There will never be another onstage showman in rock and metal like Alice Cooper. Between his banging hard-rock anthems, his elaborate stage show, and his own personal swagger, Alice has entranced audiences around the world for over fifty years. And while so many rock musicians have chilled out with age and toned down their shtick, the Coop has remained over the top all of the time, performing to packed crowds alongside incredible musicians in a haunted house of his own making.
While some of Alice’s onstage antics have passed in and out of this mortal realm, there are a few that will be forever remembered as the stunts that made him a legend. So in honor of his 73rd (!) birthday, we decided to look at the greatest Alice Cooper stage gags of all time. Here are 10 that come flying out of the top hat…
Without question, the GOAT. To this day, no Alice Cooper concert is complete without the hard rock mastermind lopping his one head off and then performing a song while holding it. There’s just something about the guillotine that feels in touch with Alice’s vibe — a ghoulish method of execution that actually existed and turns capitol punishment into a touchdown celebration. As such, the human bagel slicer continues to be the standard to which all other Alice Cooper stage gags must be held. Hey, whatever makes them scream!
Alice’s representation of all things creepy and deadly has made a giant snake his accessory of choice onstage. But what makes this part of the show special is that Alice doesn’t just wear these snakes, he loves them. In a 2018 interview with ARN Radio, the rocker revealed that his pets used to fly First Class on his tours, and get to swim around in the bathtubs of his hotel rooms. “Christopher travels with me on the tour bus,” said Alice, “in true rock-star style.”
A large part of Alice Cooper’s persona is that he’s just too crazy for normal society. So it’s only fitting that at some point during his show, he gets laced up in a straightjacket. While seeing the Coop bound like a Victorian manaic is pretty rad, the true beauty comes when he escapes and leaps across the stage with his extra-long sleeves flying. You don’t have to be crazy to be Alice Cooper, but it certainly helps.
You’re not truly the king of Halloween until you have a chorus line of dancing skeletons. Alice brought out such a troupe for his Welcome To My Nightmare tour, to perform some soft-shoe in the lead up to the big, Broadway-esque “Some Folks.” Though not as much a staple of his set these days — bringing around a crew of morbid-minded dancers must be hell on the tour rider — it’s still one of Alice’s most memorable moments.
Like the guillotine, the noose was definitely an important part of Alice’s stage show in the past — until it nearly killed him. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Alice recalled the night that the wire meant to keep his neck out of the rope didn’t hold. “The wire snaps. I could hear the rope hit my chin and in an instant I flipped my head back. That must’ve been a fraction of a second because if it caught my chin it would have been a different result.” If you’re not willing to die for your audience, why even get onstage?
Long before Cannibal Corpse, Alice Cooper wrote one of rock’s first anthems to necrophilia with “Cold Ethyl.” Of course, any Alice song is just a prelude to a set piece, and the Coop delivered by bringing a doll of Ethyl out for him to dance with and occasionally kick around. Of course, over the years, Ethyl’s gotten creepier-looking, but hey, that’s the case with any dead girl you bring on tour for five decades.
If you go to an Alice Cooper show and a bunch of money with his face on it doesn’t coming pouring from the sky, were you even there? A longtime staple of Alice’s set since the Billion Dollar Babies days has been filling the air with fake billion-dollar bills. Though this might seem like a simple and tame gag, it shows just how great a showman Alice is — he knows the best concerts should also include heavy doses of party, circus, and parade. Get those hands up!
Back on the Welcome To My Nightmare tour in 1975, Alice Cooper’s stage set was dripping with massive fake spiders, which made sense given that one of the album’s biggest singles was “The Black Widow.” These days, Alice doesn’t just hang his set with huge spiders — he becomes one, sprouting extra pairs of arms to make himself into a widow all his own. Gotta keep the eyes on numero uno.
If you have a song called “Dead Babies” and an album named Billion Dollar Babies, you can’t have a show without some babies onstage, right? Thankfully, Alice has always heard the will of the people and made sure to bring fictitious infants out with him every night. Whether they’re obviously-fake dolls being skewered on his sword of surprisingly-realistic two-headed monster babies, the Coop will always commit the ultimate pearl-clutchers’ blasphemy for the sake of a scream. The dude gives a lot of money to help teenagers in need, too, so take it with a grain of salt.
The infamous chicken
It’s 1969, and Alice Cooper has never been on a farm in his life. So in Toronto, when a fan throws a chicken onstage, Alice releases it into the air, thinking, ‘It’s a bird, it’ll fly away.’ Instead, the poor fowl plummets, and is torn to pieces by the fans in the crowd. The press which stemmed from the incident was huge for Alice, even if it branded him a villain. “It was an accident,” the singer told Kerrang! In 2019. “We did not plan that, at all. I wish we would’ve!”
Words by Chris Krovatin