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Q&A: Alice Cooper on rock 'n' roll fame and golf game

The shock rocker known for guillotines and boa constrictors loves golf, but he isn't a Sunday duffer; he's a four handicap who once gave advice to Bob Hope.

January 13, 2013|By Lance Pugmire
  • Alice Cooper hits a shot during the pro-am round of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
Alice Cooper hits a shot during the pro-am round of the Hyundai Tournament… (Sam Greenwood / Getty Images )

Alice Cooper is best known for his distinct brand of rock 'n' roll, incorporating horror elements including guillotines, electric chairs, fake blood and boa constrictors into his shows.

The Phoenix rocker, 64, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011, a nod to a career that produced hits such as "School's Out," "No More Mr. Nice Guy," "I'm Eighteen" and "You and Me."

Yet he's also a gifted golfer, a four handicap who after touring with Iron Maiden last year is entered in the pro-am competition at this week's Humana Challenge golf tournament headlined by Phil Mickelson in Palm Desert and La Quinta.

How does a guy who's made a career in the anti-establishment world of rock 'n' roll find his way to the establishment's sport of choice?

"When I quit drinking, which was a necessity, I had to find an addiction that was not going to kill me. I was a good baseball player, and I figured, 'Well, golf takes five hours a day.' I was looking for something that would keep my mind off alcohol. I didn't really realize that I was totally healed from alcohol. I was worried about sitting around, thinking about drinking. So, [in 1982 in Phoenix] I picked up a seven-iron and hit it right down the middle. The teacher said, 'How long have you been playing?' I said, 'I've never touched a club in my life.' He says, 'You're a natural.' I was addicted that moment, the moment I hit that ball down the middle and watched it disappear down the center of the fairway. And anyone who's played golf will tell you, 'Lord help you if you hit five good shots.' Because you're forever addicted to the game. Fred Astaire almost lost his career to golf. There I was, the king of shock rock, playing the game all of the kids' moms and dads play. I was in the strange situation of saying, 'Wow, I'm in the enemy camp, and I'm good at it.' So why not make something even more dastardly, a kid who's not allowed to come to my concerts can go to his dad and tell him, 'By the way, Dad, Alice is a four handicap. He can beat you in golf. The same guy with the makeup and the snake can take you out.' That hurts more than anything."

So you are still sticking it to the man?

"Oh, it was like I was stealing their sport. If I was a hack, that's a different thing. When you're winning tournaments, they have to look at you and go, 'Holy crap, now he's taking over our sport.' All of a sudden, it was a new respect from these parents, which I don't know if I want or not. I go out to the golf course, I've got long hair halfway down my back, makeup smeared from the night before. I've taken lessons from Johnny Miller, Rocco Mediate, John Daly … these are the guys who've shaped my game pretty much. And these bankers are clamoring to get me, because they know I'm a stick. I was a closet golfer for quite a while, and then I just let it go. I'm a really good golfer. It released a lot of rock stars that have nothing to do on a Tuesday morning in Wichita. You're on tour, and don't play until 9 that night, what are you going to do, go to the mall again. Golf is a thing, you can say, 'Let's go play golf.' Now three out of five guys in every band — mostly country-western and heavy metal — play golf. Guys in AC/DC, Bon Jovi, Motley Crue play. It's so against the grain, but we've kind of stolen the sport."

Have the two worlds ever conflicted? You tearing up a green with your putter, letting rip a chorus of foul language?

"I am the strangest character on the planet. I don't swear. And I never get angry. If it were one of the guys in Guns N' Roses, I might imagine there'd be an etiquette problem. And I'm sure when they show up with tattoo sleeves, they're not going to let you on the golf course. They can't keep me off because in most cases, I'm better than the guy who wants to keep me off. I've got to the point I've said, 'If I win, you make me a member here. If you win, I'll pay the membership and never show up.' Nobody ever takes the bet. I say, 'I probably have better etiquette than you do.' The Alice character onstage, he'd think golf clubs are weapons. He hates golf. But if I was able to shoot 68 every day, get on the tour, I would go full Alice, with the black makeup on, the leather and go, 'Hey, the day I can't stay with you guys is the day you can tell me what I can't wear.' If I went out there with all that on, the theatrics, more people would come to the tournaments. They would make more money. I would think they'd want you to do it."

You should do it now.

"I might be past that prime at that point. There was a time five years ago I could get under par pretty much any time I wanted to. Now, I'm 75-80, and that's not going to make the tour. I let that moment pass, which is too bad. I would much rather be a rock singer than a golfer."

Any crazy episode out there?

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