Alice Cooper recalls making a devilish deal with the Muppets

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Back in the ‘70s, almost every major musical artist was starring in some bonkers movie musical or TV variety show — even KISS got in on the act. But KISS’s fellow shock-rocker Alice Cooper turned most of those opportunities down, out of concern that such projects would dilute the menacing image he’d so carefully cultivated with his own 1975 television special, Alice Cooper: The Nightmare, and its companion concept album, Welcome to My Nightmare. “I never wanted to be in a show where I had to totally lose the Alice character and become something else,” he explains to Yahoo Entertainment.

But when Jim Henson came calling, asking him to star in The Muppet Show’s 1978 Halloween special, that was an offer Alice could not refuse. “I never had so much fun in my life as doing The Muppet Show,” he gushes.

“I balked at first,” Cooper admits. “I went, ‘Oh man, I've been spending all this time building this villain image. Is this just going to water it down?’ I said, ‘Who's going to be on it?’ And they said Christopher Lee, Vincent Price [who’d done previous Muppet Show Halloween guest spots]. And I went, ‘I'm in!’ I didn't even have to think about it. I went, ‘I'm in. If those guys can do it, I am privileged to do it.’”

The "talented but frightening" Cooper needn’t have worried that guesting on one of The Muppet Show’s most iconic episodes — and certainly the most rock ‘n’ roll episode — would damage his cred. The Halloween special (type)cast him as an assistant to the Devil, tempting the innocent Muppets with "fabulous riches and worldwide fame" in exchange for their souls. (Unsurprisingly, Miss Piggy was the Muppet most receptive to this Faustian deal.)

In the opening monologue, Kermit warned the audience that this episode would be scarier than typical family-friendly Muppet fare, because of the foreboding presence of Cooper — who performed “Welcome to My Nightmare” and “School's Out” with his aptly named band, the Vile Bunch, and hung out with a puppet boa constrictor. Even the scene when Cooper serenaded a lady-monster named Beakie (a.k.a. Miss Piggy, after she was transformed as part of her deal with Satan) with “You and Me” was more creepy than cuddly.

The Muppet Show was one of those things where... it was the No. 1 show in the world because it was green people making fun of purple people, do you know what I mean?” Cooper chuckles. “And they weren't people! So, everybody in the world loved that show, and it was very cleverly written, very well-written.”

Even though Cooper’s castmates “weren’t people,” he admits that he soon forgot all about that and became caught up in their grand Halloween illusion. “You rehearsed for a week in London, and after a while these Muppets were people,” he laughs. “You were talking to them. ‘What are you going to have for lunch today?” they’d says. ‘Oh, I don't know. I was thinking about going to...’ And you're literally talking to them! You'd catch yourself talking to this piece of felt like it's real, because they would react exactly the way a person would react. Miss Piggy would say, ‘Do you want a Diet Coke? Because I know that you're not drinking now.’ And I went, ‘Yeah, sure.’ … They'd come into your dressing room: ‘Hey, you want some lunch?’ ‘Yeah, Kermit. I'll be right there.’”

Miss Piggy and Alice Cooper in 1978. (Photo: Everett Collection)
Miss Piggy and Alice Cooper in 1978. (Photo: Everett Collection)

Cooper warmed to doing more TV and film later in his career, playing another perfectly cast role — himself — in Tim Burton’s 2012 film Dark Shadows. And it was that shoot that led to him form a supergroup with a very Halloween-appropriate name.

“The way I met Johnny Depp was in Dark Shadows. In that movie they were going back to 1972, and they said, ‘Well, Elvis had Alice at this party,’” Cooper says, referring to an infamous, mythological-status ‘70s incident when he claims Presley told him to point a gun at his head. “That's how I met Johnny, and that's how the Hollywood Vampires got started, right there.”

Continue the Halloween celebration with Cooper below, as he counts down his favorite Halloween songs — a third of which happen to be his own. “I’m going to have a lot of songs in this top 10,” he boasts, “because I’m the only one that really writes scary songs.”

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