It was early March when Alice Cooper realized he needed to get home.
The coronavirus was sweeping through Italy and Spain. His show was canceled in Switzerland. He went to the airport in Berlin and hopped on a plane. Back in Arizona, he postponed his North American tour and hunkered with his family at their Paradise Valley home.
“I think God just told the world that it’s a giant time out,” Cooper says.
Still, his wife, Sheryl Cooper, says they’re still making good use of their time.
“We’re all taking tap lessons every Thursday night,” she says. “We have a live broadcasted teacher.”
“Everyone has tap shoes,” Cooper says. “Of course, Sheryl, [daughters] Calico and Sonora are much further ahead since they are professional dancers, but I am hanging in there!”
“I call us ‘artists in residence,’” Sheryl says. “I don’t like the word quarantine.”
In March, Cooper launched a new podcast full of old interviews from his radio show Nights With Alice Cooper. It’s called Alice Cooper’s Vintage Vault and includes chats with rock legends like Ozzy Osborne and Debbie Harry. He's also finishing production on the hard rock album Detroit Stories, which features players from his hometown of the Motor City, where it was also recorded.
The Coopers’ dedication to the Christian faith and charity also remains intact. The couple's Solid Rock Foundation, along with the Solid Rock Teen Center, located at 13625 North 32nd Street, has kept them busy. The center, which opened in 2012 and serves those between the ages of 12 and 20 years old, is closed temporarily due to coronavirus. But live performances and one-on-one lessons are being streamed daily.
Cooper says he got the idea for the center 25 years ago, when he observed an awkward drug deal between two kids on bikes on the west side.
“I looked at this kid and said, 'What if he is the best guitar player in town, but has no idea because he hasn’t had the opportunity?'” Cooper says. “That made us say, 'Let’s give them that opportunity. Let’s open up a place where all teens are invited. Let’s find out what your talent is and work on that.'”
“We have professionals teaching kids arts, music, dance, and production. But despite being free, the caliber of the artistic training is fantastic,” Sheryl says. “It’s not only educational. It’s vocational.”
Adds Cooper: “I tell kids up front: There are five guys in a band and 30 people who run the show. And I couldn’t do it without them. If you end up being a roadie or technician, that’s a pretty good living...They realize they are bringing art into the world, and that’s important.”
Among many others, the center has nurtured the career of American Idol winner Jordin Sparks, who appeared at Cooper’s annual Christmas performance before auditioning for the reality show competition.
The center is funded with grants and donations, and the financials have taken a big hit lately. The postponement of Cooper’s annual golf tournament in April, which is its second biggest fundraiser of the year, didn't help matters. Still, the Coopers hope to expand the center to other Arizona cities and the rest of the country. A second location of the center is set to open in Mesa, though due to the coronavirus, its opening will probably be delayed until December of this year — not this summer, as originally intended, says Mark Savale, the Teen Center's director.
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“Detroit needs 10 of these,” Cooper says.
The necessity of places like the Solid Rock Teen Center was impressed upon Cooper by a rattling experience he had several years ago.
“A girl showed me her to-do list: ‘Get up, go to school, lunch with friends, go to the park, kill myself,’” Cooper says. “She said, ‘I had a pocket full of pills and a razor blade.’ She’s 14. But some kid said, on the way to the park, ‘Let’s go to Solid Rock.’ Ever since, she’s there every day at 3 p.m.
“Now, we don’t ask what their home life is. That’s not our job. We’re not psychologists. But this story made me say at the next board meeting that if 20 years of planning ends up being just this girl not killing herself, then it’s worth it. It shocked me. And I’m pretty hard to shock.”