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"I'm a dad first and an artist second," Alice Cooper declares. Yet the former Vincent Furnier isn't bothered in the slightest that he has to watch twenty-something daughter Calico Cooper get mauled during each stop of his current tour. On the contrary, he's as proud as he can be that his little girl, who portrays Paris Hilton under attack by a throat-ripping Chihuahua, is upholding the Cooper clan's gory traditions. He established such customs during his '70s heyday, when fans routinely packed arenas to witness his guillotining and/or electrocution and his choice of bride guaranteed that his bloodletting bloodline would remain pure.
"I met my wife, Sheryl, during the 'Welcome to My Nightmare' show," he recalls. "She did the ballet in 'Only Women Bleed,' and she got killed a bunch of times on stage. So how could my daughter not be doing something like this?" Hence Calico's transition into a budding scream queen whose credits include teensy-budget flicks such as the forthcoming Puppy, a tale built around a pooch "who's nice when the sorority girls who find him are looking," Cooper notes, "but as soon as they turn their backs, it turns into this horrendous thing."
Once upon a time, Cooper was regularly slapped with such tags: "I was the Antichrist!" boasts the avowed Christian. By now, however, he feels that "Alice has woven himself into the tapestry of Americana. It used to be that I was on the lunatic fringe. Now when you say 'Alice Cooper,' people feel very secure." He believes his concerts offer wholesome fun for kids of all ages, despite the occasional splash of hemoglobin, and Madison Avenue apparently agrees. Last year he starred in a series of Staples commercials, peddling notebooks to the tune of his biggest hit, "School's Out," a fantasia about blowing up an institution of learning that even the post-Columbine PC police shrugged off.
From a business standpoint, Denver hasn't been terribly welcoming to Cooper. His rock-and-baseball-themed LoDo restaurant, Coopers'Town, closed just over six months after its May 2001 debut: "It didn't survive 9/11," he says. Nevertheless, his two other Coopers'Towns, in Phoenix and Cleveland, are holding their own, and his syndicated radio program, Nights With Alice Cooper (aired locally on the Fox), is up to eighty stations nationwide. Thanks to Nights, he's the rare veteran rocker who can count on getting airplay for contemporary material. His 2005 disc, Dirty Diamonds, issued by New West, isn't moving units like Gwen Stefani's latest, but it's his best-selling release in over a decade.
Not bad for a Republican who counts Senator John McCain of Arizona among his good buddies. If McCain is elected president in 2008, to what office would Cooper like an appointment? "I'd want to be put in charge of a commission to deal with people who talk during movies at theaters," he says. "I'd put them in a five-by-five cage with a mariachi band for about three days."
If that's the kind of punishment he once meted out to his daughter, she's better off with that homicidal Chihuahua.