Moments before Jake “The Snake” Roberts and The Honky Tonk Man squared off in a famous grudge match at WrestleMania III, Alice Cooper — in the corner of Roberts — had a warning for manager Jimmy Hart: “I’ll be watching you all the way. This will be your nightmare. This is also my hometown and the hometown of heavy metal.”
With his outlandishly theatrical stage show — featuring buckets of blood, snakes, and a mock execution — Alice Cooper was the perfect choice as a corner man for Jake “The Snake” by keeping an eye on the sneaky Jimmy Hart at ringside.
Only a handful of rock artists have proven as enduring and influential as Alice Cooper, whose five-decade career has spawned hits including I’m Eighteen, Billion Dollar Babies, Under My Wheels, School’s Out, and Only Women Bleed.
In the Halloween spirit, WrestleNewz chatted with the living legend to reminisce about WrestleMania III, the infamous chicken incident, and his favorite horror films.
WNZ: What was it like being in the corner of Jake “The Snake” Roberts at WrestleMania III?
AC: I had performed in front of big audiences, but nothing like WrestleMania III. It was terrifying, and I remember telling Jake as we were riding that little ring on wheels down the aisle, “This isn’t my audience, my audience isn’t as crazy as this.” It was one of the most terrifying things in the world — 90,000 people, wrestling fans, 60,000 of them were blue-haired ladies going nuts and screaming for blood.
WNZ: Roberts said in the Pick Your Poison documentary that he grew up idolizing you.
AC: Jake was great. We had time to get to talk quite a bit before WrestleMania III, hanging out at the Marriott. I remember him telling me how much he loved School’s Out, which was a big hit when he was in high school. It was a lot of fun hanging out with Jake. I’m a big fan of him too.
WNZ: What do you remember about stepping into the ring for the first time at WrestleMania?
AC: I remember how different it felt to be in that ring, compared to being on a stage with a band. I felt alone in a sense and it was almost too much. A real rush though.
WNZ: After the match was over, you jumped in the ring and helped Jake throw his snake, Damien, on manager Jimmy Hart.
AC: Jake had gone after The Honky Tonk Man and just barely missed him with the guitar, which smashed on the ring post. So The Honky Tonk Man took off, leaving Jimmy Hart in the ring. So I whipped my jacket off and the crowd went even more nuts (laughs). Then Jake grabbed Jimmy Hart in the full nelson as I took the snake out of the bag and began taunting Jimmy with it. It was a blast. I’m used to snakes and have them in my shows but I remember Damien was a big one!
WNZ: What was the vibe like backstage at WrestleMania III?
AC: Pretty intense. I had been watching the match where Bundy body slammed the one midget (Little Beaver), and then I see them all come through the curtain afterwards and the midget with the Mohawk (Little Beaver) is screaming at Bundy — for real! He’s yelling, “Why did you do that! That wasn’t supposed to happen — why did you do that!” He was seriously angry, and it was quite a sight.
But that was an amazing day, being backstage and seeing Randy Savage, Elizabeth, Roddy Piper, Junkyard Dog, The Iron Sheik, The British Bulldogs, and of course Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant. I still can’t get over how big and crazy that crowd was that day. And it was such an incredible time in wrestling overall, as you had Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, and The Road Warriors over in the NWA. I don’t know if it could ever get bigger than WrestleMania III.
And if I remember correctly, the idea to put WrestleMania in the Pontiac Silverdome came from the big outdoor show (The Big Event) at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto the year before, where they drew something like 70,000.
WNZ: That was the very same stadium where a terrible riot broke out when you failed to appear for a concert in 1980. Why the no-show?
AC: You know what happened, it was the highest pollen count in Canadian history that day — and I had asthma. I had never missed a show, but I couldn’t get my breath, so we had to cancel. I still have a button that says, “Alice, You’re a Riot!”
WNZ: It was in Toronto again, back in 1969, that the infamous chicken incident happened at the outdoor Toronto Rock and Roll Revival concert. What sparked that?
AC: Someone in the audience brought a live chicken to the show and threw it onstage. I’m from Detroit, so I picked it up — it was a bird, it had feathers — and just sort of chucked it into the front row thinking it could fly. The audience tore it to pieces. I didn’t know it couldn’t fly. What made it even more bizarre was the front two or three rows were all in wheelchairs.
WNZ: The next day, media headlines said things like “Alice Cooper Bites Head Off Chicken and Drinks Blood.” Did you get accustomed to such stories spiralling into ridiculous legends?
AC: Exaggerated word-of-mouth rumours about my shows took on lives of their own — you couldn’t buy that kind of publicity. Kids would go to school and say, “Did you hear what Alice did in concert? His 25-foot snake killed a maid in Memphis.” I suppose (the chicken incident) ended up being one of the first urban legends of rock’n’roll.
WNZ: Speaking of blood and guts, Halloween is just around the corner. Do you have some favorite horrors movies you could tell us about?
AC: I love the Italian film director Dario Argento, and his movie Suspiria. It is just pure creepy and what I really like about it is, you never see a monster. You never do see a monster and I think that’s what makes it great. I also like a lot of the old black-and-white horror films like Carnival of Souls. There’s something grittier and really spooky about them. And if you haven’t seen Salem’s Lot, I would highly recommend you check that out as it’s one of the great vampire movies. Barlow may be one of the scariest vampires of all time.
And for pure fun, it doesn’t get much better than the original Evil Dead. It is so over-the-top bloody, and it just keeps coming and coming. Great movie. And then on the opposite end, The Exorcist. One of the scariest movies of all time. And you know what makes it so scary? There’s not one shred of humor in it anywhere. Not even one subtle joke. Nothing. I think that’s what makes it so terrifying.
WNZ: As terrifying as that enormous crowd at WrestleMania III?
AC: (Laughs) That was the craziest audience in the world, it really was. I remember looking around at that massive crowd and I kept thinking, “They don’t really believe this, do they?” I think they did.