It wasn’t quite as vexing as his “Wayne’s World” history lesson on Milwaukee — originally pronounced “Mill-e-wah-QUE” in Algonquin, we learned — but Alice Cooper’s standout memory from four decades of performing in the Twin Cities wasn’t very rock ’n’ roll.
“You guys have one of the best courses in the country there, with Interlachen,” the Detroit-bred pioneer of shock rock cheerily reported.
That’s right: golf — not groupies or guillotine mishaps or any other backstage debauchery — is what sticks out most in the mind of the makeup-smeared, chicken-sacrificing rock legend. The gruesome singer born Vincent Furnier, 65, is well-known to be a scratch golfer, as well as a faithful Christian, recovery counselor and all-around nice guy. He earned back some of his solid musical reputation, too, with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s induction of his original namesake band in 2011.
Returning to Minneapolis for a two-night stand at the State Theatre on Sunday and Monday, Cooper talked by phone two weeks ago before one of his final gigs on a summer tour with Marilyn Manson.
Q: You’re well known to be a normal guy offstage. What about Marilyn Manson?
A: [Laughs] Well, he’s good at letting you see what you want to see. When I was young, I didn’t want anyone to see the real me, either, and that’s part of why I became such an alcoholic — I was partly trying to disguise myself.
Q: So is Mr. Manson secretly an ace golfer then, too?
A: He seriously keeps telling me that he’s thinking about getting into it. He told me he and Johnny Depp were talking about taking it up together, getting up at 7 a.m. and hitting the course. And I said to him, “Listen, I have a pretty great imagination, and never in my wildest dreams could I see that ever happening.”
Q: How much golf do you actually get to play on tour?
A: We get out and play nearly every day. A lot of my band plays, too, and I’m usually out there teaching them things. We play golf more than we rehearse. Playing rock ’n’ roll is the easy part.
Q: How do the Twin Cities on the whole rate by your golf standards?
A: Interlachen is Bobby Jones’ place, so it has its own reputation, and rightfully so. I’ve played Hazeltine there, too. In fact, I played Hazeltine with John Denver once, probably in the early ’80s. There was a thing in the press about us beforehand, “He said this, blah, blah, blah.” But when we got out there, we got along great. That’s the thing about golf. It can be a common denominator among people who otherwise wouldn’t have a lot in common.
I was at a Friars Club thing once, and somebody said, “Hey, Bob wants to talk to you.” And I was like, “Bob?!” I went into this other room, and there’s Bob Hope with President Jimmy Carter and Frank Sinatra. And Bob starts asking me about his golf game. He kept pulling his ball to the right. I told him he needed to loosen up his right hand, and it became this thing where this amazingly different group of guys had this one great thing in common.
Q: Any standout Twin Cities memories beyond golf?
A: Oh, yeah. There was a big one at the arena in St. Paul in probably the late ’70s. Some guy lit off a can of tear gas and threw it, and man, did it really wreak havoc. It was right at the end of the show, and everybody thought it was actually a part of the show, as if we’d do something that stupid and crazy. We could barely finish the song — or breathe. It was truly horrible. Afterward, we printed up T-shirts for the whole crew that read, “I survived St. Paul.”
Q: Your new guitarist, Orianthi, was in Michael Jackson’s band before yours. How did she wind up with those two very different gigs?
A: Michael passed away, and then [Alice’s ex-guitarist] Damon Johnson got an offer to go play with Thin Lizzy. It just fell into place. I called over to Orianthi and asked, “When you played with Michael, how many solos did you actually get to play?” She said, “Like two.” I said, “How would you like to play 28 every night? How would you love to be in a real rock band and really show off what you can do?”
Q: Most fans love the theatrics of your show, but some fans would prefer just a straight-up rock band without all the tricks. Would you ever tour that way?
A: Every once in a while, we’ll go in and do that in a club. We played the Whiskey [in Hollywood] recently when I was shooting “Dark Shadows” with Johnny Depp. The kid is a great guitar player, and he knows all my songs, so he fit in perfectly. That’s the only time I’d do that, though — and the only time I talk to the audience. When I have my makeup on, I rarely ever say things like, “Here’s a song we did in 1972.” Alice doesn’t banter with an audience. Alice hits them over the head with a sledgehammer. If I do, it makes them think of Alice as human, and I don’t want that.
Q: We got to see you talk a whole lot on screen in “Wayne’s World.” How did that come about?
A: That was fun. Michael Myers is still a good buddy of mine. At the time, he said he needed somebody in rock who’s iconic but can also act. I was just supposed to do the song, but then when I got there he says, “Could you do a few lines for us?” I said sure, and then he hands me about eight pages of dialogue, and I had about a half-hour to prep. So I had to learn all that “Mill-e-wah-que” stuff on the fly, and a lot of it was just winging it. But it worked.