Dragon-Con might be the only place on Earth where Alice Cooper could walk around unrecognized.
But that’s only if he were in full makeup, which he wasn’t during his Friday afternoon appearance at the four-day festival celebrating everything grand about science fiction, superheroes, horror and fantasy.
Cooper, born Vincent Furnier, shared his hourlong panel with James Randi, best known as the “executioner” during the classic 1973 “Billion Dollar Babies” tour.
Several hundred people filled the Marriott Marquis Atrium Ballroom to hear the pair reminisce about putting the tour together, onstage antics and their ongoing friendship.
Showing an easy rapport with each other, Cooper and Randi touched on everything from snakes to chickens to drinking beer. We’ll let them tell the rest:
“Groucho Marx would come to the show and bring Mae West and Jack Benny and George Burns. They’d stand at the side of the stage and weren’t the least bit alarmed at what we were doing because it was vaudeville to them,” Cooper said, explaining how his shtick was always about camp and not, as some misconstrued, Satanism.
“My parents ‘got’ the show,” he said, adding that his dad was a pastor and his mom was usually the one saying, “You need more blood!”
Cooper noted that it’s ironic that he wrote rebellious songs about parents and school when his life represented the opposite.
“I wrote all these songs about parents being the problem. My parents were never the problem. Same with school. I owned my school. I had girlfriends doing my homework, I was on the cross-country team, I was Mr. Personality.”
Indeed, during the panel Cooper always referred to “Alice Cooper” in the third person, a distinct character from the mild-mannered fellow who is an avid golfer and restaurateur – but still possesses the jet black mane and wears his rock stardom well, even at 64.
During the discussion, Cooper mentioned that their band was never into drugs – it was all about the beer.
“We kind of proved that you could live forever on beer…if you were in your 20s,” he said. Instead, he said, it was the “squeaky clean” groups such as James Taylor and the Mamas and the Papas who were hitting the heavy drugs.
Oh, and while the white-bearded Randi, 84, was reluctant to give away the secret of the guillotine trick (“You’ll probably go look it up on Google now…and what you read will be wrong,” he cautioned good-naturedly), Cooper did explain how the trick could have resulted in actual decapitation if, well, executed incorrectly.
He also shared a story about the night one of his stage snakes (named Yvonne) disappeared in his hotel room.
Turns out the reptile had slithered into the lid-less toilet bowl and got into the plumbing of the hotel.
“She came up two weeks later in Charley Pride’s toilet!” Cooper said with a laugh.
Then there was the infamous story of the chicken in Toronto. Cooper said he had no idea where the chicken came from, but he assumed chickens could fly, so he pushed it offstage into the audience – “I thought someone was going to go home with a great souvenir,” he said – and instead, the fans in the first few rows mutilated the poor creature and threw it back onstage.
Cooper said he’s still dogged by animal rights groups at shows, but was adamant it was an accident.
“I would never kill any animal, ever,” he said.
Because both Randi and Cooper had so much to share, the panel ended without time to take questions from the crowd, so no word on what’s next for Cooper musically. But, at one point he mentioned that Shep Gordon, his manager for 43 years, was in Hawaii “putting a new show together right now in Hawaii.”
So it sounds as if Cooper and his bag of tricks will be back on the road soon.
And, even though this has nothing to do with music, earlier in the day, David Prowse, who played the physical role of Darth Vader in the original “Star Wars” trilogy, spoke about filling the suit of that world-recognized character.
But first, the soft-spoken English actor apologized for being a few minutes late. Turns out he had to visit a local hospital to have X-rays taken of his chronically impaired knee.
Prowse is a chatty fellow, happy to talk about his early life as a weightlifter and body builder and how George Lucas originally saw him in “A Clockwork Orange” and remembered him five years later when he was casting for “Star Wars.”
Other Prowse-ian tidbits: