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Flashback: Alice Cooper and Ann Landers Debate Necrophilia

Tasos Katopodis, Getty Images

When famous advice columnist Ann Landers called Alice Cooper out over his song “Cold Ethyl,” he didn’t roll over and play dead. Instead, the shock rocker wrote back to Landers, beginning a public correspondence that’s still amazing to read all these years later.

“Cold Ethyl” — a typically creepy, necrophilia-themed song — had been out for four years on the Welcome to My Nightmare album when Landers first noticed it and wrote about it in her nationally syndicated column, criticizing the track’s macabre subject matter and arguing that it was unsuitable for kids. Landers also had problems with Cooper’s legendary onstage antics, which include a ritual beheading.

Cooper responded, and Landers published his letter on Dec. 3, 1979.

“I’m really sorry you found that old song of mine crude and offensive,” Cooper wrote. “Actually, ‘Cold Ethyl’ is just a harmless number about necrophilia. The point I want to make is that the kids are not bothered by this — their parents are. The kids see the song and gruesome antics, like with the guillotine, for exactly what it is — satire, done with a sense of humor to a rock ‘n’ roll beat. Kids know I am harmless. It’s their parents that make me out to be some kind of a monster.”

But Landers, whose column ran for 47 years before her death in 2002, wasn’t budging. She again strongly disagreed, and said so: “For those who don’t know what necrophilia is, it’s sexual intercourse with someone who is dead,” Landers wrote. “You can call it funny if you want to, Alice. I call it sick. I like satire as much as the next person, but chopping off heads and spurting blood all over the place is not my idea of entertainment. I caught your guillotine number in Chicago several years ago and almost lost my supper. (Guess I’m an uncool cat.) You have in your group some exceptionally talented performers and you’re no slouch yourself, Alice. I just wish you’d clean up your act.”

He didn’t. Cooper still employs the guillotine onstage after all these years. He even offered to behead members of Motley Crue at the last stop of their joint tour together in 2015.

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