October 23, 2009 - 4:14 pm
Alice Cooper — performing this weekend at the Orleans — used to hang out with Groucho Marx, a story Cooper has told in a book. Here’s the story as he tells me:
It was Groucho who dubbed Alice’s horror-comedy concerts “vaudeville,” a classification Alice immediately knew was right.
“Groucho,” he says, “came to the show and said, ‘Oh, vaudeville.’ Before that everybody said ‘shock rock,’ and ‘theatrical rock’ and ‘glam rock.’ When Groucho said, ‘vaudeville,’ I said, ‘Wow, that’s exactly what it is.’”
Groucho called him ‘Coop,’ the way Groucho had called Gary Cooper “Coop,” and it stuck.
They met while dueting on “Lidia the Tattooed Lady” at a Frank Sinatra birthday party.
They became friends while living in Beverly Hills. Groucho had insomnia and would call Coop at 1 a.m. to hang out.
“He had a chair next to his bed with a six pack of Budweiser, and we would sit and watch old movies. And then pretty soon, after about two movies were over, I’d look over and he’d be in his beret and his cigar and he’d finally go to sleep. I’d put out his cigar, turn out the lights and go home. And the next night, one o’clock in the morning: ‘Hey coop, can’t sleep, come on over.’”
Groucho took his friends to Coop’s concert, from George Burns to Jack Benny and Mae West. Ballet dancers in Coop’s show, performing as skeletons, would look over and see Fred Astaire on the side of the stage.
None of them needed earplugs.
“In fact,” Cooper says, “George Burns would say, ‘Guillotine – I remember 1923, Gracie and I were working in Toledo. The great Mahagony did an act like that, except pigeons would come out.’
“There was nothing I was doing on stage they hadn’t seen before, except it was in rock and roll form.”
Those Hollywood comedians got Alice made into a Friar. He’d go to their roasts.
“It was a bizarre time in my life,” he says. “Here I was the weirdest freak in Hollywood. I was this Alice Cooper monster. Every parent hated me. And all the comedians said, ‘He’s a friar, he’s one of us.’"