TAKING THE EDGE OFF A GUILLOTINE ACT

SCREED

Controversy! Intrigue! Censorship! A guillotine! G-strings! A big snake!
Keep reading and all of the above will be revealed as we delve into the vexing case of Scott Rowe's Tribute to Alice Cooper versus the Maricopa County Fair. More than a couple letters have come in, registering disbelief and demanding an inquiry. And as all of you know, I'm here to serve the dozens of loyal Screed followers. So here goes.

Rowe's homage to Alice involves himself (as Coop), a band and two scantily clad ladies who take part in the little minidramas each song depicts. Beth and Roni are their names, and they are good at what they do; in real life, both are professional exotic dancers. Rowe's main props are a six-foot Burmese snake (named Toby) and a life-size guillotine, just like Alice had.

Rowe applied to perform at the Maricopa County Fair--he waived his fee, I might add--and was accepted. According to Roni and to Rowe's wife, Wilma, the band had notified Diane Walker, the fair's director of special events, of the show's content. Walker had asked for minor changes, and Rowe had complied. All was well, it seemed, until the entourage showed up at the gig and encountered Cheryl Ross, the director for the fairgrounds' Lagoon Stage, the outdoor venue where the Tribute was to perform. Wilma Rowe takes up the story:

"Scott toned it all down for a G rating," she says. "He went by everything they asked him to do, but when we got ready to set up, she [Ross] brought the game warden over to check the snake to see if it could go onstage, and he didn't see a problem in it. She said no way. "Then the guillotine. You can see that in a magic show or at the Renaissance Festival, but she said you can't go on with that guillotine if you have somebody out there [in the audience] under the age of 13. We had talked to them about the guillotine and the snake three days before the show and everything was fine. The girls couldn't wear G-strings, they had to wear shorts and tank tops, but we'd figured that, we knew there would be kids there. That was all okay.

"Then when we got there, they told Scott he couldn't say 'pissed off' in 'No More Mr. Nice Guy,' and he couldn't say 'hell' in the song 'Go to Hell.' They wanted him to say 'Go to Heck.' That was it. They might have got him not to use the snake and the guillotine, but when they wanted him to change the songs, he told them 'no way.'

"She suggested that they tell the audience that they ran out of time, and he went out to try to tell the audience the truth, that they'd been censored, and they cut the microphone off. And threatened to have them thrown in jail if they wouldn't leave."
Roni tells pretty much the same story: "When we got there, this lady like totally wigged out. She saw the snake and the guillotine and that was it. Our drummer told Cheryl that he'd talked to Diane Walker, she told us this was okay, and Cheryl basically said, 'Well, I'm here now. This is what I say. Do it my way or you can't go on.'"

If all it took was an outdated execution instrument and a fat, lazy reptile to raise Ross' ire, good thing she didn't get a load of what the girls were going to wear. "We had the costumes toned down, but I'm sure she wouldn't have liked the nurse's outfit--that was short," says Roni with a laugh. The dancer also dresses up as a "bondage girl" and a black widow spider. "In one song, Scott kills Beth and there's blood. She probably would have pulled the plug right there."

So just who was in the audience? Who were the potential offendees? "Some of them had come to see us, and they were confused," Roni says. "There were about 30 people, some families and kids, but I don't see what the problem would have been. We just played the Glendale Community Library last week, and all we did was tone down the costumes and the sexual part, and they loved it." I tried to contact both Cheryl Ross and Diane Walker, to no avail. Ross, I was told, was in California (no doubt ducking the maelstrom of public outrage), and Walker was out to lunch. I left a message, never heard back. Then the telephone rang. It was Rita Sanders, whose company does the public relations for the fair. Her tale is somewhat different. "They did what they were told they could not do and they were asked to leave," she says. "The Game and Fish Department said they could bring their snake as long as they kept it confined to the stage and during their act. They insisted on walking around the fairgrounds with the snake. That was in violation of the Arizona Game and Fish laws." But that's not all. "They were told they could not bring the guillotine act and they brought the guillotine act. We told them we were a family fair and we weren't interested in that."

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