February 10, 2023
Updated: May 20, 2020
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May 20, 2020
Alice Cooper and Shep Gordon
They Broke the Mold
Making connections wasn’t exactly easy. Phoenix was a small desert town back then, but there was this incredible radio station called KDKB. They played Billy Joel, Jackson Browne, ELO, and broke Jerry Riopelle and Bruce Springsteen back when these acts were still new, and they would go on to be legends. People forget nowadays, but the “old” rock gods were once upstart newcomers too. A large part of how they broke big was by getting played on stations like this one, which don’t really exist anymore, except for a couple around the country. Like dinosaurs. We need “dinosaurs” in this business, not electric meters to hear what we are listening to.
When I finally moved here for good, there was a bumper sticker like this on almost every car I saw! Never saw anything like it, before or since.
When these acts came to town they would play at the Celebrity Theatre. But back then I didn’t know who to talk to about getting involved or how.
Then one day I got lucky. I was driving down Van Buren Street toward Tempe on a hot April afternoon, and I picked up a hitchhiker who turned out to be Larry Hitchcock. Larry was the production manager for the Alice Cooper show.
Our meeting was a complete coincidence. Here Larry was, barefoot, standing on the blazing hot asphalt, trying to hitch a ride. When I pulled over to pick him up, Larry got in and asked if I could drive him to get some shoes. I said “Why not,” and we headed to Tempe.
Larry and Alice
As it turned out, we had the music business in common. I talked about working shows in San Francisco, and Larry talked about his job as a production manager. Alice was opening his Billion Dollar Babies tour later that week in Tucson, featuring Flo and Eddie of the Turtles, who I was a huge fan of.
“Why don’t you come down?” Larry asked. “I can get you a gig at the show.”
Of course I jumped on it. It was random, crazy luck, but it was somehow meant to be. Oh, and guess who was promoting the tour? That’s right—Bill Graham.
So that’s how I got paid for the first time to work a concert: picking up some guy with no shoes on the side of the road. A couple of days later, I was doing security for Alice Cooper. It was easy—I just had to stand in front of the stage, a scrawny kid weighing about 140 pounds.
When I got there, I accidentally stumbled into Alice Cooper’s dressing room. He didn’t kick me out like a lot of people would have; he just offered me a beer and we chatted for a while until his manager, Shep Gordon, came in.
“Who the hell is this?” Shep asked.
“Oh, it’s my friend, Danny,” Alice said. “We’re just having a beer.”
Shep wasn’t having it. “What are you doing here?”
“Oh, you’re going to be great at security tonight if you’re drinking beer with Alice in the middle of the afternoon.” He had a point.
“Don’t worry,” I said. “I’ll be fine.”
I hung out with Alice all afternoon, until the show started. Officially, I was protecting the man, but honestly we mostly just drank beer and shot the shit—and definitely got a buzz on.
Positioned in front of the barricade, I did security and watched Flo and Eddie, who were great. Then Alice came on … and I’d never seen anything like him before. There were props and dancing girls, and Alice moved like a manic street preacher.
Bill Graham came over and told me, “When Alice gets his head cut off from the guillotine, make sure you jump behind the barricade or you will be crushed. Got it?”
Sure enough, the crowd lost it when his head came off, and I went over the barricade. The other guys and I had to put our backs to the stage and our feet directly in front of us against the barricade, so as not to get crushed. Everyone in the arena was trying to get to the stage. Alice was singing “I’m Eighteen,” holding Alice Cooper money on the end of a sword over my head and making the people jump at me, laughing his head off the whole time. I had a huge scab on my arm from a motorcycle accident the week before, and some guy grabbed it and ripped it off while I was trying to hold the barricade up with my legs, along with the other security guys. There was blood everywhere. I popped him one right in the nose, which just added more blood to the mess.
I was heading backstage with the medics to get patched up, when all of a sudden we got knocked over by Shep and Bill Graham, who were slugging it out in a fistfight! They were two big guys, and this wasn’t playtime—they appeared to be trying to kill each other! They were tossing each other around and throwing haymakers, until finally one of them shoved the other straight through Alice’s dressing room door. They tore up the room Alice and I had been drinking in just a little while before, like a scene out of a movie. The food and drinks table was destroyed, along with everything else in the room.
They kept going, spilling back out into the hallway, still fighting, punching, and screaming at each other. When they finally looked up, bloodied, their clothes torn, everyone backstage was staring at them, totally frozen. Bill cleared his throat and Shep started brushing himself off, both trying to regain some kind of professional composure.
“I better never hear anything like that out of you again,” Shep yelled.
Bill said, “Fuck you, we’ll finish this later.”
They went their separate ways, and Shep winked at me as he passed by. I knew I loved him right then.
That’s how I met Shep Gordon, and that’s also the first and last time I ever saw either of them do anything like that.
I talked to Bill later that night. He remembered me from Berkeley. We didn’t really get to talk much, as the guy had just been in an all-out fistfight. But he acted like he was glad to see me trying to make it, and he found it funny to run into me in Tucson, of all places, under these circumstances.
That night in May ’73, with Bill and Shep, the fight and the beer, the blasting rock music, and Alice Cooper’s now-legendary stage show, cinched the deal: this life was for me. If there had been any doubt that this was what I wanted to do, it disappeared that hot spring night in Arizona.a
Since then, both Shep and Alice have been important parts of my life in one way or another. Alice invited us to come visit Shep for Christmas in 1988, when I told him, “don’t invite me, because I will come!” and did. Since then, I have enjoyed Shep’s unique sense of aloha, and welcoming ways. He has shown me you can work in this business and be a cool cat while doing so. Over the years I figure that I had spent over a year combined, staying as a guest at his place in Kihei, for days up to 3 weeks in the guest facilities. His wonderful house has been my home away from home for many years.
I met my wife, Leslie, through her sister, (Shep’s former employee) Melanie Wicker. In the early 2000s, Shep invited me to join in as a partner on what became our second home in Hana, Maui, and we are partners in it to this day, with the best lawyer in Maui, Paul Mancini.
Every year, Alice and his wife Sheryl and I present a holiday concert called Christmas Pudding to benefit Alice’s charity called Solid Rock.
To say the impact they both have had on my life is immeasurable, and We are all so fortunate to have each other. is an understatement.