Fromthe Week of May 13, 1999

Alice Does Live Here
For the record, I would like to comment on your article regarding Alice Cooper'stown ("Go Ask Alice," Gilbert Garcia) in the April 29 issue of New Times.

As the founder of Evening Star Productions, and producing concerts here for 25 years, I have been fortunate enough to have made some great friends in the music business all over the world. The friends who are among the closest to me are Alice Cooper and his longtime manager and confidant, Shep Gordon. We have in common our pride in our commitment to our careers and families.

From the start, I was happy to become involved with downtown's newest hot spot, Alice Cooper'stown, for a number of reasons: like a place to put some of the memorabilia Alice and I have collected over the years, as well as another fun thing for us to bond over, plus our love for music and sports, and, equally important, great food.

Alice has been an integral part of the restaurant from its inception. He has been in countless meetings, starting when the place was a broken-down warehouse destined for the wrecking ball. As a local, Alice is there all the time, always ready to sign an autograph, chat with complete strangers that he has become friendly with as we all come together to eat and hang out at Cooper'stown, as well as just going to eat at his favorite restaurant. To intimate, much less say, in your article that he is merely a figurehead, like B.B. King (God bless 'im) in the clubs that bear his name, is completely inaccurate, and we take this whole thing very personally.

Evening Star hasn't endured all of the changes in the business by screwing over bands, national or local. We have booked shows in every club in this area forever. Booking Cooper'stown is an ongoing work in progress. We learn new things as we go, like which nights are good for live music, and which are not; also, what kind of bands work before and after which sport's audiences, and which ones don't. Do we need live music all the time or some of the time? Should it be acoustic, hard or classic?

In doing this, while paying too much attention to the business side, a mistake happened recently where some local musicians were booked, then canceled. In a business where trust is so important, sometimes, as a talent buyer/promoter, you have to take it on the chin when things go wrong. In this case, in midstream, it became apparent that live music was not working on some nights, and something had to be done about it. This had nothing to do with the musicians, or the quality of their work. The mistake was not offering some of the affected musicians compensation or make-up shows. This will be corrected, as we have already begun this process with the affected musicians.

As far as the playing-for-free issue, it is what it is. It is a very hard thing these people do, playing in front of an audience, no question. Try it sometime. It is equally hard to get an audience to play in front of.

Likewise, there is a bottom line attached. As a rule, we do not charge a cover to watch and listen to the musicians performing. They can get known by playing at Cooper'stown, and if they are really good, find themselves in demand. They can use their appearances on their resume to get other work. If they are already beyond that, and are already in a position to be paid a performance fee, then they have the option of negotiating mutually acceptable terms, or not playing. This concept goes for anywhere. No band should be criticized because it plays for free, or less than someone else. You gotta do what you gotta do to get an edge in this business. I got fired from my night job cleaning doctors' and business offices for taking a night off to produce my first show in Phoenix (Herbie Hancock) in 1974. Like any occupation, it's hard to get established. It took me two years after that to land a job booking Dooley's for $80 a week. Hard work pays off.

Cooper'stown is a new vehicle for performers. We do pay musicians to play. We also are taking chances putting people, in many cases sight unseen, onstage. If we are wrong in our booking, people leave, so there is risk involved. It's a little more complicated than your article would leave one thinking.

I write you now, not only to defend myself, the people at Cooper'stown, or Alice, but to point out things are not as cut-and-dried as your article stated. Alice cares deeply that people are given fair treatment, no matter what the situation. We believe that this place is more than just a restaurant, sports bar, museum or nightclub. It's got Alice's name on it, which has been a source of pride for many Arizonans: He's one of us. He lives here. How many times do your friends from out of state ask you if you've seen Alice lately, or do you hear in conversation, "Yeah, I saw Coop the other day in the 7-Eleven"? The fact that he has lent his name to this place for all of us to enjoy is another bonus for living in this great area.

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