Alice Cooper’s Daughter Calico Cooper Recalls Road Life With Dad
When Calico Cooper was a kid, it wasn’t unusual to find her and her siblings roaming around their dad's elaborate, horror-themed, not-so-child-friendly rock 'n' roll stages.
“I never learned to be scared of anything,” she tells UCR. “Severed heads and things like that were never gross to me. They were playthings; they were toys.”
Alongside her sister Sonora and brother Dashiell, Calico was a frequent visitor to Alice Cooper’s tours. Her mother, Sheryl Goddard, a professional dancer, was also a member of the stage cast. Yet despite the unusual environment, the Cooper children's upbringing remained a relatively normal affair.
“He was playing sold-out arenas, and then he was teaching soccer,” says Calico, who remembers her dad insisting he could be both an international rock star and an attentive, involved parent. “I think that says a lot about him as a human, more than as a performer, because he was kind of one of those guys that was like, ‘I refuse to believe that I can't have both things.’”
Taking after her mom, Calico spent hours in dance studios — participating in classes, competing and eventually becoming skillful enough to begin teaching courses of her own. As the years went by, it became obvious, especially to her dad, that she needed to utilize her talent and creativity.
Cooper's 21st album, 2000's Brutal Planet, marked a return to his famed macabre metal style. With its combination of dystopian, post-apocalyptic ideas and very real, tangible themes like domestic violence and war, the LP's subsequent tour would require some radical imagination. He turned to his 18-year-old daughter for assistance, asking if she'd design costumes and participate in the shows. She agreed and joined the lineup for the trek's kickoff.
Watch Alice Cooper Perform 'Brutal Planet'
“Just as everything I do, it gets bigger and bigger and crazier,” she says. “My dad just kind of looked at me and said, ‘Hey, how would you feel about coming out and doing all these roles and doing this part?’ At first I came out, and I kind of expected to do what the women before me, my mom and whoever, had done.”
Her mom, then committed to spending more time at home with Calico’s younger siblings, had previously played a sadistic nurse in her husband’s shows — a role Calico attempted to step into.
"I did it for a while, but my mom has got something that I will never have," Calico says. "She has sort of like this ingenue ... like a 1940s actress — you want to protect her. But I could never do it. And I tried it and I tried it. I had to sit back and go, 'All right. What is it that's not working about this for me?' Because I'm playing the idea of something that somebody naturally is. So I thought, 'What if I went totally the opposite way and made them want Alice to kill me?'"
Calico transformed the nurse into a character of pure evil, one who ultimately gets captured and defeated. The audiences at Cooper's show ate it up.
“It was the same character,” she says, “but a different spin on it, where it really kind of made Alice the hero at the end of the show.”
Replacing her mom’s role also put her in another challenging position: the only woman on the entire tour.
“I was the only girl, not just in the band, but in the catering, in the merch, drivers — there were no other girls,” she recalls. Considering her father was at the helm, she was initially cautious about her new authority.
“And that lasted about six months before I started going, ‘You know what we could do? Or you know this or that?’” she says. "So then I started interjecting little bits because I really wasn't sure what my position was. I never wanted to come across like the boss's daughter is starting to take over the show and make changes — and, you know, full-grown men do not like taking direction from 18-year-old girls.”
Those directions, however, led to an onslaught of exceptional feedback and reviews on the show, particularly of the work she had initiated.
“I started building some sort of gravitas a little bit in order to say, like, ‘Remember when I said this would work? I promise you this will work,’” Calico says. “I started getting trusted a little more and more. And then before you know it, I would just have these ideas and go, ‘Hey, what do you guys think?’ And they go, ‘Let's do it.’” Even after the Brutal Planet tour came to a close in 2001, Calico stayed onboard with the band until 2011, enjoying not only life on the road but also getting to see her dad do what he loved. In 2006, Alice Cooper checked off a bucket list item and spent three nights opening for the Rolling Stones at Churchill Downs in Kentucky.
“He was out to show the Stones, who he grew up idolizing, exactly who he was. So he came out of the gate like a teenage boy. It was so intense to watch,” she recalls. “And then after their show, we all got together and did a photo together. It's tackily taped up on my fridge, but it's the Alice Cooper band and the Rolling Stones, and we're just hanging out in it. It's so weird to look at sometimes because I see it so often, but if you really think about how casual and funny that photo is ... it just makes me laugh.”
Looking back, she’s grateful for those years — even for the long nights on tour buses. During some of her most formative years, she says the grueling schedule taught her structure and responsibility while keeping her out of trouble. And although her original critics scoffed that the boss’ daughter had gotten the job through personal preference, she knows better.
“Towards the end of the show, I remember thinking I would be confident going up against anybody in the world and re-auditioning for this,” she says. “I know I would have gotten it — I just know it in my guts, I would have booked the show.”