By Peter Lester
September 04, 1978 12:00 PM

By November of last year Alice Cooper’s decade of drinking had caught up with him. The perversely flamboyant vaude-rocker had taken root in front of a TV set and was alternating between two cases of Bud per day and two bottles of booze. Finally Cooper’s stupor came to be too much even for his new wife, Sheryl. “He was not going anywhere except down,” she recalls sadly. “He was never really drunk, but he just couldn’t function—he was like a living vegetable. It put a lot of strain on me because I had to sign the papers to commit him.” It was to the New York State Hospital rehabilitation center in White Plains. “He couldn’t get out,” she adds, “without my written consent.”

“I was terrified,” concedes Alice. “I was shaking like a little child. But it was like that scene in Old Yeller. You had to shoot the dog. It had to be done.” Bone-dry for the past eight months, Alice now swears, “If somebody paid me a million dollars I wouldn’t take a drink. My voice now is twice what it used to be in range. I feel like I’m 20 again.”

He is in fact 30. The lady responsible for his rebirth, Sheryl, is 22. She had just joined Cooper’s road show when they first met in a rehearsal studio three and a half years ago. Her new boss Alice was lying on his back while she showed him some loosening-up exercises. “I pushed his knees down, stretching his muscles,” she recalls. “I think I pushed a bit too hard. He screamed, ‘Don’t ever touch me again!’ We didn’t get off to the greatest start.”

Not that the pair had much in common anyway—apart from having ministers for fathers. (Her dad is a Baptist; his is with the First Church of Jesus Christ, a Mormon offshoot.) The eye-shadowed Alice (né Vincent Damon Furnier) was rock’s leading schlock trouper and the precursor to Kiss. The Denver-born Sheryl Goddard, a self-described “classical snob,” had trained in New York for a career in ballet. “I knew I couldn’t be a ballerina,” she soon found, “but not because I didn’t have potential. Ballet was extremely vicious, political and narrow-minded.” She professes to have never heard of Alice Cooper until an invitation to audition for his act was sent to her jazz ballet class. Then, it was just to pay the bills that she signed on to dance stylized roles—a black widow spider, a chicken, a molar in a tooth sequence—in the Cooper nightmare. “Rock’n’roll,” she says, “was not my space yet.”

In the beginning each was otherwise involved romantically, but they became TV-watching pals on tour. Then, finally, Sheryl reports, “We just melted together.” When Alice proposed—in the bathroom—Sheryl shrieked with pleasure and so loudly that Alice’s bodyguards burst in. In March 1976 they were married overlooking Acapulco Bay with both fathers performing the ceremony. “It was like a Mel Brooks movie,” Alice says. “Our fathers tried to out-parable each other.”

Despite the abundance of blessings, the couple have had their problems. First, Alice’s $300,000 Beverly Hills estate, previously home to H.R. Haldeman, burned to the ground. “I was in San Diego,” recounts Sheryl. “I picked up the phone and Alice said, ‘I’ve got good news, and I’ve got bad news. The good news is that the skylight we wanted in our bedroom…well, we’re going to have it.’ ” The bad news was that many cherished possessions, including a portrait of Alice by Salvador Dali, were lost.

Then Alice’s girlfriend of seven years, model Cynthia Lang, sued him for breach of contract. With Marvin Mitchelson (who made Michelle Triola the Joan of Arc of live-in ladies in the earthshaking Lee Marvin case) as her lawyer, Lang went to court demanding $7.5 million plus $90,000 annually in support payments. The suit is still in pretrial maneuvering stages.

In the meantime Alice is building back his income. He played Father Sun in Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and is preparing an album titled From the Inside with Bernie Taupin, Elton John’s longtime lyricist. It will be based on Alice’s harrowing drying-out experiences. “I think rock’n’roll should be like a national treasure, and the government should create a sanitarium for rock’n’rollers,” he says seriously. “Everyone I know needs one after a tour.” But Alice has returned to touring—”to prove to everyone that alcohol didn’t burn me out”—and this month packs off for Australia.

Sheryl serves as a coach when she doesn’t actually perform. “If I do something onstage that doesn’t make it, she’ll say it doesn’t,” says Alice. “I’m the same with her.” Sheryl may miss Australia because she’s mulling a role in the sequel to Grease, having just made her movie debut in an upcoming George C. Scott film.

For now the Coopers are in their rebuilt home, where a huge stuffed buffalo head dominates the stone-and-wood-beamed living room, and a signed copy of the memoirs of Richard Nixon (whom Alice supported) stands on their otherwise bare mantelpiece. Sheryl shares the cooking chores with their houseman, Gustavo. Says Alice cautiously: “Sometimes I just get these great-looking things on a plate.”

Cooper’s ghoulish act aside, he is a softy and traditionalist at heart. “Our marriage is the most secure thing in our lives,” he says. “If everything else fails, we’ve still got each other.” As for fidelity, Alice maintains that “If either of us found the other with somebody else, we’d kill both parties.” Now the Coopers are contemplating names for the kids they hope to have. Their current choice for a girl is Constance. You know the rest. “Maybe,” adds Alice, “we could even call it Constance if it was a boy.”