The Night Alice Cooper Almost Hanged Himself … Again
A happy family man, secure in his faith, his bank account, his golf game and his lofty status in the rock and roll pantheon, legendary shock rocker Alice Cooper is living the life these days – especially for a guy who's been faking his own death on an almost nightly basis for decades. But on April 7, 1988, Cooper almost ended up hanging for real when his onstage gimmick went horribly wrong.
Mock executions with the aid of fellow band members and assorted ghoulish accomplices – using everything from a noose to a guillotine to an electric chair – have long been an integral part of Cooper's notoriously theatrical stage shows to the delight of his millions of fans. But that’s not to say things have always gone as rehearsed since Cooper first began sacrificing himself at shock rock’s altar sometime in 1971, usually as a chilling finale to his morbid hit "Dead Babies."
Just a few years into this grizzly routine, the nightly hanging stunt almost took a turn for the tragic when the practically invisible, incredibly strong piano wire tasked with literally saving Alice's neck unexpectedly snapped; luckily, Cooper was able to react in a fraction of a second, whipping his head back just in time to slip through the noose and collapse to the stage instead, unconscious, but still breathing.
As he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in a 2009 interview, it was the guillotine trick that failed him next, almost finishing off the shock rocker in a careless moment. "It was before we knew how to do it safely," Cooper explained. "[One night] I said 'Let's just do it.' And the guillotine missed me by six inches, and that's a 40-pound blade!”
Even more frightening than these two in-concert near misses, however, was the 1988 incident at London's Wembley Stadium during a rehearsal for Cooper and his band’s impending concert tour, because this time, Alice wasn’t able to anticipate the faulty piano wire and found himself “hanging loose” in the worst possible way.
“Everything has its stress limit and after doing so many shows, I never thought about changing the wire. You know, I figured it’ll last forever,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “The wire snaps. I could hear the rope hit my chin and in an instant I flipped my head back. That must’ve been a fraction of a second because if it caught my chin it would have been a different result. It went over my neck and gave me a pretty good burn. I went down to the floor and pretty much blacked out.”
Fortunately, an attentive roadie noticed that the carefully orchestrated stunt had gone awry, and after several seconds of more shock rock than Cooper had ever been bargained for, the roadie rescued the singer from what may have been certain death by asphyxiation.
Ever the pro, though, Alice quickly resumed staging his nightly on-stage demise, and continues to do so without further incident to this day for his eager fans, albeit with a stronger piano wire. As he sees it, the threat of danger is part of the fun of the show, and hearkens back to a form of entertainment that's older than rock n' roll.
“When I go to the circus and there’s a guy in a cage with 12 tigers, there’s always a chance that one of the tigers didn’t get the message,” he added. “When you see a guy on a tight wire, you know that there may be a second you witness a tragedy. I always wanted that in our show: What they’re seeing could be the last night of Alice Cooper.”
The chances of Cooper getting killed by his own stunt are minimal, but that doesn't mean that he, and the members of his band, are incapable of getting hurt. Whenever Cooper takes on new musicians, he gives them a message:
“You’re going to get paid, you’re going to see the world, and you’re going to get stitches."
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