“Do you want to play golf with Alice Cooper?”
I didn’t know how to respond, at least not quickly.
“We’re playing at 8:40 tomorrow. He’s in town to do a concert. We have a spot for you.”
I knew Alice Cooper was a singer, of course, but struggled for context.
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Let me think about it and get back to you, I said.
“Did he do ‘Toys in the Attic?’ ” I asked a colleague. “No, that was Aerosmith.”
“Is he the guy with the big tongue?” I asked another, further exposing my musical ignorance. “No, that’s Gene Simmons.” Same generation, makeup and a similar style, I was told, but no.
Oh, he’s the guy who sang “School’s Out for Summer.” Duh! The horror-rock star also credits golf for helping him overcome his addiction to alcohol. “Some people turn to God, I turned to golf,” he’s said. Plays six times a week and has a single-digit handicap.
They say you can learn all you need to know about somebody in one round of golf.
I called back. “I’m in.”
Cooper and band guitarist Ryan Roxie roll into Marysville’s Peach Tree Country Club on Tuesday at 8 a.m. Their sleek black Dodge Challenger stands out in a parking lot lined with pickup trucks. Their shoulder-length hair is shoulder-length longer than the dozen or so players who mill around the driving range tee, putting green and pro shop.
Rock stars in a farming community, they are just golfers at the course.
Cooper is part of Mötley Crüe’s farewell tour and was to play a 60-minute set Tuesday night at Sleep Train Amphitheater in Wheatland. He performed Saturday and Sunday in Washington; he’ll be in Chula Vista today, then on to Salt Lake City, Denver, Kansas City, Mo., and South Dakota in the next week as part of a months-long tour. They travel by bus with the Dodge in tow.
“We have to get to the golf course,” says Roxie, a Sacramento native.
Aside from the music, golf is the tour’s constant. Cooper plays every day that isn’t eaten up by travel. He’s hooked Roxie. Bassist Chuck Garric is also a regular.
“Some guys run, some guys go to the gym. We get up and play golf,” Cooper says.
It’s usually nine holes on concert days and 18 holes on off days. Some days it’s about keeping score. Some days, like Tuesday, it’s about enjoying the company and outdoors.
The band’s schedule suits its passion.
“If you want to play golf, don’t get in the golf business – get in a band,” Cooper says.
Dweezil Zappa, No Doubt drummer Adrian Young and The Killers’ frontman Brandon Flowers round out Cooper’s best rock-star foursome. Golf is more prevalent among today’s musicians, he says, potential loss of street cred be damned. Country stars Toby Keith, Tim McGraw and Dierks Bentley have recently made the rounds at Peach Tree.
“I’d say there are at least two golfers per band,” Cooper says.
Cooper, 66, was born Vincent Damon Furnier. His career spans five decades and includes two No. 1 albums. The “Godfather of Shock Rock” was among the first to mix theatrics – guillotines, electric chairs, fake blood and boa constrictors – with music. He’s a showman, and his onstage character is a villain.
The more onstage Alice Cooper succeeded – he legally changed his name in the 1970s – the more offstage Alice Cooper struggled. He took up golf in the 1980s after years as an alcoholic and a stint in a New York sanatorium.
Having replaced his addiction to alcohol with an addiction to golf, the well-rounded and intelligent Cooper says he’s become better at separating himself as a performer and a person.
“We have a good marriage, Alice and myself,” Cooper says. “I don’t think about the show during golf and he doesn’t think about golf during the show.”
Cooper and his wife, Sheryl, have been married for 38 years and have three children. Sheryl travels and performs with the band. While Alice plays golf, she teaches ballet. He declines a lunch offer at the course because he and his wife eat lunch together every day.
In 2007, “Alice Cooper, Golf Monster” was released. The tell-all memoir details his professional successes, personal struggles and how getting up at 7 a.m. every day to play golf helped him beat his demons.
Cooper, unprepared for the presence of the media, makes one concession: He buys a pair of black slacks to replace his blue shorts.
“I have great legs,” he says, “but I have an image to protect.”
He pulls his opening tee shot left.
“Rock-star mulligan,” Cooper says, then laces the second down the middle. “I have an excuse. I haven’t played since yesterday.”
He broaches the inevitable “Hit the ball, Alice” subject on the second hole. He likes to get it out of the way early. He says tree-lined Peach Tree reminds him of Phoenix Country Club, where he’s a member.
By the third hole, it’s easy to see how he’s a 4 handicapper who used to be scratch. He’s 5-foot-9 and skinny as a flagstick but hits the ball plenty far. He’s a golf disciple of Johnny Miller, buddies with John Daly and a regular pro-am partner of Rocco Mediate.
He hits his best shot of the day to the 18th green, a gentle draw from 150 yards to within 10 feet. He credits the people watching from the clubhouse.
“I love an audience,” he says.