Vincent Damon Furnier was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1948. Vincent’s father, Ether Moroni Furnier, was a preacher in The Church of Jesus Christ. His paternal grandfather, Thurman Sylvest Furnier, was also a minister in the church and became president of the organization in the mid-1960s. Unsurprisingly, Vincent was active in the church. Most people, even Vincent, expected him to follow in the family business and become a church leader, maybe even a preacher, but a series of events altered the trajectory of his life. As the saying goes, “The Lord works in mysterious ways.”
As a child, Vincent struggled with a series of illnesses. Vincent’s father moved the family from Detroit to Glendale, Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix. The drier climate had the desired effect as the illnesses that plagued Vincent vanished.
In Glendale, Vincent pulled away from the church. Children sometimes need to find their own way in life, and so it was with Vincent. By his twenties, Vincent had stopped going to church altogether although he expressed an interest in returning to church. He explained, “I’m afraid my appearance would be embarrassing for my father. I don’t mean that he would be embarrassed, and he would never tell me. But I don’t think his congregation would like it.” Vincent’s appearance certainly drew attention. Vincent wore makeup and bought all his clothes from the Salvation Army. He sometimes wore his sister’s hand-me-down clothes or something his mother made for him. Vincent disliked anything that looked new. When he bought clothing for his girlfriend, he shopped in antique stores.
Vincent’s life changed forever in 1964 when he and four fellow cross country teammates, Glen Buxtin, Neal Smith, Dennis Dunaway, and Michael Bruce, participated in Cortez High School’s annual Letterman’s talent show. Vincent and his teammates called themselves the Earwigs, but there was a problem. Other than Glen Buxton, who played guitar, none of the others played musical instruments. To circumvent their lack of talent, the Earwigs dressed to resemble the Beatles, complete with wigs, and pretended to play instruments while a record played Beatles songs. Vincent, the Earwigs’ lead singer, sang parodied lyrics to the Beatles songs. For example, one of the songs they mimed and parodied was “Please Please Me.” In it, rather than singing “Last night I said these words to my girl,” Vincent sang “Last night I ran four laps for my coach.” The reception was better than anyone expected. Vincent and his teammates won the talent show. Because of their strange success, they decided to form a real band. Vincent’s friends learned to play instruments and Vincent began to write songs and to improve his singing voice and stage presence. In his high school yearbook, Vincent said his ambition was to become “a million record seller.”
Vincent and his friends performed under various band names from the Earwigs to the Spiders and Nazz with minor success. Finally, Vincent and his friends decided that they needed a gimmick to succeed. They settled on a band name which sounded innocent and wholesome, which was in direct contrast to their stage shows. The band became somewhat successful, but with that success came pressure, drugs, and alcohol. Vincent became an alcoholic and drug addict. It is likely that Vincent has died more times than any other human in history. On multiple occasions, Vincent has died seven, eight, sometimes ten times in a single evening. Each time, he was brought back to life. Finally, after decades of drug and alcohol abuse, Vincent found a new addiction which took the place of drugs and alcohol. Vincent became addicted to golf. The son and grandson of preacher men also became a born-again Christian. The Lord works in mysterious ways.
For some of the band members, their dream had become a nightmare. After a decade of performing together, the band fell apart. Vincent wanted to keep performing but disagreements with the other band members meant that Vincent could not use the band name. Finally, Vincent found a loophole. The only way he could perform under his old band name was to legally change his name to the band name. In 1973, Vincent legally changed his name. Under his new name, Vincent has sold more than 50 million records. His deaths, as mentioned earlier, were not due to illness or overdose. He continues to die multiple times an evening in various ways as part of his elaborate stage show. You know Vincent Damon Furnier, who became addicted to drugs and alcohol, then became a born again Christian and avid golfer, as Alice Cooper.
1. The Ottawa Journal, August 20, 1971, p.12.
2. Albany Democrat-Herald, April 19, 1975, p.33.
3. The Baltimore Sun, April 26, 1975, p.10.
4. Concord Monitor, July 29, 2004, p.6.
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