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Alice Cooper reminisces at Dragon-Con

Alice Cooper shared war stories from the "Billion Dollar Babies" tour at Dragon-Con. Photos: Melissa Ruggieri

Alice Cooper shared war stories from the "Billion Dollar Babies" tour at Dragon-Con. Photos: Melissa Ruggieri

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.

The friendship between Cooper and James Randi, his "executioner" on that tour, was obvious.

The friendship between Cooper and James Randi, his "executioner" on that tour, was obvious.

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.

Cooper still looks like a rock star.

Cooper still looks like a rock star.

“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.”

David Prowse said he had a choice between playing Chewbacca or Darth Vader. We know which one won.

David Prowse said he had a choice between playing Chewbacca or Darth Vader. We know which one won.

Other Prowse-ian tidbits:

  • He said Lucas allowed him to choose whether he wanted to play Chewbacca or Vader. “How hot and sweaty is that going to be?” was his first thought about Chewie’s outfit. He ultimately picked Vader because, “You always remember the bad guy.”
  • Prowse was under the impression from Lucas that he would be re-dubbing his audio in a studio after filming. As we know, that task was instead given to James Earl Jones.
  • The actor said while he loves the original “Star Wars,” “I personally think ‘Empire [Strikes Back]’ is the best movie.”
  • Prowse once did a stage show in London that starred Debbie Reynolds, mother of Carrie Fisher who was about 15 at the time, so he already knew Princess Leia when she joined the film.
  • He really wanted to play “Superman,” but instead wound up being Christopher Reeve’s trainer, helping the lean actor add 40 pounds to his 170-pound frame during six weeks of training.

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By Melissa Ruggieri, Atlanta Music Scene

7 comments Add your comment

Hank

September 1st, 2012
12:00 pm

Alice Cooper is a must see! Great show!
http://www.facebook.com/notquitedevils

Laura Coker

September 1st, 2012
7:15 pm

Mr. Alice-you “light up my nights”…and I am glad you look so healthy. I cannot fathom, how you broadcast 6 shows a week, while touring and parenting. Hope your lovely ballerina is also happy and well. thank you for the strong limited booze message, as in our society although you can vote and serve in the military at 18-the real hallmarks of adulthood is the “right” to purchase booze and to gamble. I really appreceiate your skills ,your integrity, and your honesty. You are an “all American hero”. Godspeed….and blessings. most sincerely Laura L.

Val Johnson

September 1st, 2012
11:26 pm

First saw and heard and met ” Alice Cooper” at his Love it To Death concert in London On about 43 years ago when I was 18 and “I loved it” as the song goes. I was transformed into a “minion “prior to “minions ” of Coop being popular. I have followed his career for all these years. Saw his show recently when he and his band came to Ottawas Bluesfest. I was entranced as usual and ” Love him and his music to Death”. Rock On Vince!Alice Rules!!

Antony Jones

September 3rd, 2012
11:25 am

It seems incredible that a sentient and educated man like Randi could be friends with such brainless cretin as Cooper.

There’s hope for world peace yet! lol

James Randi

September 4th, 2012
7:58 am

To Anthony Jones: Sir, you have no idea how wrong you are about Vincent Fournier, a hard-working and very savvy man who has my respect and affection as a good friend. He’s talented, sensitive, thoughtful, dedicated, and as smart as anyone I’ve ever known. I resent your uninformed – though happily brief – tirade…

James Randi.

RWeberWright

September 5th, 2012
4:31 pm

Thanks, Randi – I thought I was going to have to put him in his place myself! He must be drunk and in need of recovery, all the same, we must find a way to forgive him. I am sure Vincent already has. His heart is really that big, among many other outstanding qualities the man possesses. Antony needs to invest at least a few Nights With Alice for his own personal well being! I worry about world peace when there are still too many Anton Jones walking around in the world. Peace and Be Well. I’ll be listening.

R Wright

Klint

September 7th, 2012
6:01 am

He really looks like that?