Shock-rock legend Alice Cooper has been attempting to kill himself on stage for the best part of fifty years now and I’m genuinely surprised he’s yet to succeed. Most of his shows feature at least one segment where Cooper is dragged off to be hanged, beheaded, electrocuted to death, etc. The stunts are dangerous, but Cooper seems comfortable with the idea that at least part of his audience is there to see if a mock execution becomes just a regular old execution. As he explained to EW:
“When I go to the circus and there’s a guy in a cage with 12 tigers, there’s always a chance that one of the tigers didn’t get the message. When you see a guy on a tight wire, you know that there may be a second you witness a tragedy. I always wanted that in our show: What they’re seeing could be the last night of Alice Cooper.”
There’s been a few shows that have come close to being that last night. In the early 80’s, Cooper hired magician James Randi to develop a stunt in which Cooper would be hanged in a set of gallows. The raspy-voiced performer would be secured to the rafters by a thick piano wire, preventing the usual neck snapping and/or strangulation that comes with hanging. The trick went down perfectly and was a huge hit with the crowd. A few years later, Cooper was still performing the trick at his shows. With the same wire.
“Everything has its stress limit and after doing so many shows, I never thought about changing the wire. You know, I figured it’ll last forever,” he explained.
Things (and Cooper) went down exactly as you might expect. He was performing the stunt during rehearsals for a live show at Wembley Stadium when the wire snapped. Fortunately the rock legend managed to literally save his neck by snapping his head back at the last moment. He got a nasty rope burn and a bruised arse from the fall, but he went on to finish the show.
In 1988 he had a second, more dangerous, accident during a rehearsal. This time the wire snapped and Cooper was literally left hanging. A roadie recognised that the performer’s kicking legs and blue face were perhaps a bit too realistic, and quickly came to his rescue.
Even two brushes with death aren’t enough to convince Cooper to abandon a stunt that resonates with his audiences. He still performs it to this day.