr. Cooper is given a wide enough berth that he can enjoy his daily game of golf usually with singer Glen Campbell and work on getting back to a 2 handicap.
But turn on a TV in recent months, and there he is in a phone commercial or dishing up his favorite snack on a morning show or telling his life story on a cable program.
Open a newspaper or magazine, and there's Mr. Cooper promoting golf clubs, beating the experts with his weekly picks on pro football games, appearing in a celebrity golf tournament or grinning for the cameras at a fund-raiser.
Go to a major-league sporting event in Phoenix, and you'll likely spy Mr. Cooper sitting in the expensive seats.
He even has been spotted in a Santa Claus suit, standing on a busy Phoenix street corner ringing a Salvation Army bell for Christmas donations.
"A lot of these things have fallen into my lap. But you know what? I have fun with every one of them. I always make sure that no matter what I'm doing, it's a fun project," he says.
"For me, Alice is fun. I love him. He's an American icon. But Alice the entertainer only lives on stage. He's not going to show up at the restaurant or ringing bells," adds Mr. Cooper, who always speaks of his rock persona in the third person.
"That way I can live my life and be Alice Cooper the golfer, or the restaurateur, or the philanthropist. If you want to see the other Alice, you have to go to the show."
After ripping through a 24-song, 100-minute final rehearsal at a 1,700-seat Phoenix theater, Mr. Cooper says the band will do 40 shows in Europe "and that's the warm-up.
"Then we'll do the States, then take some time off, then we'll go to Canada, South America, Australia and Asia and then back to Europe and the States. It'll be two years of touring, but not all at once.
"We're also going to play Russia. We've never done that before. The KGB pretty much banned us in the '70s. But Europe has always been our best market… . I think that's because we're exotic. In Europe, people visualize us like we're rich gangsters or certainly a violent, rich breed. Maybe we are."
Mr. Cooper, who helped introduce a new level of theatrics to rock, has put together his most elaborate horror-movie stage show since 1975's "Welcome to My Nightmare." He even brought back the guillotine, which was on loan to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
"I looked at 'Brutal Planet' as apocalyptic, a historic view of Earth, totally conceptual," Mr. Cooper says. "Alice's view of where we're going in 50 years which is much more entertaining than my vision is that technology basically eats itself. The giant fuse blows, and we're left being road warriors.
"You see things melted, cars smashed against poles. And here's Alice half [World Wrestling Federation], half Darth Vader and he gets to be the warlord."
To prepare for the tour, Mr. Cooper ran up to three miles a day for three months. At 150 pounds, he doesn't weigh much more than he did when he was an undefeated long-distance runner at Phoenix's Cortez High School.
The son of a Baptist minister, Mr. Cooper was known back then as Vincent Furnier. (He legally changed his name in 1972.)
He formed a band with some classmates and listed "a million-record seller" as one of his life's ambitions in his 1966 senior yearbook.
Since his 1969 debut, Mr. Cooper has sold more than 50 million albums and spawned two teen-rebellion anthems of the '70s "I'm Eighteen" and "School's Out."
"When I heard 'Eighteen' on the radio the first time, I knew it was going to be a song that every garage band can do. But as soon as 'School's Out' was written, I told the guys, 'This is our "Satisfaction." This is our "My Generation." Every band gets one song that will be associated with them forever," Mr. Cooper says.
He almost wasn't around to enjoy his success. By the early 1980s, Mr. Cooper was in failing health, drinking up to a case of beer a day and sometimes a couple bottles of whiskey.
"I was half dead 18 years ago," he recalls. "A doctor told me, 'If you keep going like this, I give you three months.' … I said, 'I don't want to die' and I stopped drinking. And boom, my whole body and my whole spirit rejuvenated. I'm more alive now than I've ever been."

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide