Don’t let the freaky facade fool you. Alice Cooper, the world’s nicest villain, is a people person.
He loves meeting fans. He really loves meeting other celebrities. And at 71, he still loves talking about his wildly entertaining career with anyone willing to listen.
“Every time I do an interview, there’s so much to talk about,” the Hall of Fame shock rocker said by phone recently from his home in Phoenix. “My show, and my career, has been so colorful that it’s not like, ‘Well, we stood up there and looked at our shoes and played a blues show. ...’ Every single night’s Halloween with us! For 50 years!”
Starting this Halloween, we might as well declare it Alice Cooper Week in Tampa Bay. On Friday and Saturday, he’ll appear at the Spooky Empire horror convention in Tampa, signing autographs, taking photos and sharing some of his endless Hollywood stories in a Q&A with fans. Then, after a few shows around Florida, he’ll return for a Nov. 7 concert at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater.
Every so often, readers ask me who’s my favorite celebrity to interview, and my answer is almost always Alice Cooper. This time around, we covered Elton John, the Manson family, flying panties and signing severed heads, all in under 20 minutes. There really is no one better.
What does one get out of meeting you at a horror convention that they don’t get at an Alice Cooper show?
Generally, I don’t ever talk to the audience. The “Alice Cooper” character is a very arrogant, condescending villain. At the very end of the show, he says, “Okay, now it’s time for Alice to talk to you!” This is a moment when people come up and bring whatever they want me to sign. They’ll say, “I saw you in 1978!” “I saw you in ’74!” “I saw you in ’82!” Everybody gets that moment with you. I’m very open with people, so I don’t just sign it and say get lost. I spend a little time with each person. I listen to all these little stories.
The cool thing about it is backstage. You’re in a big green room, sitting there, and you go, “Oh my gosh, there’s Captain Kirk!" "Wow, that guy’s on Ghost Hunters! I watch that every week! I’ve got to go talk to him!” I’m a TV addict and movie addict, so I especially enjoy it. I really do like these people. I really want to meet them. I could sit and talk to Shatner all day.
What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever been asked to sign?
Oh, man. Some people bring things that I look at and go, “Are you kidding me? I threw that in the audience in 1971!” They say, “Yeah, I know, my dad caught it.” It might have been a sword, it might have been a head. In our show, it could be anything. Then somebody will bring something and I’ll go, “Oh my gosh, where did you get this? That’s a belt I used to wear! Can I buy that back from you?” “No.”
You seem to have a connection to every celebrity. Is there anyone you’d like to meet but never have?
You know, I’ve only met Dylan one time. I went backstage with a couple of guys and all we talked about was boxing. And everybody I know knows Dylan. Johnny Depp knows him really well. Joe Perry knows him. And he had a radio show where he played Alice Cooper all the time. One time, in a Rolling Stone article, he said, “Alice Cooper is the most underrated songwriter.” I just went, Holy crap! I didn’t even think he knew I was alive. But what a great compliment. I wouldn’t mind spending some time with Bob Dylan.
But you met him. That’s more than most people get with Bob Dylan. Is there anybody you’ve never actually met?
I honestly can’t think of anybody in this business. I mean, recently, they come and go so quick that I don’t really know any of them. But the classics? I’ve met everybody. I can’t think of one that I didn’t spend some time ...
Oh yeah! Okay, one. Tom Petty. Never met Tom Petty. Isn’t that weird? And very easy to talk to, from what I understand. Knew my work well, I knew his work well, we just never were in the same room at the same time.
Did you see Once Upon a Time in Hollywood?
I loved it. Every single location, I knew exactly where that was. We used to live in Topanga Canyon, the band did, and we would go down to the General Store to pick up our mail and beer. We saw the Manson girls all the time down there. They were these little hippie girls with no shoes on, dancing around. After the Manson murders happened, we looked at each other and went, “Those are those little high school girls we saw!” Because it wasn’t that far from Spahn Ranch. I would imagine Manson was probably there, and he just looked like a hippie. At the time, nobody would have given him a second look.
I read you were neighbors with the late Ric Ocasek. Is that true?
He was my next-door neighbor. We had a house on the very top of Benedict Canyon, and to the left of me was the John Barrymore house, where the Barrymores lived. Well, of course, they were all gone. Ric Ocasek lived there. On the right side was Elton. Elton lived in this house that looked like a French library, it was so big. When my house burned down — I had just bought the house — Elton was an eyewitness, going, “I smelled the smoke, hoping that Alice wasn’t in the house. ...” I always joked that I would go over every once in a while and borrow a cup of diamonds.
I don’t know if you’ve seen Elton’s new memoir, but he wrote that when he saw Bernie Taupin’s name next to yours in the credits to From the Inside, he felt jealous.
Yeah, I know. I know he got a little bit jealous. Well, you know, when we did the Hollywood Bowl show (in 1972), in the front row was Elton and Bernie. That was before I really knew them that well. We had a helicopter drop thousands of pairs of panties on the audience. He was up there grabbing them, trying to get them. He was like one of the fans. And I think him seeing that show had something to do with (his style). Because at that time, he was not really flamboyant. He was a really cool piano player, and all that. When he saw that show, it might have opened him up to the idea of, Let’s make Elton more of a rock Liberace! Which he should be! That was exactly right for him. I won’t take credit for it, but I have a feeling it did give him a license to explore a more theatrical world.
Cooper will sign autographs and pose for photo ops on Friday and Saturday, with a Q&A at 2 p.m. Saturday. Thursday-Sunday at the Tampa Convention Center, 333 S Franklin St., Tampa. $20 Thursday, $40 Friday and Sunday, $50 Saturday. Autographs and photos extra. spookyempire.com.
$51.25 and up. 8 p.m. Nov. 7. Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 N McMullen-Booth Road, Clearwater. (727) 791-7400. rutheckerdhall.com.