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10 Pressing questions

Alice Cooper: the man behind the mascara

By GINA VIVINETTO
Published September 29, 2003

photo
[AP photo]
Alice Cooper

Don't judge Alice Cooper by his makeup. The original shock rocker and son of a preacher made much in the 1970s of rebelling against his religious upbringing. But Cooper, 55, whose hits include I'm Eighteen, School's Out and No More Mr. Nice Guy, is a Christian, a devoted husband and a dad who doesn't tolerate profanity in his home.

By telephone from Los Angeles, Cooper tackled 10 Pressing Questions about new album The Eyes of Alice Cooper, his golf game and whether his dad is Mr. Greenjeans.

(1) Your fans know you're an avid golfer. Who's your favorite pro player? Rocco Mediate. He lives in Florida. I've actually dragged him onstage a couple of times. I play with Rocco a lot. He's a real rock 'n' roller. Most of those golf guys are.

(2) Ever daydreamed about being a pro player? I certainly would have changed the game.

The Dennis Rodman of golf? I think so. It's the funniest thing about the game, everybody I know in rock 'n' roll, heavy metal, Lou Reed, Iggy (Pop), they all play. I was the first, of course. And, especially with my image, the fact that I'm, like, a 4 handicap, it's particularly odd.

You opened the doors for the longhairs to play golf. It's like anything. When you open the doors, you have to break the doors down.

(3) You were the first to bring theater to rock music. When we first started music, nobody'd ever done theater. They sort of brushed against it, but nobody ever took a stage and treated it like a canvas and painted it and said, "Okay, welcome to my nightmare. We're going to show you the nightmare."

Being an innovator is something I've always treasured. I like the idea of changing the whole thing. If you're going into music, change the whole thing.

In the beginning, we had a big hit record, we were known all over the world. All of a sudden I look up, and there's my hero, Mick Jagger, wearing makeup. And I went, I actually influenced Jagger? How cool is that?

(4) You've influenced so many people. Of your spawn, who impresses you most? I like Rob Zombie a lot. The thing about Rob is he knows his horror movies. And he has the sense of humor to go with it. I don't think there's any horror movie I've seen that doesn't have a good sense of humor. If you go to see Freddy vs. Jason, there are about 20 great jokes in there. Yeah, you get scared, you're supposed to, but you're supposed to laugh, too.

Other than Rob - I'll tell you what, Marilyn (Manson). When Marilyn first started out, he was compared to me a lot. I'm going, okay, Marilyn Manson/Alice Cooper. Two tall guys with makeup. I see it. But musically we were miles apart. He was in that industrial, Trent Reznor camp. The whole anti-Christian thing, I understood what that was. Let's make the parents hate us; I get it.

Now I think he's moved on to something smart. Now I think he's got their attention, and he's become notorious. He's become the bogeyman for this generation. He's moved on to something that's actually cool. I love the cabaret. I like the Grotesque Burlesque. I think he's created something; it's totally his. It took time to do that.

(5) Do many people miss what you and Marilyn try to do? They think you're just trying to push buttons and you're not interested in your art. Marilyn will always get that. I still get that. I'm Christian, and I still get people, Christians, outside of my shows in the South protesting, people that have never seen the show, people that are only going by urban legend. If they saw the show, they'd be going, "Hey, wait a minute, there are a lot of actually good messages here. Even though it is scary, it's scary for all the right reasons."

Listen, half of my reputation - the Sex Pistols', Marilyn's, Michael Jackson's - anyone who's controversial, 50 percent of that is urban legend. You just have to go with that. People want to believe it.

(6) Let's clear up some urban myths about you. True or false:

Did you ever really make your fans spit or urinate in a big jar at concerts and then drink it? (Laughs) No. Nobody did. I heard the same line about Frank Zappa. I heard it about Joe Cocker.

I've also heard the stories about my father is Mr. Greenjeans (from Captain Kangaroo).

Yes! Let's settle that one, too. Mr. Greenjeans is not my father.

(7) The Eyes of Alice Cooper sounds tough. You've got Wayne Kramer from the MC5 on there. What's the deal with Detroit? It produces fierce musicians.

I was born in Detroit, and the other guys in (the band) Alice Cooper were from Ohio. We were all from the industrial part of the country. We all moved to Phoenix when we were little kids. We put the band together in high school, moved to Los Angeles, got discovered by Frank Zappa, but we did not fit in in L.A. Everybody was (adopts hippie voice) groovy. The Doors were pretty "dangerous." That was about as dangerous as it got.

Then there was Alice Cooper. We were like A Clockwork Orange. Or, pre-Clockwork Orange. There was still a lot of Midwest in us. We didn't mind a little violence onstage. We played dirty rock 'n' roll. L.A. hated us. They basically ran us out on a rail.

We ended up in Detroit. I had never heard of Iggy and the Stooges. I had never heard of the MC5. We ended up at a big festival with them, and we were the missing link! We fit in like a finger in a glove. We went on between them, and it looked like these three bands were designed to be with each other. Every weekend we played with them - and Ted Nugent.

We felt at home there. The audience will kill you in Detroit if you're wimpy. They want to hear something with attitude. Well, we brought more attitude than you can believe.

(8) You're excited by the resurgence of garage rock. When I listen to the Strokes and the Vines and the White Stripes, I hear it. I think to myself, "These guys listened to the Stooges and the MC5 and early Alice," and that's great, because I love those bands, and I love that raw sound.

And kids want it. I think it's a direct reaction to American Idol. Kids are going, "Enough, enough of this safe stuff." I'm so tired of wimpy, college introspective -

Gazing at your belly button bands - Ah, come on (groaning). It's so dry and boring. It's got this built-in complaint. Okay, I got it, I got it, you're sad, okay? Go to Disneyland! (Laughs)

That's when you need a tough song like I'm So Angry (off Cooper's new album). Right! Doing this album, I felt so at home. We'd take one song, rehearse it for six hours live, take a dinner break, then record it. The rules were: We'll cut it 20 times, take the best take, but we'll do it live. So it sounds like a fun album.

(9) You've got three kids (daughters Calico, 22, and Sonora, 10, and son Dashiel, 18). How hard is it to rebel against you as a dad? Well, Dash can't come home with lipstick on and expect me to react to it.

People have a misconception about you that you're a crazy party animal. We've all seen The Osbournes. Are you a stricter dad than Ozzy? Oh, by far. But I'm very cool. Let's say Dash wants to go see a band. He's 18 now, but when he was 15, 16, I'd say, "Okay, let's go." Or he'd want to see a movie like Freddy vs. Jason: "Okay. let's go."

It's very tough to shock Dad, unless you come home and say, "Dad, I want to be a country and western singer." I'd go, "Okay, now, that's enough." (Laughs)

What are rules in your home that would surprise people? You can't swear in our house. That's disrespectful to me.

People don't know what a level-headed guy you are. I've been married 28 years. You're talking about two people who have been in rock 'n' roll this whole time. And, she's cool. Sheryl (Cooper's wife) could probably direct anybody's video or show out there and make it better than what they have right now. She's the most rocking person out there.

(10) Do you know what kind of mascara you use? Because, Alice, it doesn't work very well. It's always running. (Laughs) I don't. Actually, it's greasepaint. And I think it looks great.

- To contact Gina Vivinetto, e-mail gina@sptimes.com

Preview

Alice Cooper performs at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Mahaffey Theater at Bayfront Center, 400 First St. S, St. Petersburg. $40-$45. (727) 892-5767.

[Last modified September 26, 2003, 13:54:30]


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