SickthingsUK: Brian 'Renfield' Nelson

Kyler Clark

Brian 'Renfield' Nelson
Brian 'Renfield' Nelson

If you look at the small print on some older Alice Cooper albums you may see mention of 'The Alice Cooper Archives'. The archives were basically the private collection of Brian 'Renfield' Nelson (Feb. 18th 1960-June 12th 2009), Alice's personal assistant. Everything you may have heard about it is probably true. "Ren", as he affectionately came to be known, had the leopard skin boots from the 'Billion Dollar Babies' Tour, the gold jacket that Alice wore when with 'The Spiders', his leather bondage outfit from the 'Madhouse Rock' tour, Alice's birth certificate, passports, and contracts amongst literally thousands of items. The Alice display at the 'Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame' was mostly taken from Ren's collection.

Many people automatically assumed that Ren got all these cool things from Alice and, of course, in part this is true. However it should be understood that he already had a huge collection and an encyclopedic knowledge of Alice BEFORE he even met him. In fact that was why he originally got the job in the first place.

Brian worked as a producer on many Alice Cooper archive projects, including 'The Life And Crimes Of Alice Cooper', and was frequently asked to supply information or photographs for TV, film and magazines from his extensive collection. But the main reason older fans knew him was as an ever present face at the shows, where he would come out to see fans, arrange to get them autographs, or even meet Alice in person.
On a personal level Brian was very supportive of this site, offering endless information and corrections that you will across the pages. He also helped me out when we organised the 'Sickcon1' UK fan convention - approving artwork, giving advice we remained on the right side of copyrights, and even obtained the personal message from Alice which was included in the programme and now resides on my wall here at "Sickthings HQ".

Brian was an intensely private man who rarely even agreed to have his photograph taken, but was always a pleasure to deal with. He joined the original 'Sickthings' mailing list early on and endlessly answered questions and corrected people when they made poor assumptions, all done in a highly distinctive style! His death in 2009 shocked the Cooper fan community.

"It is with extreme sadness that we need to inform the community of Alice Cooper fans of the passing of Brian "Renfield" Nelson, Alice's long-time archivist and personal assistant. It was a sudden, completely unexpected, and untimely passing. We would appreciate it if you would keep him in your thoughts, appreciate his many contributions to Alice's life and career over the years, and respect Brian's privacy and the privacy of Alice and his extended family (at home and on tour) at this time."
[Official Announcement. June 14th 2009)

Thank you for everything you did for us Brian. You are missed.

Renfield On Renfield

The 'Special Forces' tour was my first tour [working for Alice]. The first concert I went to was the 'Billion Dollar Babies' show, New Year's Eve in Buffalo - the last show the original band did in the US (chronicled in Bob Greene's book). I saw the 'Welcome To My Nightmare' show, I saw at the '77 show about 4 times, 'Madhouse Rocks' about 4 times, 'Flush The Fashion' show about 5 times, and then have seen every single show starting from 'Special Forces' to present - and I even get in for free!"

"I was just a dumb kid in Buffalo, NY (now I'm a dumb guy in L.A.) who in 1972 became obsessed with Alice Cooper and insanely addicted to collecting Alice memorabilia - EVERYTHING. Any how, when I got a bit older, I started going to various cities whenever I could to see AC shows. Once I was in Chicago in '77 and by a stroke of luck and a lot of begging, I got my first backstage pass. Had a bunch of brief encounters with Alice at shows and tours afterward (after that first pass - it was pretty easy for me). After awhile he started recognising me and remembering what my deal was (I used to carry around business cards with my name claiming I was the "World's Biggest Alice Cooper Fan" - it was a good attention getter)."

Cutting to the chase - at one point - after the 'Flush' tour [Nov. 1980] - I managed to get Alice on the phone. He needed a personal assistant type (he had just gotten rid of someone) and figured if I was going to go to all these shows anyway - I might as well go along with them. It is kind of incredulous cuz he didn't really know me. Anyway, He flew me out to LA - put me up at his house and the rest is history. I'm still a fan (obviously) and I have never stopped collecting."
(Renfield, June 1995

"[I've done] a few things here and there, although I prefer to keep behind the scenes. Strangely enough, I seem to get used for my body parts more often than anything. Those are my legs on the back of 'Constrictor' (I never understood that back cover-anyone else?) and my hand hits the nail with the hammer in the 'Bed of Nails' video, my hand shoots the gun and comes out of the TV static in the 'Hey Stoopid' video and I was occasionally the doctor getting strangled by Alice during 'Dwight Fry' (including recently in South America [and the '97 European tour]). There was a little promo film made for 'Zipper Catches Skin' (the one in the bathroom) that I'm in for 1 second. Gosh, I'm famous!"
(Renfield, September 1995)

Brian played the photographer who was run through by the mic stand in the 'Nightmare Returns' concert film, he appears briefly in 'Waynes World' behind Alice.