Mr. America – Alice Cooper

Original Publication: Newsweek, May 28, 1973

Little Vince (nobody knows his real name last name) grew up in Phoenix, Ariz., where his daddy was a minister. He spent his childhood watching TV, and his image of himself and America came right off the tube. Today, Little Vince thinks he’s 100 per cent in the American tradition, a blend of Marjoe, Ozzie Nelson, Hell’s Angels and P.T. Barnum — with bits from Dali and Bela Lugosi. He voted for Nixon and thinks “Madison Avenue men are the smartest in the world.” Little Vince has become Alice Cooper, the fabulous Queen of Rock ‘n’ Rouge.

Now nearing the end of a marathon three-month, 58-city tour — which he estimates will cost over $1 million to produce and gross $4 million to $6 million — 25-year-old Alice Cooper (he chose the nom de freak Alice because “it’s a fine old American name”) prides himself on being rock music’s ultimate spectacle of “creative decadence.” His fantastic, grotesque act, an astonishing blend of rock concert and Grand Guignol, features whips, pet boa constrictor, life-size mannequins who spurt blood and a finale with Alice’s head under a razor-sharp guillotine.

His entourage of 40, in a converted Electra with a red dollar sign emblazoned on its tail, is the most mind-bending troupe in show business. Some hand out thousands of Alice Cooper posters and napkins (“Fly Me I’m Alice”): others help set up the quarter-million-dollar stage set, his bodyguard supplies his daily case of Budweiser, and his 27-year-old millionaire manager, Shep Gordon, stages press extravaganzas at each stop.

Alice has come a long way — from star of his high school cross-country team to star of that garish division of the rock world known variously as glitter-rock, deca- (for decadent) rock or punk rock. Its hallmarks are chaos and confusion — chaotic sounds, confusion of logic and sexual identity. “I love confusion,” says Alice. “I really think it’s a form of art. I’ve always been involved in chaos, and my show at least for now is the ultimate.”

Mostly, “the ultimate” depends on how much people and the media will swallow from Alice. “I love to manipulate people,” he says. “I’ve got the art of lying down pat. I’ve already lied to you a number of times tonight,” he told Newsweek‘s Peter Greenberg. “Isn’t that great?” When he’s not lying to the media, he’s often laughing at it. “The press really invented transvestite rock,” asserts Alice, who’s about to come out with a line of unisex cosmetics called “Whiplash.” “I’ve never had a sexual experience with a male. But that doesn’t mean I won’t. It’s just that America expects me to be chasing fourteen boys around a room with a whip. America is sex, death and money. We laugh at all three.”

Tastes: Though Alice’s self-promoted image is a diabolical reversal of the All-American Boy, his behind-the-scenes tastes are not all that bizarre. Behind the mascara and sequined jumpsuit is a fellow who has had the same girlfriend since 1968, is a fanatic fan of daytime TV quiz shows, eats mostly junk food and owns every Burt Bacharach album ever made. He even hates most rock music: “Since I’m writing and singing it I’d rather not listen to it.”

Despite the success of his albums (the latest, “Billion Dollar Babies,” is No.10 and climbing), Alice has to be seen to be believed. In the Denver Coliseum last week he enthralled 10,000 teeny-boppers as he appeared in a cloud of smoke, worshiped as Egyptian mummy, decapitated some baby dolls, beat up a giant tooth with a giant toothbrush and performed an indecent act with a life-size mannequin. The saturnalia ended with Alice’s four gasping sidepersons receiving oxygen from the kindly police.

As weird and repellent as Alice may seem to some, in a sense he is carrying to its ultimate stage the violence and sexual ambiguity of earlier rock stars like the Rolling Stones. He is the ultimate punk kid, the defiant bad boy, proclaiming to the grownups as he sings in “Alma Mater”:

“We got no class
And we got no principles
And we got no innocence.”

This article is typed from the original material.  Please excuse any errors that have escaped final proofreading.