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During the '70s, Cooper had a drinking club called the Hollywood Vampires at the Rainbow in Los Angeles. He says musicians like the Who's Keith Moon, Doors frontman Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon would drop in. It was like last man standing every night, Cooper remembers. "These were guys who taught me how to drink," he says. "They were not my wholesome big brothers. And they all died around the same age. Of course, John's [death] was much more tragic than anybody else's. Everybody else was self-done. John, of course, was incredibly tragic. But, still, they were my drinking buddies."
Cooper says some of these premature deaths showed him that you can die because of your image. Moon, for instance, didn't have an off switch. He had to entertain no matter what, Cooper says. He was like a kid on Ritalin who couldn't stop. And Jim Morrison "was so self-destructive.... People say, 'Isn't it amazing that he died so young at 27?' Anybody who knew Jim Morrison went, 'I can't believe he got to 27.' I mean, the guy should have been dead at nineteen, as much as he was taking. I mean, he was death-defying. He'd be hanging out of a window fifty stories up just to see if he could do it.
"These guys weren't all necessarily self-destructive," he goes on. "John wasn't, and I don't think Jimi was, either. Jimi's was an accident. But they lived really hard, fast rock-and-roll lifestyles."
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Nearly three decades ago, Cooper, who says he got used to starting his day by having a couple of beers and then throwing up all the stuff from the night before, woke up one morning and vomited blood, which he saw as God's way of saying, "The party's over."
"I think all of us have had that near-death experience and had to decide at that point — do I live or do I die?" Cooper says. "Do I keep on this path, or do I go get myself fixed and start something new? I wanted to make twenty more albums. I wanted to tour another twenty or thirty years. So I just decided to live. I don't think Keith decided to live. I think he really did want to die before he got old."