I first met Alice Cooper at a party on Park Avenue in the mid-1970s. It was really one of those, “I’m not worthy” moments. Alice was one of the few guys I truly respected back then, because he’d made it on his own terms: by “driving a stake into the heart of the peace-and-love Generation,” and by playing delinquent rock ‘n’ roll for punks like me. That night on Park Avenue, Alice invited me to interview him, so we sat down for a long session at his place in Bel Air a few days later. Alice was deeply disturbed by what he’d heard about some of the punk bands, telling me, “I don’t get this scene, I mean, do they wanna make money or don’t they?”
I explained that yes, they did want to make money, but they wanted to do it on their own terms like he’d done. Alice was relieved that the punks wanted to make money—and so we’ve remained friends ever since. He’s just finishing a new album of cover songs by all his old friends from the Hollywood Vampires, the old drinking club he conducted at the Rainbow in LA that included Harry Nilsson, John Lennon, Ringo, Micky Dolenz, Keith Moon, and Jim Morrison, among other rock luminaries, I called him up to talk about some of his old pals.
Three Hollywood Vampires: John Lennon, Harry Nillson, and Alice Cooper, 1974. Image via
When we put the Hollywood Vampires together, it was sort of a tribute to the old Hollywood drinking clubs, like when John Barrymore, Errol Flynn, and W.C. Fields would drink every night. So I said, “Well, we do that anyways, so let’s just go down to the Rainbow and drink…”
Pretty soon it was a thing called the Hollywood Vampires, and we would go up to the top of the Rainbow and sit there and drink. Every night it was Harry Nilsson, Bernie Taupin, Micky Dolenz, myself, and whoever else would show up. Ringo was there once in awhile. Keith Moon came when he was in town.
John Lennon would come too. He and Harry Nilsson were the best of friends, ya know? So if Harry was in town, he was always with John, and they’d come over. He was great! John was just another one of the guys, ya know?
But the really fun thing to do was to see what Keith Moon was gonna wear that night. One night he’d be in an Adolf Hitler outfit and the next he’d be the Queen of England. I mean he would go all out, Keith was the full package, and the greatest drummer I’ve ever seen in my life.
Keith was everybody’s best friend. When he was in town, he would stay at my house for a week, then go to Harry Nilsson’s for a week, and then stay at Ringo’s for a week. There was nobody like him. I always tell people, 30% of what you’ve heard about me is true, 30% of what you hear about Iggy is true, 30% of Prince is true, whatever… but everything you’ve heard about Keith Moon is true.
Keith got into the Hollywood Vampires because he was the life of the party, which probably killed him too. It was the kind of thing where he really didn’t have an “off” button. And when you’re really good friends with somebody, after a while you go, “Hey, ya know, you don’t have to entertain me…”
There are a lot of guys that can’t turn it off. Chris Farley was like that. All those guys who were overweight comedians, they were guys who had to prove themselves all the time. They just performed all the time, and you wanted to just sit them down and say, “You don’t have to perform right now!”
Keith Moon was like that. He was like a little kid that needed Ritalin or something, it was like, “Keith, just relax!” But he just couldn’t.