Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Hello, Hooray: Alice Cooper Riot at Toledo Sports Arena 12.13.1973

By the time the Alice Cooper group hit Toledo in December of 1973, it was clear that change was in the air. Muscle of Love, the bands latest LP, was struggling to attain the same level of success as their previous two efforts, School's Out and Billion Dollar Babies, and the band was beginning to succumb to the standard laundry list of rock star afflictions: booze, drugs, egos, money, groupies, and the strain of perpetual touring. Though the band had honed its craft grinding out the jams in its home base of Detroit and the faceless rust-belt communities in its orbit, the idea of spending December on a tightly-scheduled run through the great lakes region–with a few key southern dates thrown in for good measure–was less than appealing.

Initially, Toledo wasn't even a stop on the itinerary. Somewhere along the line booking agent Jonny Podell realized the band had a night off after its gig at Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and figured a quick stop in Toledo would be an easy way monetize an otherwise off-day of the tour.

Already frustrated by growing tensions withing the band, the group was less than excited about their arrival in Toledo. Later, tour manager David Libert would be quoted saying, "If the Lord ever wanted to give the world an enema, this is where he would stick the goddamn nozzle."

While accounts of the ensuing incident vary, everyone agrees on this: The Toledo crowd was geared and primed for violence right from the start. From the first note of the band's opening number, "Hello, Hooray," the crowd began pelting the band with anything withing reach. The deluge continued as the band performed "Billion Dollar Babies," and an explosive, most likely an M-80 or  cherry bomb, was thrown on stage injuring roadie Larry Hitchcock. Confusion ensued, and the band left the stage eventually retreating to the Holiday Inn located across the river. Ashley Pandel, Cooper's publicist is quoted in the January 31, 1974 issue of Rolling Stone saying, "Alice felt if they continued, there could be another Altamont." The crowd reportedly dispersed after an hour or two of typically rowdy behavior while waiting in vain for the band to return to the stage.

At that point, the story goes in two directions. While the Cooper camp maintains that guitarist Michael Bruce was injured to the point of almost losing his sight in one eye, journalist Bob Greene, has an entirely different take on the situation. Embedded with the group for the entirety of the "Holiday Tour '73," Greene states in his excellent and long out of print book, Billion Dollar Baby, that Bruce was in fact unharmed, and the news of Bruce being transported to a Hospital in Detroit was fabricated simply as a cover for the band's refusal to return to the stage. Greene states the the band retreated to the hotel, and by the time the decision was made to not return to the stage Alice was sharing stories and Budweisers with a few uniformed Toledo police officers. By the time the entourage was preparing to leave the hotel in the morning, a story in The Blade, Toledo's long-standing news daily reported the story just as Cooper's publicist as dictated. Meanwhile, Greene states that Bruce entered the lobby in the morning and began joking about the incident with his band mates and crew. He continues that while they were preparing to leave, he witnessed members of Cooper's entourage call Tom Davis at The Blade and perpetuating the alleged deception, "confirm" that Bruce was in fact in Detroit. The next night, the group performed in front of 17,000 people in Toronto.

Well into the 1980s, Cooper would cite Toledo as his least favorite city when when questioned, although his animosity had faded by the time he returned to the city in 1986 on a double bill with Ted Nugent. In a bizarre turn of events, famously enthusiastic Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner would in 1996 declare an official, "Alice Cooper Day."

Click to view in full PDGB EXPAND-O-MATIC glory

In the forty some-odd years since the publication of Billion Dollar Baby, Greene has come under scrutiny and suffered numerous unrelated accusations; Cooper and the rest of the involved parties continue to give the book little credence.

Fun Fact #1: The Blade gave Greene and Cooper over five columns of space in it's Sunday, December 23, edition. Tom Davies, who socialized with Cooper backstage before the performance, weighs in on the then novel practice of a journalist embedding himself with a rock group (Greene's adventure predating Cameron Crowe's Eagles story in Rolling Stone by two years) while Steve Harloff weighs in on the concert's violence and the future of rock concerts in the city of Toledo. (As a side note, Harloff also awards the Rolling Stones the "Arthritic and Decrepitcy" award for their 1973 release Goats Head Soup. Keith Richards was 30 at the time. Harloff's current status is unknown.)


Fun Fact #2: The original artwork for the Billion Dollar Babies Tour Poster–subsequently altered for the "Holiday Tour '73" as seen in the Toledo Blade ad above–was created by Prairie Prince, drummer for the Tubes. Here's a full color version below:


Max capacity of Toledo Sports Arena: 8,000; Capacity required if everyone who claims they attended this concert actually did: 150,000.

Update: Here's The Coop some 35 years later being interviewed on Toledo's local cable access show "Sports Rap." Although part 1 of the interview is AWOL, no mention of the Toledo Incident is made during this segment. 

Friday, September 14, 2018

White Boy Rick: The Truth Behind the Hype

Son, the lion don't leave the Serengeti.
Nearly everyone who grew up within the gravitational orbit of Detroit in the 1980s has at least passing knowledge of the legend of White Boy Rick. But before you plunk down your hard-earned cash for a ticket to the recently-released Hollywood dramatization of his story, do yourself a favor and surf over to The Atavist Magazine and read The Trials of White Boy Rick by Evan Hughes. It's the single most comprehensive and exhaustively researched piece yet written on the life of Rick Wershe and his involvement with the FBI, Detroit Police department, Mayor Coleman Young, and the notorious Curry and Chambers brothers drug gangs.

Fun Fact: Matthew McConaughey, who plays Richard Wershe Sr., and Rory Cochrane, who plays FBI agent Byrd, both appeared in Dazed and Confused more than 25 years ago.
Jennifer Jason Leigh, Richie Merrit, Bruce Dern, Piper Laurie, and Bel Powley also star.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Rob Zombie’s GMC Motorhome from the Movie "31" Is for Sale.

You know what they say, kemosabe; in Hell, everybody loves popcorn.

Produced by General Motors for the 1973 to 1978 model years, the GMC motor home was at the time the only fully-finished motorhome to be produced by an American automobile manufacturer. Featuring sleek modern styling, rear air suspension, a low ride-height, front-wheel drive (courtesy GM's Unified Powerplant Package as found in the Oldsmobile Toronado and Cadillac Eldorado), and an aluminum and fiberglass body, it was everything the competition wasn't.

Long a Hollywood favorite, the GMC Motorhome has appeared in numerous features most notably in the movie Stripes where it appeared in slightly reconfigured form as the EM-50 Urban Assault Vehicle. Additional screen appearances include Minority Report, Anchorman 2, Snake and Mongoose, and many more, not to mention dozens of television appearances.

Yet for all the big camper's screen time, Rob Zombie's 31 is the first time the GMC motorhome was cast in such a sinister light. Once the ne plus ultra of the motorcoach world, in 31 the 1976 model appears tired and barely functional, simply a tool to transport a bunch of carnies from town to town. 

Previously available on the used market for a fraction of their original value, remaining examples in good condition are now trading for stupid money thanks to sudden interest of otherwise well-intentioned  folks, who, due to either pangs of nostalgia or simply just having too much time and money, pretty much ruined the vintage camper market for the rest of us. And that's where this one comes in-what better way to hit the campground than in this road-weary and graphically adorned sin-bin? Mix in a few crates of pyrotechnics and PBR en route and you're guaranteed to draw the attention of the campground hoi polloi. If this sounds like your idea of a good time, head on over to GWS Auctions to see more pictures and bid.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Jeep Cowboy: The AMC-Based Jeep Pickup Prototype that Never Was

"Hey, that's a pretty sharp looking Gremlin-Camino ya' got dere."


Originating around 1970, the Jeep Cowboy Prototype was conceived as an answer to the heavy influx of import trucks coming from Japan. Datsun, Toyota, and Mazda, the latter also sold by Ford as the Courier, not to mention the Chevy Luv, itself a rebranded Isuzu, were all picking up steam in the mini-truck marketplace, and AMC figured the easiest way to get in on the action was to cook up an  El Camnio-zed version of it's successful Hornet model with a Gremlin fascia and bed in back.
Reportedly only three prototypes were built, all bearing "JEEP" logos despite its AMC lineage. While accounts vary, the Cowboy was never produced for two reasons: Production capacity for the popular Hornet was maxed out, and at the time AMC/Jeep had no 4x4 system available that would work with the Cowboy's unibody origins. Sad, as just a decade later AMC would introduce the 4x4 Eagle, essentially a Hornet with a slightly lifted suspension and a true four-wheel drive drivetrain. Available in Wagon, Sedan, and Kammback body styles, a light-duty pickup would have been a natural extension of the lineup.

Though we're sad the Cowboy never got an opportunity to put the spurs to the competition, we're absolutely thrilled the concept rode off into the sunset before surfacing with the fascia mock up seen in the photo below which resembles something Anthony Hopkins might have worn in his portrayal of Dr. Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs. Yech.