There's a fine line to walk when dealing with Alice's well publicised problems with alcohol, and especially the relatively recent admission of drug usage. On the one hand it's a very important part of his story, one that he HAS spoken about endlessly over the last 30+ years. On the other hand the drug usage was definitely not spoken about until very recently in the 'Super Duper Alice Cooper' film. For years everyone close to Alice, and this site, worked to deny any involvement in drugs. The line went "if he is open about the alcohol, then why wouldn't he be the same about the drugs". The problem with that was that not very many people really believed it. One look at photos during the 'Special Forces' period and it was clear something was going on.
There's still very little clear information about Alice's drug problems. While he's now admitted it and will answer questions in interviews, it still seems a touchy subject. You will find no speculation here about it, only direct quotes from Alice. I feel anything else is off limited until such time as he chooses to talk about it more. On alcohol however, he has talked endlessly!
Alice has had a long relationship with alcohol. While he had always publicly been very anti-drugs, a can of beer was his constant companion during the early years, and even 70s press releases would include details of the amount of beer he would cart around on tour as a badge of honour. However what was amusing on the early 70s became a real problem, life threatening problem. In around October 1977 Alice voluntarily admitted himself into Cornell Medical Center in White Plains, New York where he remained for around 3 months (October to December).
"Alice said he never drank on-stage because of all of the moving around (he was normally quite sedentary offstage back in those days) on-stage would give him indigestion. So, he left his beverage of choice for a whopping 90 minutes or so during the concerts on show days. Also, as we know, he had two favourite beverages back then. One being Seagrams VO with Coke. This would have been much too sweet and gunky to drink during a workout on stage. The other, Budweiser was much too "salty" tasting to drink on-stage.
(Renfield, March 1998)
While there he encountered various characters that would later be included on the 'From The Inside' album. He was also granted a short "day release" to appear in the 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' movie. By the time he left the facility in December he claimed to be sober for the first time in a decade.
Alice was not drinking during the 'Madhouse Rock' tour in 1978 and 1979. He started up again in 1981. Some goof wrote about Alice taking "a mighty swig" in the video. Most people miss the clever bit when Alice is taking a drink of water in the "Strange Case Of Alice Cooper" video. He's drinking out of a baby bottle-nipple and all. Anyway, it's water. If he fessed up to falling off the wagon in '81, there wouldn't be any reason to try and hide the fact if it had happened earlier. And yes, that was always water in the canteen on the 'Special Forces' tour.
(Renfield, July 1996)
However his sobriety didn't last. The exact timeline is a little confusing. Each time the alcohol story was told, for example in the 'Behind The Music' documentary, the details given would slightly contradict other versions. Of course we know why. Everyone was hiding the drug issues that had surfaced after he cleaned up in 1977. It now appears from later statements that the frightening events retold in 'Behind The Music' weren't related to alcohol at all, but drugs. It wasn't until around 1983/1984 that he would finally clean up for good.
Here's what we know in an attempt to lay out the events approximately as they unfolded.
October 1977 - Alice is hospitalized for alcoholism. This was heavily reported in the press at the time. Whether the information came out officially, or someone just went to the papers we don't know. Certainly an official statement was released around November 1st to confirm it:
"Alice Cooper, lead singer in the rock band of the same name, is in a New York sanitarium recovering from a bout of alcoholism, a spokeswoman for the entertainer said Monday. A newspaper report here had Cooper, who once boasted he drank more than a case of beer a day to keep fit, admitting himself to a hospital in suburban Westchester County, but the hospital would not confirm the report.
Barbara Pepe, the Cooper spokeswoman, said that after failing to overcome his drinking problem through private, outpatient treatment, Cooper decided to take advantage of a break in his schedule to undergo a hospital program of treatment. She said she was not told where he was getting treatment. He was expected, she said, to return to the filming of "Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band" in Los Angeles in several weeks."
According to multiple newspaper reports the filming took place in mid-November. Alice appeared in photographs with a moustache, visiting New York Club 'Studio 54' with Sheryl. "I'm addicted to ginger ale now" he quipped. "It [alcohol] had started to get in the way. I'd done it long enough, mostly beer, and I was getting tired of it. The idea of going to a hospital is that you should never try to do it alone. You should work with professional people. The treatment is based on physical therapy. After the detoxify you they have you running and playing basketball and building up your body."
Mid-December 1977 - On his release from hospital Alice immediately threw a party with guests including Ringo Starr, Britt Ekland, Peter Frampton, Paul Lynde and astronaut David Scott who all toasted Alice's return with 'Poland Water' (Perrier).
January - April 1978 (?) Presumably writing, and possibly recording 'From The Inside' with Bernie Taupin. In recent years Taupin has admitted he had a part in Alice's cocaine use. He said he had never talked about it in the past, as Alice didn't talk about it. The 'Super Duper, Alice Cooper' movie changed all that and he's seen interviewed about it in the movie.
April 27th 1978 - Reportedly Alice's first sober show. Opening night of the 'School's Out For Summer' tour, the second leg of the 'King Of the Silver Screen' tour. The tour ended on July 9th. In the weeks afterwards Alice appeared at the Sgt.Pepper's premiere, filmed 'The Muppet Show', and donated the money for the Hollywood Sign rebuild. During this time he was certainly looking reasonably healthy. He looks like his old self on 'The Muppet Show' for example. However something major seems to have changed before he would take the stage for the 'Madhouse Rocks' tour.
Alice and Sheryl at the 'Sgt. Pepper's' premier, July 1978.
'Madhouse Rocks' tour, 1979.
October 1978 - Alice and Bernie Taupin head out on a promotional tour for 'From The Inside'. It's possibly around here Alice starts using drugs more often. It appears Taupin is already using heavily, and Bernie himself suggests he was partly a catalyst for Alice's growing addiction. Regardless of what actually happened, it's clear that between the end of 1978 and the beginning of 1979 Alice's health was starting to deteriorate.
February 1979 The Alice Cooper who turned up to play on 'Midnight Special' in early February 1979 was already showing signs that things weren't right. He was much thinner then just a few months before.
In 'Super Duper, Alice Cooper' Taupin states he and Alice are now both addicted to cocaine. Alice's health starts going downhill again to such a degree Taupin has to leave to "avoid going down with him".
February 11th - Start of the 'Madhouse Rocks' tour. Presumably Alice continued to use cocaine, and whatever else it was he tried out, from here right into the 'Flush The Fashion' period and onto the 'Special Forces' album with the situation slowly getting worse. Presumably while on tour he was to a degree in control of it, what with the travelling and shows to keep him occupied. However when at home he had nothing better to do.
1981 The original narrative had it that some time in 1981 Alice begins drinking again, reportedly after taking a sip of Sheryl's wine during a meal - As we now know thanks to 'Super Duper Alice Cooper' this probably isn't true, and was probably used as a cover for the cocaine issues.
1982 - The 'Special Forces' tour lasts into 1982 and is a success, but at the end of the tour Alice is again at home with little to do. He records 'Zipper Catches Skin' but there is never a suggestion he will tour, likely because he simply can't.
1983 In an effort to get him out and working, and because they still owe Warner Brothers one last album, Shep Gordon calls in Bob Ezrin, who calls Dick Wagner to try and get Alice working again. The resulting album, 'Da Da' is his best in some time, but receives almost no promotion from Warners. Again no tour is ever suggested.
September 1983 - A few days after 'Da Da' is released at the end of September Sheryl leaves the family home with Calico. Two months later she files for divorce. These events, reported in the press, pin point the time period Alice hit bottom. In 'Super Duper, Alice Cooper' he describes being in his room, alone, curtains closed, with a huge rock of cocaine.
What happened next presumably follows the narrative in the 'Behind The Music' documentary, but with alcohol replaced by cocaine. Alice returns home to his parents in Phoenix, who immediately take him to hospital where he receives emergency treatment to save his life. In recent years Alice has started to credit his religious beliefs and those of his family for a miraculous cure. Or it could just have been the good work of the trained doctors at the hospital. Take your pick. Whatever you chose to believe Alice thankfully survived.
Sheryl agreed to return in mid-1984 and it took another couple of years to get Alice back to full strength, slowly easing back into work by hooking up with Joe Perry, then filming 'Monster Dog', and finally appearing with Twisted Sister. He returned to the stage in October 1986 fit, clean and sober, with 'The Nightmare Returns' show, and as far as anyone knows hasn't looked back since.
'Flush The Fashion' tour, 1980.
'Special Forces' tour, 1981.