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Alice Cooper On Life, Music And The Night He Almost Murdered Elvis

First Posted: 12/13/2011 10:02 am Updated: 12/13/2011 11:43 am

ERIE, Pa. -- Master of macabre Alice Cooper did not disappoint metal fans here last weekend during the latest stop on his No More Mr. Nice Guy tour. The veteran shock-rocker captivated the near-capacity crowd and proved his continued relevance as a heavy metal entertainer.

Cooper took to the stage Saturday night after an introduction by the late Vincent Price echoed through the French Renaissance-style Warner Theatre. The showman extraordinaire lived up to his reputation when he made his entrance dressed in a spider costume on a pulpit high above the crowd.

At 63 years old, Cooper's vocals sounded great throughout the evening. The rock ghoul managed to keep the audience amped up for more than an hour. Cooper changed costumes and other accessories at least a dozen times during the 21-song set, which began with "The Black Widow" and ended with the hit songs "I Love The Dead," "School's Out" and "Elected." In between, he offered up several hard-hitting songs, including "I'm Eighteen," "Billion Dollar Babies," "No More Mr. Nice Guy" and "Poison."

The performance was highly theatrical and included several of Cooper's signature props that have been frightening audiences for years, including a live python, the guillotine, Cold Ethyl and a 12-foot tall FrankenAlice monster that a mad scientist Alice released during "Feed My Frankenstein."

Cooper's band includes bassist Chuck Garric, guitarist Steve Hunter, drummer Glen Soble and guitarist Orianthi Panagaris. While each of the musicians is highly talented, the bone-rattling riffs often showcased the considerable prowess of Orianthi.

A singer-songwriter and guitar virtuoso from Adelaide, Australia, Orianthi has shared the stage with Steve Vai, Carrie Underwood, Santana and Michael Jackson. The revered six-string shredder has just the right amount of sex appeal and can easily pound out hard-hitting scales at blazing fast speed. At 26 years old, she is well on her way to becoming a legendary guitar player.

Joining Alice Cooper at the Warner was Livan. The UK-based alternative rock band is fronted by musician Livan, a.k.a. Cosmas Livanos, grandson of former Greek Prime Minister Panagiotis Kanellopoulos.

The metal mavens were far from mere stage-warmers and provided several energetic and powerful songs. Livan commanded the stage and made it clear they have a desire to become a potent force in heavy metal.

Together, Cooper and company were able to connect with the audience in Erie and delivered hit after hit.

Before heading to his next stop in the tour, Cooper, the mascara-streaked rocker whose birth name is Vincent Damon Furnier, took some time from his busy schedule to speak with The Huffington Post -- especially when he found out this article would be featured in Weird News.

"Ok, cool. I am all about weird news," he said.

Furnier has been recording music since the late '60s and remains as relevant today as he did more than 40 years ago. There is no doubt that his image as a shock-rocker was hard-earned, but some tales about his past have been slightly embellished by overzealous fans and reporters.

"There was a different [rumor] every day with us," Furnier said. "I would go from city to city -- this was before there was the Internet and CNN -- so anytime Alice did anything, it was blown way out of proportion. If I had a 5-foot snake, it was [said to be] a 25-foot snake."

Furnier said people also have the misconception that he is the character he plays on stage in real life.

"It is fun to play a character that is mythical, [but] he is nothing like me," he said. "He is a character that I play. I created him to be my favorite rock star and I created him to be a pretty dangerous character. So going from being a family guy like I am, with my wife and kids, married 35 years, go to church, play golf, I do everything that a regular guy does. Then at night, I play this character that is just beyond reprehensible."

PHOTOS FROM ALICE COOPER'S ERIE CONCERT: (ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW)

Alice Cooper
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Alice Cooper took to the stage at the Warner Theatre in Erie, PA., on December 10, 2011. The showman extraordinaire made his entrance dressed in a spider costume on a pulpit high above the crowd.

Throughout his career, Furnier became friends with many great legends in show business, including Jim Morrison, Groucho Marx, Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan and George Burns. He was also friends with Elvis Presley and remembered one particularly bizarre incident that occurred between the two in a Las Vegas hotel room in 1971.

"Elvis liked his guns and he handed me a snub-nose .38," Furnier said. "I know it was fully loaded because I checked. I am from Detroit [and] I always check a gun before I pick it up. He said, 'OK man, I am going to show you how to kick this out of somebody's hands and he did this karate thing. But before that, I was standing there with a loaded .38 on Elvis Presley and a little devil in the back of my head was going 'shoot him.' I first saw Elvis on 'The Ed Sullivan Show' when I was 6 and never thought I would be standing in his living room with a gun on him. When I left the place that night I was going, 'Wow was that weird.'"

A few years later, Furnier was involved in another bizarre incident, this time involving country music singer Charlie Pride. Furnier said he was staying at a hotel in Knoxville, Tenn., when one of his beloved snakes disappeared.

"It went down in the plumbing and came up two weeks later in Charlie Pride's [hotel room] toilet," Furnier said. "I don't know if he was sitting on the toilet at the time. That would have changed his life, but the fact that a 12-foot snake came out of the toilet, I would be in church the rest of the day."

In addition to golf, Furnier said he enjoys watching the hit television show "The Walking Dead," a frightful zombie drama that airs on AMC.

"I like Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus). He was in the 'Boondock Saints.' He seems to be a really natural guy [who is] trying to survive. There are no frills about this guy, he is just going to survive one way or another so I really like his character," Furnier said.

In a recent interview with the Associated Press, Furnier referred to pop sensation Lady Gaga as "the female Alice Cooper." When asked by The Huffington Post whether there is a chance they might collaborate on a project together, he replied, "I wouldn't doubt that one bit at all. I have already worked with Kesha on something and I know Gaga very well. She really gets it."

"She totally understands she is playing a character," he explained. "She totally understands she writes for that character, the way I write for Alice. When I write a song, I am not writing it for me, I am writing it for that character. I know what makes him tick so I have to write lyrics for him and that is what she does. We both perform those songs on stage as the character, but when you see Gaga off stage, she is about as normal as any chick."

Furnier added, "She definitely has a sense of style. I mean, I give her all the credit in the world. She has breathed a lot of life into the business. It is funny to me that all the young rock bands, the male bands, are very sedate. A lot of the bands you see on TV, you sit there and you go, 'Geez, these guys are boring,' and you see the girl bands and the girls are all the theatrics. I think the girls have stolen our testosterone somehow."

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Vincent Damon Furnier, AKA Alice Cooper
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An undated photo of Vincent Furnier. (Robert Knight Archive / Redferns)

Before wrapping up the interview with Furnier, The Huffington Post related a reader question that was sent in via Facebook from Weird News and Alice Cooper fan Beth Adams, of Uniontown, Penn.

"Ask him if he ever had any luck trying to teach a chicken to fly," Adams asked.

Adams was referring to a 1969 incident in which someone threw a live chicken on stage at a concert in Toronto. Furnier, who later said he thought chickens could fly, threw it off stage and it plummeted into the first row, where it was killed. The following day, the incident made headlines around the world and rumors began to circulate that Cooper had bitten the head off of the chicken, a la Ozzy Osbourne and the infamous bat incident.

"Chickens don't fly," Furnier replied. "Apparently, they have wings, they have feathers and they should fly, but they don't. They plummet and, in my case, when I went to throw it into the audience, they tore it to pieces, and the kicker to that story is the fact the first 10 rows in the audience that night were all in wheelchairs. They put all the people in wheelchairs in the front -- they are the ones that destroyed the chicken."

The No More Mr. Nice Guy tour has included ninety plus cities and covered five continents, including Europe and North America twice over, but it is unlikely that the longtime mischief-maker and committed heavy-metal singer will hang up his top hat anytime soon.

"My whole career has been based on using anything I could to make a song come to life," Furnier said. "As far as I am concerned, if I say, 'Welcome to my nightmare,' I don't just say it, I give [the audience] the nightmare."

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