Skip to main content
Rock musician Alice Cooper

Alice Cooper, From Ghoul-Rock to 'Golf Monster'

During his early-'70s heyday, shock-rock icon Alice Cooper dressed like a ghoul, with a gaunt face and mascara-streaked eyes, performing cartoonishly violent onstage stunts.

His hits included "I'm Eighteen," "School's Out," and "Welcome to My Nightmare."

But he's got more than that one flamboyant dimension: Over the years he's had friendships with such legends as Groucho Marx, Salvador Dali and Peter Sellers, and his new memoir chronicles how he replaced his addiction to alcohol with an addiction to golf. It's called Alice Cooper, Golf Monster: A Rock 'n' Roller's 12 Steps to Becoming a Golf Addict.



TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A

Interview: Alice Cooper, author of the memoir "Alice Cooper: Golf
Monster," on the creation of the Alice Cooper persona, his early
stage shows, his Christianity, and his vaudevillian humor

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

The name "Alice Cooper" thrilled teenagers and scared parents in the '70s.
His brand of shock rock concerts was about breaking taboos and being decadent.
He wore makeup, black lingerie and a boa constrictor. He took a hatchet to
female mannequins and spit into the audience. He often ended his performances
in a guillotine. As intentionally crude as the show was, some of the songs
were really catchy. A few of them became big hits like, "I'm Eighteen,"
"School's Out" and "No More Mr. Nice Guy." Lots of bands have since copied
Cooper's look and theatrics. So what's Cooper's new book about? Golf.

He says he's addicted to it. The cover has a picture of him in mascara and
lipstick with a mischievous look on his face, holding a golf club dripping in
blood. His memoir, "Alice Cooper: Golf Monster," is also about music. We're
going to talk about how he transforms himself from Vincent Furnier into Alice
Cooper. Let's start with this 1972 Alice Cooper anthem.

(Soundbite of "School's Out")

Mr. ALICE COOPER: (Singing) Well, we got no choice,
All the girls and boys
Making all that noise
`Cause they found new toys

Well, we can't salute you,
Can't find a flag
If that don't suit you,
That's a drag

School's out
For summer
School's out
School's been blown to pieces

No more pencils,
No more books
No more teachers' dirty looks

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: Alice Cooper, welcome to FRESH AIR. Alice Cooper--I mean, the act,
the Alice Cooper act is, it's theater. I mean, it's not just a concert, it's
theater. It's a whole persona and, you know, there's like special effects,
there's a snake. I mean, there's, you know, over the years you've done, you
know, crude things with mannequins, Alice gets executed at the end. Why did
you want to do rock as theater as opposed to just like doing straight just like
concerts like most people were doing at that time?

Mr. COOPER: That's exactly it, right? Just what you said. The idea of just
doing a straight concert with no fun in it. You know, I mean, rock 'n' roll,
the most theatrical music in the world, and nobody was doing anything. I
would look at bands that I really admired like The Who and The Yardbirds,
Rolling Stones, and their theatrics were built in to the character. You know,
like Pete Townshend was very theatrical. Mick Jagger was very theatrical.
But I looked at the whole stage--and you have to remember, the original band
were all art students--and we looked at that, and I said, `Why aren't they
painting that canvas?' You've got this entire stage up there, and nobody's
doing anything with it.

I also looked around and I said, `Rock 'n' roll is full of Peter Pans.
Where's Captain Hook?' And I will gladly be Captain Hook. I always thought
the villain always got the best lines. The villain was always the one that
everybody kind of really wanted to see. And so I created this Alice Cooper
character to be all of those villains wrapped up into one, you know, with this
certain amount of tongue-in cheek. I definitely--you can't do horror without
having a punchline. I think you need to make the audience laugh. If you
scare them, you need to make them laugh at the same time.

GROSS: Was there as much tongue-in-cheek at the start as there is now?

Mr. COOPER: Not as much, even though actually, probably, on the "Spinal Tap"
level there was, you know? When things went wrong and you were trying to be
so serious up there, but we--no, I think there was always a sense of humor
involved. I mean, for one thing is that all of the bands--even the bands, all
of the rock press, all had this opinion that if you did theatrics you weren't
a very good band. Because nobody'd ever done it. And if we had a 10-hour
rehearsal schedule, nine hours of that was rehearsing music, because we
realized we had to make the cake before we could put the icing on it. And
then we would spend the other hour on, `How are we going to make this thing
look good?' Well, if it's "Ballad of Dwight Fry," he should be in a
straightjacket, there should be a cold, white light over him. He should be,
you know, the audience should feel the claustrophobia. When he breaks out,
well, there's the nurse that put him in it, and she's a Nurse Ratchet; he
should like strangle her, and of course, then they put and take him to the
gallows and they hang him, and then he comes back out in white top hat and
tails, "School's Out" and balloons, Busby Berkeley.

You know, to me, noboody had done anything, so it was wide open, and nobody
was there to say, `Well, you can't do that.'

GROSS: There's been so many stories over the years about how you created the
Alice Cooper persona. I'd love to hear you tell the story.

Mr. COOPER: Well, I honestly think that it was a combination of two or three
things. There was a moment there where I thought, `Somebody needs to upset
the apple cart a little bit.' We were a good rock band, we lived with the Pink
Floyd, and, you know, we were, you know, playing gigs with The Doors and The
Mothers of Invention and all that. Nobody would record us. Finally, Frank
Zappa did record us and, you know, put us on Warner Brothers. But there was
that moment of saying, `We're frustrated. We better do something that's going
to get a lot of attention.' That's when Alice was created.

That's when I said, `Let's create this character that every parent in the
world is going to hate.' You know? `Alice Cooper. It's a guy. It's a band
of guys. We're wearing makeup. We're wearing our girlfriends' lingerie, only
we've got black leather pants on and codpieces, and we have canes.' We're more
"Clockwork Orange" than "Clockwork Orange." We were as dangerous--and we
didn't mind a little bit of violence up there. We borrowed a little bit of
"West Side Story." This was 1970, when people were easily shocked. I always
said that we were the band that drove the stake through the heart of the love
generation, you know? We were the next thing.

GROSS: Well--yeah.

Mr. COOPER: And so it was so easy to shock the audience. Whereas now it's
impossible, you know?

GROSS: It's interesting that you thought your ticket was coming up with an
act that parents would hate.

Mr. COOPER: Well, yeah, that's what rock 'n' roll...

GROSS: Why were you thinking about parents instead of thinking about the
actual audience?

Mr. COOPER: Because the audience were going to go with whatever their
parents hated. If we presented this character, and every parent looked at
Alice and said, `Oh, no, you're not going to be that.' Now, the funny thing
was was this: there was no bad language, I never allowed any bad language;
there was no nudity; there was nothing un-Christian. There was nothing--we
stayed in the boundaries. But that made it even more irritating, I think, to
the general public, that they couldn't really ban us because there was nothing
to ban. You know, I would bring up the point, `How can you ban us and then
let your kids read "Macbeth"?' There's much more blood and Satanic stuff going
on in Shakespeare than ever in Alice Cooper, and yet that's required reading.
So they did have to like look at that and say, `Well, you're right.' I said,
`So it's obviously, you know, against rock 'n' roll. You don't like the idea
of rock 'n' roll.'

But the thing about it was, I looked at "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" You
know, Bette Davis. And I looked at that old lady with that caked makeup on
and sort of those black, smeared-on eyeliner?

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. COOPER: And I said, `That's truly frightening. That, to me, is scary.'
And then we saw "Barbarella." And we saw Anita Pallenberg played the black
queen. And I said, `That's what Alice should look like right there.' And, you
know, and all the guys were all straight, you know, nobody was gay. But we
had no problem, you know, wearing a piece of women's clothing.

GROSS: Dressing in things like, what, like leather corsets and wearing makeup

Mr. COOPER: Well, yeah, sure. I wouldn't have any problem with that, as
long as, you know, I was very secure with my manhood.

GROSS: Do you...

Mr. COOPER: First of all, girls loved it.

GROSS: They did?

Mr. COOPER: The girls--oh, yeah, are you kidding? Because everybody was,
you know, Neil Young and Stephen Stills, and everybody was this, you know,
hippie-hippie kind of look, and all of a sudden, here was this band of guys
that were kind of like androgynous, and this was pre-Bowie.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. COOPER: This was pre-T-Rex. This was pre-, you know, everybody. All of
a sudden there was this band of guys that played really aggressive rock 'n'
roll and liked to fight. And it was just weird. It was just like this
American Frankenstein in your face, you know?

Lot of fun, though. Because, I mean, the controversy was amazing. The urban
Legend at the time was half of the charm of Alice Cooper.

GROSS: Now...

Mr. COOPER: Every city I'd go to I'd hear some new story about me, you know?

GROSS: Did you see yourself at the time as having like a sexually androgynous
or ambiguous image? Because you guys were so straight, and it was such a kind
of like macho way of dressing in maybe women's undergarments or whatever you
were wearing onstage for each concert. Do you know what I mean? But you
didn't look like you were gay or like you were trying to be sexually...


GROSS: ...or gender-ambiguous at all. It looked like a real--yeah.

Mr. COOPER: But, you have to remember, at that time, if your name is Alice
Cooper and you're wearing a great big boa, you know?

GROSS: Right.

Mr. COOPER: And you're wearing tight, black leather jeans and boots and a
switchblade and your girlfriend's slip top that's all cut up with blood all
over it and black leather gloves, and--this is 1968, '69.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. COOPER: People are going, `Oh no. My son's not going to--that's not
going to be my'--and so when they walked into their room and that poster was
in their son's room? Why do you think that poster was in there? Because Mom
and Dad hated it so much.

GROSS: What did your mom and dad...

Mr. COOPER: And on top of it--and on top of it, we had hit records. That
was what was so scary about it.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. COOPER: Now you couldn't say, `Well, they're just--they'll pass.' We had
hit records, and that was scary because you were giving us all kinds of power.
We had five or six, you know, top five records in a row.

GROSS: What did your mother and father think of the act?

Mr. COOPER: Now, my dad was a pastor. And my dad--I grew up in a Christian
church, you know, a Christian background. But I was an artist, now, you have
to remember, big Salvador Dali fan. And my dad and mom both knew my sense of
humor. They knew I didn't drink. They knew I didn't take drugs. They knew I
was straight as an arrow, in fact, you know, quite enjoyed the ladies. And I
was an athlete. And I was pretty well versed in the Bible. So when they saw
this character--and I explained to them, I said, `Mom, this is funny.' I said,
`Trust me. The fact that everybody is so outraged over this, it makes it even
more fun to do.' You know, and my dad got the sense of humor in it. Now, my
dad was a pastor. He says, `I love the music.' He said, `I can't buy into the
lifestyle. I can't buy into the drugs and the free love thing, because, you
know, I don't believe in that.' He says, `But the music I love, and the show,'
he says, `I think is very funny.' So my dad was a very cool guy. He got it.

GROSS: I should say...

Mr. COOPER: But he got a lot of flak--yeah, my dad caught a lot of flak.

GROSS: You know, I should mention, you know, you said your father knew that
you didn't drink or do drugs, but that changed because eventually you did
plenty of that.

Mr. COOPER: Oh, yeah, once I moved out, when I got older. Yeah, when I got
older and I got even more far away and more involved in the career, you know,
I--nobody--when you start being in a band, you always go, `OK, oh, man, I want
to have a big, big mansion and I want to have all kinds of, you know,
Ferraris, and I want to have a, you know, this trophy girlfriend, and I want
to be an alcoholic, and I want to be'--no, you don't want to be an alcoholic.
You don't want to be a drug addict. You never see that part coming.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. COOPER: That part sideswipes you. Because you start out having a beer
with the guys, and then you have another beer because you got to get on the
airplane. And, you know, it's a two hour flight, so you're going to have a
couple beers on the plane. You get in town, you got three interviews. `Well,
I'll have a couple beers and do the interviews.' And then there's the show,
got to have a couple beers there. Pretty soon you're doing a case of beer a
day. And that beer now is not beer anymore, it's medicine. And that's when
you're an alcoholic, is when alcohol becomes medicine.

GROSS: My guest is Alice Cooper. His new memoir is called "Alice Cooper:
Golf Monster." More after a break. This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: My guest is Alice Cooper. Here's his 1973 track "Hello, Hooray."

(Soundbite of "Hello Hooray")

Mr. COOPER: (Singing) Hello! Hooray!
Let the show begin,
I've been ready
Hello! Hooray!
Let the lights grow dim
I've been ready

Ready as this audience
That's come here to dream
Loving every second,
Every movement, every scream

I've been waiting so long to sing my song!
And I've been waiting so long for this thing to come!
Hey, I've been thinking so long I was the only one!

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: There're so many stories about how you named yourself Alice Cooper.
Which is the real story?

Mr. COOPER: You know, it was--I wish it more theatrical than it is, but we
were sitting around, and we're talking about, `What could we name ourselves?'
Now, the obvious thing is, you know, some horrific name, you know? "Venom" or
something like that. You know, "Husky Baby Sandwich" or something, you know?
And we're sitting there, and I went, "Alice Cooper." And it was the first name
that came out. I said, `What if it was like a little old lady's name? A
little old librarian?' You know? But this little old librarian is like a
serial killer, you know? Nobody ever suspects her. It sounds like a little
girl, Alice Cooper, a little sweet little girl, and they get us. And we all
kind of liked that idea, the fact that nobody would see us coming. They
would, you know--in fact, my wife, when she auditioned to be in the show as a
ballerina, they said, `OK, this is for Alice Cooper,' and she said, `Who's
she?' You know.

You know, and we sounded like a blond folk singer. Some little blond folk
singer from, you know, Pasadena. And what we were were, I mean, we were
actually pre-"Clockwork Orange," and "Clockwork Orange" borrowed an awful lot
of Alice Cooper: the codpieces, the canes, the snakes, the makeup, the guy's
name was Alex, not Alice.

GROSS: Uh-huh.

Mr. COOPER: There was a ton of Alice Cooper in "Clockwork Orange."

GROSS: You mention in your memoir that as a kid, you know, you were an
athlete, you wrote for the high school paper, you were pretty popular, you
were cool, but you couldn't fight. So when you were onstage and you were
being, like, the scary villain character, the horror character, did that kind
of make up for not being able to fight when you were a kid?

Mr. COOPER: Yeah. Oh, no, I created a character that had no problem with
fighting. You know?

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. COOPER: I created a character that almost went beyond fighting. This
guy was like--he was Bela Lugosi and, you know, every horrific character you
could imagine. I wanted Alice, when the lights came up and Alice was there,
for the audience to go, a collective (gasps). That's what I wanted out of

GROSS: Was there any kind of compensatory aspect to it because you couldn't
fight as a kid, but here you were being this like scary guy?

Mr. COOPER: Well, you know, the funny thing was, though, it wasn't that I
couldn't fight, it was the fact that--in fact, I was from Detroit, where you
better--I got in a lot of fights when I was a little kid in Detroit. And then
when we moved back to Detroit--again, back to the toughest neighborhoods in
the world--it wasn't that I couldn't fight, it's just that I was the great
diplomat. I was the dark side of Ferris Bueller. I could talk my way out of
a sunburn, you know? And I was always good at talking my way out of it, you
know? I always said, `Why would you want to beat up me? I weigh 100 pounds.'
You know, the guy who was going to beat me up, and I go, `I'll tell you what.
Name me a girl in this school, and I'll get you a date with her.' And the guy
was like...

GROSS: Could you do that? Could you deliver?

Mr. COOPER: Oh, absolutely. The girls loved us, you know?

GROSS: How would you do it? How would you get the date?

Mr. COOPER: I was just a charmer. I was an absolute charmer. I'd go to the
girl and I'd go, `Hey, look,' you know, `you're the best looking girl in
school. I mean, everybody knows that, and this guy over here's going to kill
me if you don't do this, you know. Could you just do me a favor and go out
with this guy, and, honestly, I'll owe you a big favor after this.'

You have to remember now, in high school, we were the biggest band in Phoenix.
We played at the best club in Phoenix, and we had a record on the charts when
we were in high school. We owned that school. We owned everything about it.
And, on top of it, we were athletes. We were four-year letter men. We had
the jocks covered, we had the, you know, everybody out there. Honestly,
nobody could beat me up because I was in the letter man's club. They'd get
killed by the football team. You couldn't beat up a letter man, you know?
So, I mean, honestly, we had that school so wired, it was unbelievable.

GROSS: I find it so kind of amusing that you're so like easy to talk to, and
you are such a charmer, and how different that it is from the Alice Cooper
stage image.

Mr. COOPER: Well, the Alice character has never, ever talked to the
audience. I mean, when I created this character, I said, `Well, what would he
do? What wouldn't he do?' You know, you have to remember, now, Alice is my
favorite rock star. I create Alice to be--I want to see this character do.
And I talk about Alice in the third person because when I play Alice, I play
him in the third person. And so, would Alice say thank you? No. Alice
wouldn't get up there and go, `Gee, I hope you like us tonight, here's a song
we wrote in 1968 and all.' Alice gets up there and grabs them by the throat
and says, `Come here. You're mine.' He's almost the dominatrix.

GROSS: Right.

Mr. COOPER: You know, and the audience is a trick, as far as he's concerned,
you know? Now, at the end of the show, during the encore, when I come back
out is to take the makeup off. And that's when it's, `Hey, everybody, this is
the band, duh-duh-duh,' and I talk very freely to the audience. Why? Because
the makeup's not there, and it's not Alice anymore.

GROSS: Huh. What were some of your favorite horror films that helped inspire

Mr. COOPER: Well, now, I was a kid, now, you have to remember, in the '50s.
So I on Saturdays, Mom dropped us off at the theaters, and there were three or
four great horror movies. "It Came from Outer Space," "The Thing."

GROSS: Uh-huh.

Mr. COOPER: All those great '50s movies. And 30 cents and you were there
all day. And now, of course, they're camp, you know, and "The Creature from
the Black Lagoon" and all that stuff. But I learned to really enjoy those
kind of movies. And I think, maybe collectively, that's where I started
creating Alice.

GROSS: Alice Cooper will be back in the second half of the show. His new
memoir is called "Alice Cooper: Golf Monster." I'm Terry Gross, and this is

(Soundbite of "No More Mr. Nice Guy")

Mr. COOPER: (Singing) I used to be such a sweet, sweet thing
Till they got ahold of me
I opened doors for little old ladies,
Helped the blind to see

(End of soundbite)


GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross, back with Alice Cooper. He
became famous in the '70s for his intentionally decadent, taboo-breaking
theatrical rock concerts. He has a new memoir called "Alice Cooper: Golf
Monster." Here's his 1975 recording "Welcome to My Nightmare."

(Soundbite of "Welcome to My Nightmare")

Mr. COOPER: (Singing) Welcome to my breakdown,
I hope I didn't scare you
That's just the way we are
When we come down

We sweat, laugh and scream here
'Cause life is just a dream here
You know inside you feel
Right at home here

You're welcome to my nightmare, yeah

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: Alice Cooper's shows usually end with him being executed onstage. I
asked him what's his favorite way of being executed.

Mr. COOPER: Well, nothing's more effective than the guillotine, because the
guillotine, there's a certain amount of real anticipation behind it. You see
that blade.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. COOPER: It's a 40-pound blade, it's razor sharp, and it really only
misses me by about six inches.

GROSS: It's a real guillotine?

Mr. COOPER: Oh, yeah. And it's a good trick. But if I didn't do the trick
right, it would cut my head off. I mean, it's--don't try this at home, by the
way. I'm a professional.

GROSS: Can you describe the trick, or would that be giving too much away?

Mr. COOPER: In case any of you people have guillotines at home.

Mr. COOPER: Well, it's a trick--it's an old vaudeville trick. In fact, when guys
like Groucho Marx would come to the show--Groucho saw as the last--he always
called me, he says, `You're the last hope for vaudeville.' And he would bring
Jack Benny and George Burns and Mae West. And people like that would come to
the show, because it was vaudeville to them. They said, `Ah, remember 1923?
The Great Floyd used to do that! Remember? Of course, he would have doves
come out of his sleeves when he'--and this was nothing new to these guys.
They would, you know, Groucho would come to the show and he'd see it, and he'd
go, `Ah, rawr rawr rawr.' You know, he'd insult everybody there. `Excuse me,
I got to go insult the maitre d'.' You know, that kind of thing. We were best
of friends, Grouch and I were. But they saw it as vaudeville, and actually
that's what it is. It's rock 'n' roll vaudeville.

But this generation--the last five generations have no idea what vaudeville
is. So to them, it's something new. It's some kind of strange, dark cabaret.

GROSS: So can you describe the guillotine trick, like how it's done?

Mr. COOPER: Well, the guillotine, you actually--you are in the guillotine in
a stock, right? And you are holding yourself up with the hands. The audience
sees your head in the stock, and there's a basket in front of you. What they
don't see is that when the guillotine comes down, it's one point, you let
yourself go and your whole body drops, OK? They don't see that. They only
see your head lop off. Because they only see your head fall down, and then
there's a fake back that comes up and gives it the illusion that your head
literally came off. And if you see it on video, it is so effective that you
can stop it and start it, and that head comes off.

Now, we learned the trick--it was an old vaudeville trick. But it had been
perfected and perfected. The Great Randy was one of the guys that helped us
with it. And it looks perfect. In other words, I wouldn't do it unless it
really did look good. And then, of course, there's another head in the
basket. There's a perfect Alice head.

GROSS: Right. That they can parade around.

Mr. COOPER: And they pull it out...

GROSS: Uh-huh.

Mr. COOPER:'s my head. And by that time, I'm already off the stage.
I'm already gone. I'm already changing into white top hat and tails.

GROSS: So, you know, at the end of a show, there's always a sense of relief
and release, you know, that the show is done.

Mr. COOPER: Yeah.

GROSS: Must be particularly so when you're getting executed at the end.

Mr. COOPER: Well, there's not much more you can do. I mean, your head just
came off. And I always say that, you know, if you're in the first 10 rows,
don't wear your best clothes. Because when that head comes off, we make sure
that everybody gets, you know, an artery goes. And, you know, it sprays blood
over everybody. You know, people are covered in stage blood. But they want
to be as close as they can get so they can walk out with the blood splattered
all over them and say, you know, `Alice got me with the blood tonight. It was
great.' You know?

And then, of course, the guy, the executioner, pulls the head out, and the
head is rigged so that he looks at the head, he talks to it, and he turns
around, and the head spews blood out of its mouth into the audience, like it
throws up what's left of it. It's not dead yet, you know? Now, it's so over
the top that if you're not laughing by now, there's something wrong with you.
Because it's...

GROSS: But the thing is, though, that some of your fans took it really
seriously, which leads to the chicken story.

Mr. COOPER: Well, in the beginning.

GROSS: It leads to the chicken story.

Mr. COOPER: Yeah, yeah.

GROSS: Tell the chicken story.

Mr. COOPER: Which, of course--well, no, the chicken story was one of those
things that--nobody saw that one coming. We're playing in Toronto, and my
manager, Shep Gordon, who I've been with 38 years, who's also total
vaudeville, totally gets it, you know? He's the one guy that always goes,
`Let's go for the Hollywood publicity stunt.' You know? We were going to go
on between John Lennon and The Doors. Now, you have to remember, nobody's
ever heard of us. But he promoted the concert, and 60,000 people there. And
we didn't get paid. Our payment was that we went on at the end, between the
two biggest acts.

So at the end of our show, we always used to do a thing where we would open up
a feather pillow and CO2 cartridges, and the whole stage was a flurry of
feathers. One or two pillows could fill Madison Square Garden, you know, with
a CO2 cartridge. In the middle of all this, all of a sudden, I look down and
there's a chicken. Somebody threw a chicken onstage. Now, it never occurred
to me, here's a guy, `Let me see, I got my keys, I got my tickets, I got my
drugs, I got my chicken, I got'--who would bring a chicken to a rock concert?
It wasn't us. We didn't bring it. I mean, I'd never have thought of using a
chicken onstage. So there's this white chicken, and, being from Detroit,
never being on a farm in my life--it had feathers, it had wings, it was a
bird, it should be able to fly. Is that not logical?

GROSS: I understand.

Mr. COOPER: Well, yeah. And I pick it up, and I kind of like softly, you
know, throw it into the audience, where it didn't fly as much as it plummeted
into the audience, and the audience tore it to pieces.

GROSS: Yeah, and...

Mr. COOPER: Next day in the paper, `Alice Cooper rips chicken apart and
drinks the blood,' and I was the new geek of all time. Of course, nobody had
a picture of it because it didn't happen. Now, I got a call the next day from
Frank Zappa, who was producing me at the time, and he goes, `Alice, did you
kill a chicken onstage last night?' And I went, `No.' He says, `Well, don't
tell anybody. They love it!' He says, `Everybody's talking about it!' He
says,`You're the new, you know.' So...

GROSS: Hey, I guess there's a part of me that wonders if, in a way, Alice
wasn't the villain here in the sense that maybe the fans were kind of behaving
the way they thought you wanted them to behave, or the way they were expected
to behave at an Alice Cooper concert, you know? `A chicken? Yeah! We're
villains, too! Let's get the chicken!'

Mr. COOPER: Yeah, that could be it. And it also could be the fact that they
were the ones that were high. We weren't. We were in the band. We didn't
get high. We drank a little beer. That was about it, you know?

GROSS: Did you ever think, like, `What am I bringing out in my fans?'

Mr. COOPER: Well, you know...

GROSS: `Am I making these people a little weird and crazy and violent?'

Mr. COOPER: When I thought of--yeah, not violent. Because here's the
strange thing, we never had violence in our audience. That was always the odd
thing. My show was designed, to this day, that if you look away from the
stage, you're going to miss something. And that, I've always, shotgun
theater. You know, this song happens, boom, this is happening, Alice has got
a crutch up there, OK, crutch is gone, now he's got a sword, the sword's got
money on it, now there's money flying in the air, did it--we don't give them a
chance to look away from the stage. So we never have fights in the audience.
We never have people getting in trouble. You take a boring act and put them
up there, and the audience will fight, but not during an Alice Cooper concert.

GROSS: Well, here's one other thing I'm wondering about like doing the act,
you know, the theater. Like, there was one song in which you would have
these, like, dismembered parts of female mannequins...

Mr. COOPER: Yeah.

GROSS: ...and do really...

Mr. COOPER: Or just parts of any mannequins, yeah.

GROSS: And do really crude things with them, and I'm thinking of,
specifically here, the female mannequins.

Mr. COOPER: Yes.

GROSS: And, you know, of course, that makes me wonder like what message is
that sending, or what impact is that having on like the, you know, the
youngest male members of your audience who think like, `Yeah, that's what
sexual is.' Did...

Mr. COOPER: Yeah, yeah, and the weird thing about it was, at that
time--not--and I think I only did that once, and I think that was in the
"Billion Dollar Babies" show.

GROSS: Yeah, uh-huh.

Mr. COOPER: And it never returned after that.


Mr. COOPER: But it was--at the time, it was very Dada. It was
very Salvador Dali-esque. There was no phallus. There was nothing--it was
obviously mannequin parts.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. COOPER: And, you know, when people said, `Alice Cooper, oh, killed
babies onstage.' No. I killed dolls onstage, baby dolls. And Alice had this
thing where he'd throw billion dollar babies--on "Billion Dollar Babies," I
would throw baby dolls in the audience. You know, little rubber baby dolls.
And I would have one on the end of my sword, and I would throw it out there.
The song "Dead Babies" was about parental abuse. It had nothing to do with
killing babies. I said, `Yeah, killing babies because parents aren't taking
care of their babies.' I had nothing against babies. But I did like throwing
dolls around. I thought there was something about that. Maybe that was
having a big sister or something like that. I was always afraid to bring a
psychiatrist to my show. I was afraid they'd read to much into it.

But it was always--the funny thing about it was, if Salvador Dali would've
done that, people would've gone, `Ooh, that's very artistic.' You know? But
Alice Cooper does it, and they go, `Oh, I don't know about that.'

GROSS: My guest is Alice Cooper. His new memoir is called "Alice Cooper:
Golf Monster." More after a break. This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: My guest is Alice Cooper. He has a new memoir about music and golf.
It's called "Alice Cooper: Golf Monster."

You know what I find almost amusing? Like, the stage show is so much like
darker and more malevolent than a lot of the records themselves are. I mean,
like, and some of the records--and this is '70s we're talking about.

Mr. COOPER: Yeah.

GROSS: But, like, take "Desperado," which is, you know, has a lyric like, `I
wear lace and I wear black leather.'

Mr. COOPER: Yeah.

GROSS: And this is about, you know, `My hands are on my gun and'...

Mr. COOPER: You know what that song is written about?

GROSS: `My shots are clean, my shots are final.'

Mr. COOPER: Yeah.

GROSS: But the music is, like there's an instrumental break in the music
where there's symphonic violins playing, and it's so...

Mr. COOPER: Yeah.

GROSS: It's so, like, this symphonic music break in the middle of that song
is so...

Mr. COOPER: It's beautiful, right.

GROSS: ...different from anything that the Alice Cooper theater image would
present. It's...

Mr. COOPER: Now, that song in particular was...

GROSS: Yeah. Mm-hmm.

Mr. COOPER: My favorite movie was "The Magnificent Seven."

GROSS: Oh, I love that film.

Mr. COOPER: OK, now, remember Robert Vaughn's character? He was the guy
with the black--he would wear the black vest on, he had the two chrome guns,
he had the fastest gun. He was the gambler? He had the white lace shirts,
and that song was written about him.


Mr. COOPER: "I wear lace, and I wear black leather. My hands are lightning
on my six guns. My shots are clean, my shots are final." You know, it was
about him. And, of course, I always loved the idea that the audience was
allowed to make up their own interpretations. I always said, the best thing
you can do here is don't write a story, bombard the audience with images and
then take 10 people and ask them what happened in that show, and they'll tell
you 10 different things.

GROSS: My guest is Alice Cooper. Let's hear the track we've been talking
about, "Desperado."

(Soundbite of "Desperado")

Mr. COOPER: (Singing) I wear lace, and I wear black leather
My hands are lightning are lightning on, on my guns
My shots are clean, and my shots are final
My shots are deadly, and when it's done,

You're as stiff as my smoking barrel,
You're as dead as the dead of night
You're a notch and a legend,
You're at peace and I must hide

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: That's "Desperado" by my guest, Alice Cooper.

So did you end up having like, you know, string instruments, like orchestral
instrumental breaks on Alice Cooper records?

Mr. COOPER: Bob Ezrin. Bob Ezrin was our George Martin. Now, when--we were
a pretty raw rock 'n' roll band.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. COOPER: A very inventive rock 'n' roll band, and we learned from The
Yardbirds and The Who, and we really were a very good rock band. And we have
a lot of good little hook-y ideas. Now, Bob Ezrin came along, he was our
producer from Toronto, worked with Jack Richardson. And he saw it and said,
`I'm going to take and shape this into something that is purely Alice Cooper.'
It has Alice Cooper signature all over it.' We quit touring for six, seven,
eight months, maybe, and did nothing but relearned how to play our
instruments, relearned how to sing, relearned how to write. And that's when
"Love It to Death" came out with "Ballad of Dwight Fry" and "Desperado" and
those songs and everything like that. And it was a new Alice. But it was an
Alice that was really melodic.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. COOPER: And Bob Ezrin would say--he would do this. We would, of course,
hear a song and we would add guitars and add this and add this. Bob would
subtract things. He would say, `Let's take all of this out and just have that
one piano going there. It's one lonely little piano, and then this whole wave
of strings will come in.' He says, `And they're not expecting that.' And when
those strings are just like singing above everything with your voice here in
the middle, then the guitar comes in. But one guitar, not six guitars.

And pretty soon--we would argue with him and say, `You're taking all the best
parts out, duh-duh-duh-duh.' Then we'd listen to it and go, `Oh, man, that's
great.' You know, Bob really--we gave him full reign. We would write the
songs, record it, and then we would let him add the oboe here that like
doubled the bass. And he would add a piano that doubled that guitar. And
this and this and this. And it was magnificent, what he was doing.

GROSS: Yeah, well, even "Welcome to My Nightmare" has horns in it.

Mr. COOPER: Oh, it's got...

GROSS: Symphonic sounding horns.

Mr. COOPER: "Elected" sounds like a Leonard Bernstein piece, you know? But
that's all Bob Ezrin.

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Alice Cooper, and he has a new
book that's part memoir about his life and his band, and it's also part about
golf. And it's called "Golf Monster." And he describes himself as a golf

Now, we talked a little bit about how when you were growing up, you know, your
father was a pastor. Your grandfather had been the head of the Church of
Jesus Christ.

Mr. COOPER: Yes. Not LDS, it was a Protestant church.

GROSS: Mm-hmm. Not a Mormon church.

Mr. COOPER: It just happened to be called--no, not at all. No.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. COOPER: It was called the Church of Jesus Christ, but there was LDS
after it.

GROSS: Right. So with people--with a father and grandfather who were so
active in their churches and who were, you know, missionaries, too..,

Mr. COOPER: Yes.

GROSS: ...when you started doing Alice Cooper, was there ever a little voice
in your head saying, `I am behaving sinfully'?

Mr. COOPER: I was the prodigal son. I couldn't get further away from the
church. I became the poster boy for sin. I was, you know, pretty much, you
couldn't get much worse than Alice Cooper. Of course, I was getting richer
and bigger, and we were voted number one band in the world at one point.
Combined with hit records, you couldn't--that was what kept me going, was that
fact that there were hit records, and people couldn't deny that. Sold out
shows everywhere.

Now, when I got out there and I became an alcoholic and--there was that voice
that said, `What're you doing out here?' Because I did believe in Jesus
Christ; I did believe in God. In fact, a lot of my songs in the early
days--there's a song called "Second Coming"--a lot of my songs had lots of
biblical reflections and things going on. Now, about 1980, I checked into a
hospital because I was throwing up blood in the morning.


Mr. COOPER: And I came out of the hospital, and I was the classic alcoholic.
I couldn't walk from A to B without a drink in my hand. I came out of the
hospital, and never once had a craving for alcohol. Not one craving. Didn't
go to AA, didn't have a therapist, didn't have a psychiatrist, I had no
backup. I just went, `It's gone. It's absolutely gone.' So people said,
`Well, you have a very good cure.' I said, `No, I was healed.' Because

GROSS: Is that when you became a Christian again?

Mr. COOPER: Well, when I saw the evidence of the fact that God did something
extraordinary with me. He--not because I deserved it, but it was as though
one day they took a X-ray and I had cancer, let's say, and they took the X-ray
the next day and the cancer was totally gone, and they went, `Where did it
go?' It just disappeared. I was an alcoholic of the highest order one day.
When I came out, I was not. So 26 years, I've never had a drink. And I
don't--it would never occur to me to have a drink.

GROSS: My guest is Alice Cooper. His new memoir is called "Alice Cooper:
Golf Monster." More after a break. This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: My guest is Alice Cooper. He has a new memoir about music and golf.
It's called "Alice Cooper: Golf Monster."

Can I just name a few names to you and get your really short take on them?

Mr. COOPER: Sure.

GROSS: Great. Kiss.

Mr. COOPER: Kiss. We told Kiss where to buy their makeup. Everybody wanted
there to be a huge feud between Kiss and us because they were the great
copycats. Alice came out with the makeup, Kiss came out with the makeup.
Their very first statement was, `If one Alice works, then four ought to work.'
Now, my joke with them--and they're friends of mine--was they use pyro. I
never used pyro. I said, `As long as you guys do something, don't do my show,
and do different records, there's room for us both out here. Just don't be
Alice Cooper.' So they turned into four comic book characters.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. COOPER: They were like the X-Men.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. COOPER: Whereas Alice Cooper was "Phantom of the Opera," you know? I
always used to laugh and I'd say, `When you guys can't think of anything
clever to do, you just blow something up.'

GROSS: OK. "Rocky Horror Picture Show."

Mr. COOPER: Based on Alice Cooper.

GROSS: Right.

Mr. COOPER: Absolutely. I saw the director's notes. Every time they
mention Frankenfurter, they said, `a la Alice Cooper.'

GROSS: Uh-huh.

Mr. COOPER: Now, see, that show had a great sense of humor. You know, I
mean, we watched that--and I don't care if you were Christian or
non-Christian, you watched the show and you were laughing your head off
because it was so ridiculous. But it's so over-the-top vaudeville that, I
mean, you have to laugh at it. I object to some of the humor, I object to
some of the, you know, things, but so what? You know? Everybody's going to
object to something.

GROSS: Marilyn Manson.

Mr. COOPER: Marilyn Manson, you know, understood what Alice was, looked at
it and said, `I'm just going to up the ante. I'm going to be Marilyn Manson.'
OK, Alice Cooper, Marilyn Manson. OK. Let me see, a girl's name. Gee, I
wish I would've thought of that. Makeup? Oh, wait a minute. I did that.
But he said, `OK, my thing is, now, Alice did makeup, snakes and
violence--mock violence onstage. OK, what am I going to do? OK, I'm going to
be a devil worshipper drug addict, duh-duh-duh. That will get them.' What he
does is very stylistic.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. COOPER: I think he's missing the sense of humor in it, and I certainly
object to a lot of the things when it comes to tearing pages out of the Bible,
and he became an anti-Alice as soon as he heard I was Christian.

GROSS: Really?

Mr. COOPER: He just publicly said, `I hate Alice now.' `Why?' `Because he's


And I want to ask you about Frank Sinatra, and here's why: in a concert film
from 1973, you come out first in a white tuxedo singing "The Lady Is a Tramp,"
a song Sinatra made famous.

Mr. COOPER: (Singing) She gets too hungry for dinner at 8...

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. COOPER: Yeah. Well, he was the first punk.

GROSS: Wait, wait, wait. Then you say, in the middle of the song, you go,
`I've had enough of this,' and you act like really angry, and you strip out of

Mr. COOPER: Right.

GROSS: ...out of the tuxedo and start into Alice Cooper dress, but I figured
you must love Sinatra.

Mr. COOPER: Loved Sinatra. He actually was a friend. And Frank Sinatra
totally got Alice Cooper. In fact, all of the Hollywood guys, the old pros,
got Alice Cooper. They got it. They understood what it was. They saw the
image. They said, `Oh, I get it. OK, cool, he's playing this thing to the
hilt. Way to go.' And the hit records keep coming. Frank Sinatra did one of
my songs. He did "You and Me" at the Hollywood Bowl one night. I actually
got along quite well with Frank Sinatra. He looked at me as an original, and
of course, everybody--you can't beat Sinatra. He's the best voice of all

GROSS: Just one more thing. It sounds like your voice is in pretty good
shape, which is kind of amazing considering how many years you've been singing
real loud onstage.

Mr. COOPER: I never smoked.

GROSS: Is that it?

Mr. COOPER: Yeah. Never smoked. Yeah.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. COOPER: I never--wasn't a smoker, and I quit drinking 26 years ago. And
a lot of the guys I know, I mean, the Steven Tylers and the Iggys and the
people like that that were heavy smokers, yeah, do have some problem with
lungs, I mean, in as far as lung power. Now, you have to remember, on top of
that I was a distance runner.

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. COOPER: I mean, so I can get up and do five shows a week, two hours a
night, at a much more breakneck pace than these guys do, and it's because, I
think, that I never had a lung problem. I didn't have problems with that.

GROSS: Well, Alice Cooper, it's really been fun talking with you.

Mr. COOPER: Thank you very much. We've done some fun stuff.

GROSS: Alice Cooper's new memoir is called "Alice Cooper: Golf Monster."

You can download pocasts of FRESH AIR on our Web site,


GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.

(Soundbite of "Eighteen")

Mr. COOPER: (Singing) I'm eighteen!
And I don't know what I want
I just don't know what I want
I got to get away
I've got to get out of this place
I go running in outer space, oh, yeah!

I've got a baby's brain and an old man's heart
Took 18 years to get this far
Don't always know what I'm talking about,
Feels like I'm living in the middle of doubt

Because I'm 18!
I get confused every day
I just don't know what to say
I got to get away

Lines form on my face and my hands
Lines form on the left and right
I'm in the middle, the middle of life

(End of soundbite)
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

You May Also like

Did you know you can create a shareable playlist?


Recently on Fresh Air Available to Play on NPR


Daughter of Warhol star looks back on a bohemian childhood in the Chelsea Hotel

Alexandra Auder's mother, Viva, was one of Andy Warhol's muses. Growing up in Warhol's orbit meant Auder's childhood was an unusual one. For several years, Viva, Auder and Auder's younger half-sister, Gaby Hoffmann, lived in the Chelsea Hotel in Manhattan. It was was famous for having been home to Leonard Cohen, Dylan Thomas, Virgil Thomson, and Bob Dylan, among others.


This fake 'Jury Duty' really put James Marsden's improv chops on trial

In the series Jury Duty, a solar contractor named Ronald Gladden has agreed to participate in what he believes is a documentary about the experience of being a juror--but what Ronald doesn't know is that the whole thing is fake.

There are more than 22,000 Fresh Air segments.

Let us help you find exactly what you want to hear.
Just play me something
Your Queue

Would you like to make a playlist based on your queue?

Generate & Share View/Edit Your Queue