Everyone would like to think that Vincent Furnier came up with the name Alice Cooper after consulting with a Ouija board. It’s been an urban myth for practically as long as Alice Cooper has existed (46 years, give or take).
Alice Cooper was a group back then: Furnier eventually left the band and kept the name, which he had conceived of without otherworldly intervention, because it was the most ironically harmless one he could think of.
Born and raised in Detroit, Furnier has been Alice Cooper longer than he’s been anything. For years, he was Alice offstage too. Cooper began to separate himself from onstage Alice around the time he gave up cocaine and alcohol; he hasn’t had a drink in 32 years and has been married for 38.
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These days, Cooper is no longer the scourge of parental watchdog groups and evangelical pastors: He’s beloved and harmless, like Freddy Krueger or Ozzy Osbourne. He golfs and still tours constantly — he will play the Verizon Theatre in Grand Prairie on Feb. 10. In a recent phone interview, Cooper talked about his friendship with Groucho Marx and Lady Gaga and his perhaps slightly exaggerated Republicanism.
1 There’s an old picture making the rounds on Twitter of you and Groucho Marx. I had no idea you were a couple.
We were the best of friends. He came to one of the shows. He saw Alice Cooper as vaudeville. Those guys were old vaudeville. He would bring, like, Jack Benny and Fred Astaire to the show, George Burns. They’d watch the show and they totally got it, the fact that it was rock ’n’ roll vaudeville. They were not shocked in the least by my show, and that was back when my show was shocking.
2 Do you ever think about what it would have been like for you to come up now, in the age of social media? People like to get upset these days; it’s a lot more polarized.
I think it’s a lot more politically correct right now. You could never make Blazing Saddles now. Richard Pryor would never exist. I think we’re a little too PC. I think when it’s vicious and bullying, now that’s when it’s wrong, but when we can laugh at each other, then it’s a different thing. My stuff was never political, it was never racial or spiritual, it was just pure RKO, plus a little West Side Story, plus a little Guys and Dolls and hard rock.
3 But the controversy back then really helped you. Maybe you’d thrive [if you were starting your career] now.
You can’t shock an audience anymore. I get my head cut off onstage, that’s a tradition now. People really want to see that, and we do that really well. Then you turn on CNN and there’s a guy really getting his head cut off. So what’s shocking? It’s not Alice Cooper, it’s CNN. I’ve talked to Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie about [how] it’s impossible to shock an audience. I think that we pretend to be shocked and we kind of like the idea of controversy, but we’re not really too shocked about the idea of a meat dress on Lady Gaga. Maybe vegetarians.
4 She’s one of the few people these days who’s playing a character. Where did all the people like you go?
I talked to Gaga about this. I said, if there’s anybody who’s close to what I’m doing, it’s you. I invented a character, Alice Cooper. Rock didn’t have a villain. It had all heroes and no villains. You created Lady Gaga. If anybody’s close to what we do, it’s me and you. We created a viable character that didn’t exist before.
5 You’re a born-again Christian. I assume that you’re a Republican. Do you ever worry that some audiences won’t accept that from you?
I’m extremely unpolitical. When you say I’m a Republican, I don’t know what I am. I’m probably more moderate than anything else.
— Allison Stewart, Chicago Tribune