Shock-rocker Alice Cooper has always been a bundle of contradictions. That’s never been more true than during the past twenty or so years, which have seen the singer of “Halo of Flies” and “Only Women Bleed” quit alcohol, find Jesus, and come out publicly in favor of at least one Republican president, all without ever giving up the blood-soaked stage antics that have sustained him across six decades of recordings.
And while his years in the 70s hard rock limelight were anything but “wholesome,” even back then he had a secret, deep-running Leave It to Beaver streak, e.g. he eschewed drugs (though freebase came along for a bit a few years later), befriended teen idols such as David Cassidy, appeared on the Muppet Show, and loved a good round of golf. Though he sometimes dressed rather effeminately (and goddam it, he called himself “Alice”), I would not have guessed that he’d be anything like a progressive regarding LGBTQ+ stuff, and kind of suspected that he’d have the opinions of queer folks typical of rocker guys in the 1970s.
There was even a researcher in 1973 who basically “proved” that Alice Cooper did not encourage his fans to think more positively about gays and bisexuals:
“Well, do you think it alters their attitudes?”
“For some people I’ve talked to, it has a little bit, as far as their attitudes on sex. A lot of them feel different after they see the concert.”
“Is it altering attitudes towards bisexuality and homosexuality?”
“No, no. That is the one thing that has not come up in the preliminary results at all. Uh, there’s maybe three people, so far, out of all these results, that have said that.”
But then I discovered this article just now from a Canadian teenybopper magazine called SPEC, from 1974. And it’s blowing my mind.
[NOTE: I just learned that Dangerous Minds discovered this article first. But I don’t care.]
Bear in mind that the mid-70s were a time when Alice was one of the most popular musicians in the United States and the world, one who appeared in their magazine umpteen times in that year alone.
And no, your eyes are not deceiving you. People in 1974 thought nothing of putting a headlines like “ALICE – A FAG???” right there on the covers of their magazines meant for teens.
If you’d been a kid in the 70s and bought the magazine, you probably wouldn’t have guessed the true content therein, especially if you turned the pages and saw more of the same from the captions and photos they put beside and around the article.
But this side caption actually misquotes Alice, who didn’t say “I’m not a fag” in the way they imply. He wasn’t rejecting the application of the term to himself. He was rejecting it as a term altogether:
[W]e get all these letters saying “Alice is a fag!” I’m sure you get them too. How do you account for that?
To some extent, I must admit, we do encourage that impression. But I’m not a “fag” – you know I don’t like the word “fag” because it’s insulting to gay people.
He then goes on to point out that what he does–dressing flamboyantly–and what being gay is have nothing directly to do with one another (emphasis mine):
What impression do you encourage?
Oh, you know, bizarre, kinky, neither-here-nor-there. But I never went out of my way to lead people to believe that I was actually homosexual. After all, make-up and costumes have nothing to do with homosexuality – the only pertinent factor is whether or not you’re attracted to people of your own sex.
He even gives what I think is a positive message for teenagers who might be interested in whether or not a performer they like is gay, and who might be gay themselves:
Don’t you think that a lot of your fans want to believe that you’re gay?
Yes, I know they do. Isn’t that curious? They’ll read this interview, and they’ll say, “Bull! We know he’s queer!” Nothing I could say or do could convince them that I’m not.
Why do you think that is?
I figure it probably makes these kids feel far-out to think that they can dig a performer who’s supposedly gay. I think that’s groovy of them.
Would you admit it if you were homosexual?
Of course, and I wouldn’t just admit it, as if it were something you’re supposed to conceal. I’d just be it. I’d be natural about it, and I don’t see where it would be very much different for me, except I’d be making it with men instead of women.
Yay, Alice! It would be groovy of them!
He also addresses what must have been a legitimate grievance by the Gay Liberation Front … I can’t find it now, and in fact what I’ve pulled up searching for it are articles that seem to show Alice Cooper was embraced by the gay community (for example, as an example of drag theater in this interview he did in 1971 with gay-themed magazine William & John). But there must have been some criticism thrown his way, and he goes on the record to say he doesn’t intend to exploit homosexuality “in any way.”
I understand you’ve been criticized by people in the gay liberation movement for exploiting homosexuality and making fun of it.
I’m sorry they feel that way, but there are a lot of gay people who don’t mind what I do also. It’s all in fun, and it’s certainly not meant to be malicious in any way whatsoever.
But more importantly for people like me, bisexuals who have starved their whole lives for bisexual heroes and allies, and who loved Alice Cooper as a kid, I was so happy to see what Alice says about bisexuality.
Alice Cooper wishes he could be like me!!!
Aren’t you even just a little bit bisexual?
You mean do I mostly like girls, but do I like boys sometimes? No, I only like girls, but if I could have chosen my own sexuality, I think I might have chosen to be bisexual.
Why is that?
It would give me twice as many people to pick from!
Do you really mean that?
Sure – I think in the future everyone will be bisexual. And everything would be so much simpler then – you’d just make love with anyone you liked, and it wouldn’t matter what sex they were, and maybe it also wouldn’t matter what color they were, or what age, or anything, except that you liked them.
And in a tour-de-force of amazing bisexual ally activist awesomeness, Alice Cooper even gives a shout-out to pansexuality! WTF, this is amazing! Technically he defines it a little differently than we would today, but the spirit of inclusiveness that pan embodies shines out loud and proud in what he’s promoting.
How did you jump from bisexuality to these factors like race and age?
Well, I actually prefer the concept of pansexuality, rather than bisexuality. The prefix “pan” means that you’re open to all kinds of sexual experiences, with all kinds of people. It means an end to restrictions, it means you could relate sexually to any human being, it means and end to unreal limits. I like that idea.
Then what happens to such institutions as marriage and the family?
Look what’s happening to them now – they’re in terrible shape. More than half of all marriages end in divorce, and all families seem to end with the children wanting out by the time they’re 14. These institutions are a mess, they need some shaking up. I don’t know if there’s a magic cure, but I just feel that it should be possible to make love to anyone you like.
Is it possible that you might become pansexual?
Anything is possible.
Is it likely?
Well, now you’re back to categories. You’re asking me if I could go from one category to another category. So far, my sexual desires and experiences have been orientated towards girls of my own race and age. But someday I might meet a guy that I’d flip out for, or an older person, or a black or yellow person. And I would hope that there would be no barriers between us, and that our feelings towards each other would just flow like water from a fountain. I’m not straining to make this happen – because that would be unnatural too. I’m just saying it might happen, and if it does, I’ll be open enough to take it as it comes.
So, wow. Good on ya, Alice Cooper! Thanks for being an ally all those years ago.
Here’s hoping that finding the G-man hasn’t made you change your mind.
5 thoughts on “Alice Cooper was a legit gay/bi/pan ally back in the 70s!”
Chateau bottled rubbish.
ah the 70s…. but these days AC is a xtian , golf playing republican. and he rocks like few ever have. long live AC!
Alice Cooper was as good as any of his contemporaries back in the day, and sometimes better. And they all KNEW it and openly admitted it, in part because he was their friend.
This started even as early as the late 60s, when Frank Zappa supported the Alice Cooper band through two years of bad record sales and sluggish fan reactions, but his popularity among musicians and journalists really started to shine in the early 70s. Just google “Iggy Pop early 70s” and you can’t help but find images of Alice Cooper right there next to Pop and Ray Manzarek. And they look pretty chummy, to the point where you can be pretty darn certain that if one of them caught an STI, they all did!
David Bowie praised him even at the expense of damaging his career, because critics at the time were constantly accusing Bowie of ripping off Alice for his Ziggy Stardust character. But what could he do? They were kind of right. And though it’s never good to be considered a ripoff, these comparisons surely helped Bowie break into the American music market, since at the time, Cooper was becoming HUGELY popular, and anything that even touched Cooper seemed to come away with better critical reception, bigger sales, and more of a sense that teenagers would think it was “fucking badass.”
I think Lou Reed or the people around him must have realized this, because Reed went one step further and actually used (some would say “stole”) Alice’s producer Bob Ezrin for his Berlin album. He also used Dick Wagner, Alice’s session guitarist on a lot of the Alice Cooper band’s early 70s albums, in his live band that became the basis for the live album Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal. And it’s that album which arguably saved Lou Reed’s career from obscurity, placing him back on the top of the 1970’s list of most dark, dangerous rock musicians, just in time to be an inspiration when punk rock came around a few years later (though Wagner and his other buddy from the Reed/Cooper recordings, Steve Hunter, would opt to rejoin Cooper in an official capacity as band members for his solo work for much of the late 70s).
It seems like whether we’re talking about popularity, critical analysis, admiration from one’s peers, or even just sheer rock ‘n’ roll amazingness, Alice Cooper was WAY up there with all the people who are now considered to be rock and roll’s main influencers during that time.
So what I don’t understand is, why isn’t Cooper put in the same category as David Bowie, Iggy Pop, and Lou Reed when we talk about those guys today? Why, when Dick Wagner died, did so many of the headlines mention him as a “Lou Reed” guitarist when he was first, and far more often, an Alice Cooper guitarist?
In 5th or 6th grade we ordered paperback books. Mine was on Alice Cooper. I have looked for it everywhere. He spoke of the first time he had sex was with the babysitter. They played sex Monopoly. Every time you pass go you got to do something. He also said when the band started he had to blow the landlord to pay the rent. This book made it to the shelves of the school library.