Alice Cooper’s theatrical brand of rock ’n’ roll has been horrifying audiences for five decades.
Onstage, the kohl-eyed singer of School’s Out and No More Mister Nice Guy is the stuff of nightmares.
His grotesque Grand-Guignol reputation was cemented when he was accused of biting the head off a chicken and drinking its blood during the Toronto Rock ’n’ Roll Revival concert in September 1969.
A new movie, Super Duper Alice Cooper, details how Vincent Furnier, a preacher’s son from Arizona, morphed into a baby-doll-butchering rock star who found fame under the name of a 17th century witch.
It also unveils the truth about the “poultry incident.”
According to the film, it was during the climax of Cooper’s wild set that a chicken somehow made its way onstage and Alice — thinking the bird could fly, threw it into the air — expecting it to soar into the sky.
Instead it dropped like a stone into the audience who promptly tore it apart. The next day newspapers reported a sensational version of the story, one that painted Cooper as a chicken-killing degenerate, giving the band their best publicity to date and Alice an idea.
“That was the moment I realized the audience really needed a villain,” says Cooper.
“They wanted so much for Alice to be the guy who killed that chicken. Nobody else in rock ’n’ roll would have done that except this really creepy guy up there. It clicked in my head that I needed to make this Alice character a definitive Moriarty. When that happened, I saw what the audience wanted.
“I knew I could develop this guy into something that is really going to be fun to play.”
For the next 15 years he played Alice to the hilt, on stage and off. It wasn’t until a stint in rehab made him reassess his priorities and understand that Alice the character didn’t need to exist anywhere except on stage. “If that grey area would have cleared up and I could have put Alice in his proper place,” he says, “it would have been a lot easier.
“But like anything else, when you’re a creative character, you always take the hard road. I didn’t realize that Alice was not the problem. It was Dr. Frankenstein that was the problem, not the monster. Alice never drank on stage.
“Alice never did drugs on stage. It was the creator of the monster that had the big problem.”
These days, at age 66, Cooper is still going strong. He remains a wild man on stage with a new tour and album in the works. “I still love the fact that people expect a show,” he says, “and they get more than there were expecting every time.”