A few words describing the famous Alice Cooper Mansion on the Galesi Estate in Fairfield, Connecticut (off Doubling Road) where much of 'Billion Dollar Babies` was recorded.
From Janice Davison (Glen`s sister) December 1998)
"At first sight, the mansion wasn't that impressive. It was so covered with trees. The coolest thing - it was the "House on Hill Rd." The entry was gigantic, just like in the movies - "take a seat and the missus will be with you in a moment." Off the entry to your left was the ballroom where the band equipment was kept... the huge PA system, (gallows, I think!) etc. From the ballroom you could see an area up above that looked like the balcony in a movie theater-"what's that?" I wanted to know. Glen replied, "That's the chapel." "The chapel? What's it used for?" said me. GB- "You'll see."
From Skip Ladd (Musician and Band Friend, December 1998)
"The entrance way was black and white checkered floor that led into a ballroom with artwork on the ceiling and a chapel overlooking the ballroom. Cindy had a Saint Bernard named Gretchen after the one in the TV series 'Topper'. Gretchen did a big doody behind Glen's amplifier in the ballroom and also on the stairs, I decided to help clean up after the dog. That dog had free reign of the house. In the ballroom was a bunch of Anvil cases, a chandelier that hung down, and the Warner Brothers Gallows. One rehearsal was to see how many times the dirge was played to get Alice from center stage to the top of the Gallows. There was also an upright piano in the back of the ballroom.
The library had a pool table in it and the ceiling had wood carved flowers that hung down from the ceiling. The walls of the library had a candle holder carved into it that if you pulled it the door would swing open to a secret passage way that led in between the walls to the servants quarters and the kitchen. This was so guests could be fed without having to walk amongst them.
Alice had a black tiled shower with shower heads from every direction but I didn't use his shower. Cindy & Dennis had crystals hanging from strings in their bedroom window with white sheer curtains. Neal kept a gun next to his bed to shoot at birds on his window sill, Cindy used to get mad at him for that. "
From Janice Davison
>Alice had a black tiled shower with shower heads from every direction but I didn't use his shower.
"I did! And the water was COLD! Imagine all of those shower heads hitting every part of your body with COLD water! YIKES! but I asked for it so I suffered through it.
There was a picture in one of the tour books of Mike Bruce standing outside the mansion next to a statue. If you look closely at the statue, its thumb is gone. Glen's bedroom window looked directly out at this statue and he had the thumb from it in his room. He told me he shot it off from his bedroom window.
And Hey, JEFF! Ask Mike Bruce about his raccoon and how fond of it Glen was? ...and why?
Neal had Kachina in his room. My cousin Amy and I would go in there and mess around with her. Glen would get her out and let us hold her. Oh yeah. When they fed Kachina her yummy dinner of live mice, they would free the mice if they managed to live more than a day. Sort of a diplomatic immunity.
I went to the sewing room with Cindy and her friend and helped work on some of the stage clothing. I have a picture of us sitting there drinking some champagne or wine. "
From Skip Ladd
"I once had the privilege of staying in the Galesi Estate for 4 days before my return to Germany. Neal & Cindy took care of me October 9th through October 13th 1971. The Killer rehearsals for the tour were going on in the Ball Room of the Galesi Estate. Warner Brothers had their Gallows for the hanging set up in the Coopers Ball Room. To the left were lots of Anvil cases with huge casters some open like old coffins awaiting return of the dead. To the right was this massive wooden structure with wooden staircase to a platform. Arched in front of me was a wall of amplifiers and drums.
The original Alice Cooper Group was running through a test run of the Killer Dirge into the Round to see how long it would take for Alice to walk, or be escorted to the top of the platform. Mike Bruce was playing organ raising one hand in the air to denote how many Rounds of the Degree has passed to keep track of how long it would take. 7th into the 8th round was the final. In the back of the room was an upright piano, the melody line was getting to me after a while so I went back to the piano in the back of the room to pick out what he was playing. Gretchen the Saint Bernard dog had the run of the mansion.
On the ceiling was a painted picture like something form Michael Angelo with outreaching fingers. Above
the back of the Ballroom was a Chapel that overlooked the Ballroom. A large chandelier hung in the middle of the room with golden colored tiers. Large cathedral arching ceiling space with like golden torches where the arches met. This was just down from the reception area that was done in large black & white squares of flooring.
After practice we would wait in the library that had like hand carved wooden flowers coming out of the ceiling. In the middle of the library was a pool table. In the back of the library was a torch like handle that you could pull to make the wall turn into a secret passage way that led into the kitchen so servants could get food to the guests without disturbing them. Off from the kitchen was a long wooden table that reminded me of something from beggar's banquet. Cindy, made dinner for us and the guys were always a lot of fun to be around. They had quick wit and loads of class!"
(Skip Ladd, May 1999)
"I don't know the exact square footage of the "Galesi Estate", AKA "The Cooper Mansion", but it had 50 plus rooms and probably 15,000 plus square feet. It was in Greenwich and burned down months after we all had moved out, no one was living in it at the time, thank God! We all lived in separate homes in Greenwich at the time, but I also had an apartment in New York and Alice had an apartment and in New York. The grand ballroom in the "Mansion" had forty foot ceilings and a fireplace, large enough to drive a small car into. We did complete dress rehearsals of "The Billion Dollar Baby Show", sound, stage, and lighting in that ballroom."
(Neal Smith, October 1999)
From Erick Schiele
"As a kid a I have fond memories of it since when my family moved from nyc to Greenwich in the early seventies we lived on Hill Road and Alice was on 17 Hill Road. Since Mr Galesi moved out and Alice moved in, our house keeper was paid by Mr Galesi to check out the place and report back to him. I was very young at the time 6,7,8 but I remember the 'Billion Dollar Babies' rehearsals and all the cast of characters since she took me up with her to say "hi" and look around many times. My brother and I also would sneek in as well on the grounds and they would let us in to the ballroom and chapel and listen to them play. At the time I did not know what I was listening to , but I liked it. Alice also let me feed the snake which was kept in tank by the pool. Really great memories. My parents were not so happy, and they made me return all the memorabilia he gave me. We also would play on the tour gear. Neal smith was very nice to us as well as Alice. Some roadies I remember as being scary. There were lots of cool rooms to sneak around in and play 'hide and seek'. Alice was a very nice guy. Yes the place burned down and it was a shame since it was an amazing turn of the century mansion. Really cool. Still think about those times."
The mansion did actually burn down (so don't bother looking for it) but the band had left about six months earlier.
In 2013 the Wall Street Journal interviewed Alice about the mansion:
When our band began to catch on in 1971, we needed a place to live near New York where we could crank up the volume while rehearsing without bothering the neighbors.
Shep Gordon, our manager, found a creepy mansion in Greenwich, Conn., called the Galesi Estate that rented for $2,500 a month. It looked like the house in "The Haunting."
There were 40 rooms—including a ballroom with a fireplace so large you could walk into the opening. There also was a chapel, a bell tower and 15 bedrooms with fireplaces—perfect for all five of us in the band plus our road manager and a couple of crew guys. My bathroom alone was like something out of "The Great Gatsby." After we moved in that August, we did some exploring and found secret panels in the walls. You pressed a button and a hidden door opened. It was like the board game "Clue."
We didn't have servants—we all had girlfriends and they cooked for us. The housecleaning, lawn-mowing and stuff like that were provided by Mr. Galesi, who lived in New York. We met him only once and never asked what he did for a living. He liked the band and left us alone. What made the house special was being able to set up all our equipment with a full stage in the huge ballroom. There was even a pipe organ that we used on "Love It to Death"—the album in '71 that put us on the map.
The eeriness of the estate fit our image perfectly. Rock, at the time, didn't have a villain. There was no Professor Moriarty from "Sherlock Holmes" or Hannibal Lecter. But in creating a rock villain, I wanted him to have a sense of humor. Comedy and horror are so close. As a teen, I had listened to the Yardbirds, the Who and all the British Invasion bands. I just took it to the next level—creating drama but keeping the emphasis on the music by surrounding myself with great guitarists.
Our band's name—Alice Cooper—eventually became my stage name, but it didn't come from spending time with a Ouija board. We wanted a name that would be the opposite of how we looked, something that would irritate every mother in America. So we came up with a name that sounded like some sweet little old lady who made cookies. My look with the eyeliner was modeled after Bette Davis in "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" Her makeup was applied thick and was smeared.
The Galesi Estate fed into our dark drama, but it also tested me. I'm not squeamish about much—just needles—but the house had its moments. On New Year's Eve in 1972, I was down with the flu. While everyone went to New York to party, I was there alone, bundled up in front of the ballroom fireplace. I'm telling you, that house was alive. There was so much mysterious noise going on in the house, it was like a horror movie.
Even weirder was Greenwich—a blue-blooded town. Everybody there was old money and so uptight when we moved in. When we'd go into town, we were treated like the Munsters. Then "Forbes" did an article on us—"A New Breed of Tycoon"—and we wound up on the cover. The town's attitude changed. We were considered new money and treated like the Beverly Hillbillies.
Despite the mansion's quirkiness, I loved it. We had a neat place of our own—a bat cave that was a short drive to New York. We felt so cool, living in Greenwich, which was considered the way the Hamptons are today. We even recorded parts of our "Billion Dollar Babies" album in the estate's ballroom in '72.
When the album came out in early '73, we started a year long concert tour. By then we were spending more time in Los Angeles than in New York and we were rarely home. While we were in California, the house caught fire and burned to the ground. The official cause was electrical.
But wait—you want to hear weird? Bette Davis lived next door to us in Greenwich. She'd drive by in her burgundy Jaguar XK-E and shout at us to turn up the volume when we rehearsed. She was more feared in the neighborhood than we were. When I finally met her, I said, "I'm Alice Cooper." She said, "I know who you are." I told her how much I enjoyed her in "Baby Jane." She said, "You know, I love that movie myself." See? There's a little Alice Cooper in everyone.