Hangin' With Mr. (Alice) Cooper

Alice Cooper, center, poses with wife Sheryl, left, and daughter Calico as they arrive for The 4th Annual MusiCares MAP Fund Benefit Concert in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles, Calif., Friday, May 9, 2008. MusiCares provides access to addiction recovery treatment for members of the music community. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson) AP Photo/Chris Carlson

"It's Friday the 13th, do you know where your children are? I do," shock rocker Alice Cooper growls into the microphone, as he records a "holiday" promo for his syndicated radio show.

Cooper, now 61, was the symbol of youthful rebellion in the 1970s, singing about bombing a school in his hit "School's Out" and about teenage angst in "I'm 18." He was a pioneer of shock rock, with a highly theatrical stage show that included scary make-up, live snakes, and a working guillotine.

He lived a sex, drugs and rock 'n roll lifestyle that ultimately consumed his friends Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin. Alcohol was his drug of choice until the early 1980s when he gave up drinking for good after a doctor told him he would die in six months if he didn't quit.

Now he's a born-again Christian and the father of three children with his wife of 33 years, Sheryl. He goes to church every Sunday and on the other six days, he gets up early in the morning to play golf. He still tours several times a year, often with his daughters Calico, 27, Sonora, 15 and son Devin, 23, performing in the show.

"Everybody in the house knows that if you're on the road with me you're in the show," Alice said, in a telephone call from Phoenix.

Even though the real-life Alice is a church-going dad, the Alice character on stage is an evil rebel who probably shouldn't know where anyone's children are. His concert are an edgy mix of horror and vaudeville, often made that much edgier when Alice and one of his daughters are paired together.

During the song "Only Women Bleed," Alice sits on a flight of steps, with Calico in a skimpy torn dress, her mouth dripping with blood, lying limply across his knees. Her body trembles and arches backward as he sings "she cries alone at night too often/I smoke and drink and don't come home at all." Then he begins to beat her, alternately holding his hand out to her and then grabbing her and throwing her across the stage. By the end of the number, she's on her knees and taking blow after blow on the face.

"Obviously people have talked [about it being weird] that 'she's prancing around half naked on the stage,'" Calico said in an interview from her home in California. "I'm like 'there's a point to that, it's like Shakespeare, it's painting a picture of stuff that's reality in a lot of people's lives'"

Calico said that she's looked into the audience and seen "everybody from little housewives down there crying their eyes out, to big biker guys wiping big tears away. [Domestic abuse is] a heavy subject and I think it takes a brave guy to not just write about it, but write a scene and write a sketch that's uncomfortable."

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Alice said he doesn't find anything awkward about performing the number with his daughter.

"At that point she's an actress and she knows it and I'm an actor and she knows that," he said.

From the time they were little, Alice made sure that his kids knew the difference between their father and the character he played on stage.

"He was pretty smart about it," Calico said about the first time she went to one of her father's concerts. "He showed us how all of the stage props worked and said 'you know Daddy's head's not really coming off' and I thought that I was in on a secret that the audience wasn't."

At home, Alice said, the Coopers were very much a typical family. The kids did their chores, went to public school and had a regular bed time. They were given strict rules about what they could or couldn't do and if they misbehaved, certain privileges were withdrawn.

When the kids were older, they found adolescent rebellion against a rock star dad a bit difficult.

"There was no way to rebel because what are they going to do, dye their hair black and wear black lipstick? I invented that, remember?" he said with a laugh.

The evil character Alice plays on stage never succeeds at rebellion either.
At the end of the show, Alice Cooper is punished for his bad behavior. Over the years he's gotten the electric chair, been hanged on gallows, and had his head chopped off with the guillotine. He is always "resurrected," returning in the final number decked out in white tie and top hat. If it looks like Christian imagery to the audience, Alice doesn't mind at all.

"It always has been a morality play," he said. "Evil never wins...Being Christian, there's always an underlying factor there that you can't get away with it."
By Judy Rosen
  • Judy Rosen

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