December 2012 – Imagine a high-end, church-sponsored fundraising event; you know, at a nice theater, with a special dinner, plus entertainment, for the VIPs, followed by a night filled by affluent, middle-aged supporters and their superbly coiffed and coutoured wives. For the evening’s entertainment; a couple of gospel acts, an aging star, an auction (of course), a schmaltzy comic and/or a schmaltzy magician; maybe even a big name Hollywood star, thrown in for good measure*.
Now put Alice Cooper in charge of the whole shebang.
The result: Alice Cooper’s Christmas Pudding.
It’s all of the above, with some twists. Alice Cooper performing “I’ll Bite Your Face Off” is one of those little things you might not expect at such a supposedly sedate event; nor is Johnny Depp, appearing with Cooper’s band to the delighted shrieks of the girls and women (and photographers) in the audience.
There is method to Cooper’s madness. Entering its 12th year, Cooper’s annual Christmas concert, qua variety show, qua holiday party is produced by Solid Rock, a faith-based organization founded by Cooper, his wife, Cheryl, and Chuck Savale with the ultimate goal of opening a music-related teen center for Phoenix area youth.
Cooper held an informal press conference the evening before the show to talk about, among other things, The Rock, the teen center that did, indeed, open in Spring 2012. Music and dance classes are offered at no or nominal cost, and a teen room is available where kids can, as the program site says, “…play video games or pool, rock out to music, practice your guitar, or just hang with your friends.” The center is a partnership between Solid Rock and Genesis Church.
Plans are in place to expand the center to include a computer room and a recording studio, with the goal of offering vocational training in the recording arts, as well.
Cooper just wrapped up a world tour, supporting the release of his latest album, Welcome 2 My Nightmare. “We just finished 100 cities, from Europe, to South America, to Australia, to everywhere. Every city’s got the same problem. I’ll see a kid 15, selling drugs on the street, and I’ll say, ‘how does that kid know he’s not the best guitar player, bass player, drummer, singer?” Cooper said. “With me being in Phoenix for 50 years of my life…I said let’s do something about it, let’s open a place where kids — instead of going in gangs, will go into bands.”
Solid Rock has been approached by organizations in several cities, including Detroit, Denver, and San Diego, to discuss setting up similar centers. “Guns, gangs, and drugs … Every city would benefit,” said Cooper, adding “We told them ‘we’ll give you the formula; show you how to make it work.’”
Cooper explained his devotion to the project: “You’re never going to run out of teenagers in trouble, and somebody’s got to come to the rescue, and to me, music is what rescues us. If you take a kid from the biggest house in Paradise Valley and then take a kid from the worst barrio in West Phoenix, put ’em in a room together, what’re they gonna talk about? Music. That’s the common denominator.”
*This hypothetical, like most generalizations, contains several “isms”. Yah. I know.