Alice Cooper is best known internationally as the original shock rocker, and his future place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is almost a certainty. It was much more than just music that has made Alice Cooper a star.
How it Began
It all began at Cortez High School in Phoenix, Arizona. Vincent Damon Furnier and four classmates from the track team formed a group called the Earwigs, and, several names later, renamed themselves the Alice Cooper Group. They were the world's first shock rockers, with many later groups inspired to adopt the concept. In 1972 Vincent legally changed his own name to Alice Cooper. Although there are different accounts of how this name was selected, I would like to believe the one that attributes his choice to the fact that the name conjures up images of a sweet looking girl hiding a hatchet behind her back.
A new era in rock 'n' roll was born. In an interview with The Tribune, Cooper said "We brought theatrics to rock 'n' roll. We did it before Bowie, we did it before Kiss and before anybody. There was no show biz in rock 'n' roll before Alice Cooper. It was taboo and really looked down upon to call yourself showbiz. So when we came along, we went as far out on a limb as we possibly could. We did everything we could to annoy every parent in America, then backed it up with anthems that got played. We had 25 gold albums and sold 50 million records; it wasn't a fluke."
Changing with the Times
Cooper realized that times were changing; people weren't as shocked as before. With the influence and pervasiveness of the media, the violence of our real-life society killed shock. So Cooper adapted. He focused his shows on entertainment with his gruesome make-up, a boa constrictor around his neck and an unhealthy dose of fake blood. Although his humor was very dark, he claims his performances always were based on humor. And at the finale of every performance, the star of the show got just what he deserved: decapitation or some other sadistic end. Although he has respect for artists like Marilyn Manson, he believes that Manson might take things a bit too seriously, and the Manson audience feels a bit shameful when all is said and done. But no matter what happens on Alice Cooper's stage, or what evil story the lyrics tell, Cooper believes his job is to entertain his audience and to leave the people feeling good--to make them feel like they were "at the greatest party they were ever at in their lives." As noted by Antony John, a fan who at one time had a website dedicated to the rocker, "Alice Cooper does not just give concerts; he creates shock-rock events that mesmerize, enchant, and torture audiences around the world."
Alice Cooper is still recording. Cooper, now in his fifties, still commands sold out concert crowds. He's had more than 25 albums since 1969. Dirty Diamonds was released in 2005.
Next Page >> Alice Cooper, Model Phoenix Citizen
Vincent Furnier became a Phoenician (a Phoenix resident) when he was 10 years old. He was a sickly child, and his family moved to Phoenix to help rid him of his bronchial asthma. He attended Squaw Peak Elementary and Madison No. 2 before beginning high school at Cortez, where he lettered in track for four straight years.
Although it has been many years since he changed his name to Alice Cooper, he is not solely defined by his trend-setting brand of rock 'n' roll. He has been married to the same woman, Sheryl, for more than 20 years. He has three children: Calico, Dashiell, and Sonora Rose. He is serious about his onstage career, but even more serious about his role as a husband and father. When his kids were younger, he was an active Little League and soccer coach.
Alice Cooper's Philanthropy
Alice Cooper has other passions, too. One of them is the Solid Rock Foundation, which he describes as a Christian nonprofit organization to help inner city kids stay out of gangs and away from guns and drugs. His foundation raises up to $150,000 each year to benefit this cause. And then there's the other passion: golf. Alice is a popular and familiar sight at Pro-Am and benefit golf tournaments. He hosts his own charity golf tournament in Phoenix each April. When asked how he became involved in golf, Cooper describes a period in his life when all he did all day was drink and sit around hotel rooms with nothing to do. One day, his road manager convinced him to try golf and apparently he was a natural. With about a 4 handicap, he has had a few holes-in-one, and a few double eagles, of which he is very proud.
If you are trying to spot Alice Cooper around town, the best places are either Little League baseball games or the golf courses.
And one last thing about Alice Cooper, the Phoenician. When he is not on stage, he is actually an absolute Mr. Nice Guy. Everyone says so.
Next Page >> The Restaurant: Alice Cooperstown
Shock rocker Alice Cooper and Brian Weymouth, a restaurant consultant, would meet at the Little League games in Phoenix, coach the team and talk about the possibility of Cooper getting in the restaurant business. In December 1998 Alice Cooper'stown opened in downtown Phoenix, near what was then Bank One Ballpark (now Chase Field) and the America West Arena (now Talking Stick Resort Arena). Named after the Baseball Hall of Fame, Alice Cooper's restaurant is described more as an entertainment complex, with video and sound systems, a video wall, outdoor scoreboard and an outdoor live music stage where impromptu jam sessions are not uncommon.
A Love of Sports
Alice Cooper is not only a rocker, he is an admitted sports fanatic. He has used Alice Cooper'stown to showcase his love of both worlds. Every inch of wall space in this large, open eating establishment is covered with either sports or rock 'n' roll memorabilia. Signed jerseys, autographed balls, opening day tickets, and classic sports photos share the space comfortably with Alice's concert photos, gold records and a fantastic collection of autographed Fender guitars.
Clearly, Alice Cooper's restaurant was designed to cater to the sports crowd and the strategic location, within two blocks of where five professional sports teams play, was a good choice. The menu is definitely themed for sports, and includes the "Ty Cobb Salad", "Ryne Sanburger" and (don't forget the rock influence) "Megadeth Meatloaf". One of the most popular items on the menu is "The Big Unit". It's a two-foot-long hot dog that comes with the works. Named after Randy Johnson, the Cy Young Award-winning pitcher, formerly with the Arizona Diamondbacks, who is also a partner in the business, sirens go off when someone orders one.
Visiting and local athletes can often be seen enjoying one of the barbecue specials. Alice Cooper, himself, is often there when he isn't away on tour, and does not hesitate to chat with his fans, sign autographs or suggest menu items.