As a young person, I grew up in churches that viewed all rock music as inherently satanic, filled with subliminal messages intended to tempt unsuspecting youth into the occult and unspeakable debauchery. With his reputation for onstage chicken-killing (now debunked), sexual ambiguity, and distain for authority, Alice Cooper was considered one of the most disgusting examples of the supposed evils of the genre. The “satanic panic” pervading evangelical Christian culture was one of the most idiotic things I encountered in my youth. So there was a delicious sense of irony when I found out that Cooper is himself a born-again Christian who regularly teaches Bible Study at his church and runs a faith-based nonprofit. If anything, that made his stage persona seem even weirder.
A month ago, I had the opportunity to get a VIP pass for Alice Cooper’s show in Peoria. And thanks to the generosity of a fellow member in the Fans for Solid Rock Facebook page, I was gifted a nearly-front-row ticket. It was already an item on my “bucket list” to meet Alice Cooper. Imagine my surprise when I had the good luck to win the chance to be onstage with him! I was assigned the task of throwing oversize balloons into the audience during “School’s Out.” As cool as the experience was, I had a moment of terror in which I questioned my competence to throw balloons into the crowd. Looking out into the audience was a very different perspective! (Below are pictures of me wrangling an errant balloon and later skipping offstage with a crew member at the end of the song.)
As cool as winning the balloon throw was, I found the regular perks of the VIP pass to be entirely worth the money. (I admit, I was a bit scared when I saw the price online.) The VIP pass itself came with some fun swag, including a personalized “certificate of insanity,” tote bag, T-shirt, and a voucher for the online shop.
A couple hours before the show, VIP passholders were welcomed by members of Alice’s road crew and given a pre-show tour, which included a look at the stage and props. I couldn’t wait to get my head in the guillotine and see up close how the decapitation illusion works. As a bonus, we were introduced to Alice’s boa constrictor, Julius Squeezer, and given a detailed explanation of how those animals are cared for. The road crew were all incredibly gracious and had a lot of great stories about being on tour.
The concert itself was outstanding, filling a solid 90 minutes with both classic hits and lesser-played songs. Alice gave an energetic and captivating performance, but the surprise show-stealer was Alice’s wife Sheryl, who first emerged as the victimized woman in “Only Women Bleed,” in a bloody pink dress complete with massive shackles and a wind-up key protruding from her back. She later reappeared as the demonic nurse who torments Alice in “The Ballad of Dwight Fry.” Creepy costuming aside, it was her perverse and twitchy performance that was profoundly disturbing.
After the show, we were escorted to a room backstage where Alice met us after changing clothes. If I hadn’t already seen several of his interviews, the fact that he was sweet and soft-spoken may have been a surprising contrast to his stage persona. After signing some records from my collection we chatted about horror films for a few minutes, and he shared stories about how difficult it was to keep from laughing during the “serious” scenes on the films in which he appeared.
For anyone who wants to meet Alice and see “behind the scenes” aspects of his show, I highly recommend the VIP experience.