SickthingsUK: The Draft

In the past some fans have asked how the band avoided being drafted during the Vietnam conflict. For those that don't know on December 1st 1969 the 'Selective Service System' in the United States conducted two lotteries to determine which of their young citizens would be sent to fight in the Vietnam war. Any male born between 1944 and 1950 was entered into the lottery, the first time the system had been used since the second world war.

The decision of who would be drafted and who wouldn't was basically based on your birthday. They had capsules marked with every date in the year (including February 29th) and pulled them out at random. As each date was pulled out it was assigned a number which signified the order in which you would be called up. For example the first date pulled out was September 14th, so that was assigned lottery number 1. The second was April 24th which would be lottery number 2 etc etc. The first 195 numbers were eventually called for service, the last being the September 24th birthdays. From there they did a second lottery to decide the order of each individual with a specific birthday, giving an exact order of call up for every person in the allotted age group.

The system used had flaws, and there were later lotteries for young men entering the allotted age group as well, but that's really out of the scope of our interest so I'm not going to go into detail. You can easily find out more by googling it. What is of interest to us is that Dennis was born in 1946, Neal and Glen in 1947, and Michael and Alice in 1948, so the whole band were at risk of being selected. According to official records the highest lottery draft number called to be drafted in 1970 was #195.

Going by their birth dates this would mean the band's lottery order would have been as follows:

  • Dennis Dunaway - December 9th 1946 - - - #43
  • Neal Smith - Sept. 23rd 1947 - - - #119
  • Glen Buxton - Nov. 10th 1947 - - - #282
  • Vincent Furnier - Feb. 4th 1948 - - -#210
  • Michael Bruce - March 16th 1948 - - - #166
This would suggest that in 1970 neither Vince nor Glen were ever drafted. "If an individual's number wasn't called during 1970, chances are he would not be called at all". There is however one more bit of information: While the highest lottery number actually drafted was 195, the highest number sent for a physical (to assess if they could be drafted) was 215. This means that Vince, #210, was in one of the last batches of young men to have been sent for a physical, but in the end he would likely not have been drafted. Glen on the other hand, with a #282, would surely never have even been sent for a physical.

So that's the background. Now to the stories. It's always been suggested that all five members of the band received draft letters and had physicals, however none of them were eventually drafted. Below are the generally stated reasons why each of them didn't eventually get drafted.

Dennis Dunaway

"Dennis was awarded a 4F after his physical because of either a) his slow heartbeat ('Me, Alice') or b) a hernia ('Snakes, Guillotines...', so more likely true), so he managed to escape the draft quite easily.

Vince Furnier/Alice Cooper

According to Dennis Dunaway Vince was declared 4-F due to being underweight and calming religious objections. "although he told people that he was classified 1-A and that he went back for several more physicals before he finally convinced them to fail him for reasons of questionable sanity."

'Me, Alice' claims that Vince wasn't even worried. He also mentions that despite their birthdays being a year part (actually two years, but that is irrelevant as it wasn't based on birth year, but on birth month and day, so for the lotteries purposes they were actually only three months apart) both he and Dennis went to their physicals the same day (which collaborates Dennis' version of the events):

"I only weighed ninety-eight pounds and I had bleached blond hair. How could they possibly want to draft me?" Well, guess what? After Alice's physical, he was classified 1-A! Alice says he went for four more physicals and even drank a bottle of whiskey before each physical and passed out, but to no avail. He was still classified 1-A. He petitioned the psychiatrist for two months and finally got to meet with him. He told the psychiatrist that he was an entertainer and this is what he hoped to accomplish:

"I told him I wanted to put an audience in a concert hall, bolt and lock the doors, shut the lights and shock them with electricity, lower spiders on them, surround the audience with speakers blasting my voice and plant accomplices in the audience to have heart attacks and fits. Then, when everything was the most intense, you let monkey semen out of the ventilation system. I told him that I had read somewhere that the smell of monkey semen makes people horny. Then you blind everyone with the flash of quartz lamps. At that point you suggest an action. For instance, "fuck" or "dance". Mass hypnotism. My eyes were wide and I had really gotten myself off on the fantasy."

Alice then goes on to say that "the letter the psychiatrist wrote said I was a homicidal transvestite capable of mass murder. A megalomaniac. He sent it to the draft board with a letter from Mr. Buckley (Cortez high school principal). I have a copy framed, hanging in the bathroom of my house".

Michael Bruce

Dennis Dunaway's version (edited from 'Snakes, Guillotines, Electric Chairs...':

"Michael's residence kept switching back and forth between California and Arizona, and eventually Michigan, each time postponing his physical due to sluggish red tape. Uncle Sam finally caught up with him in Michigan, where he was inducted and put on board a blue bus to boot camp. In transit, however, he freaked out on a multidrug overdose. They pumped his stomach and changed his classification."

Another version from 'Me, Alice' is that Michael fought the draft in court (and obviously won).

Neal Smith

Neal got classified 4F after Alice shot him in the foot, possibly deliberately, to help Neal fail his physical. Long thought to be another of the bands shaggy dog stories it's basically true. From 'Me, Alice':

"Neal and I drove out to the desert in a borrowed car. There were two .22-caliber rifles in the trunk, and we were going to shoot jackrabbits. We would drive around the desert, blind them with the car headlights, and pick them off. Neal took a shot at one from the hood of the car, thought he had hit it and swung his long legs around just as I pulled off my own shot. There was a thumping sound, and he fell on the ground. He scrambled around in front of the headlights and pulled off his boots. I had shot him in the ankle.
He was deliriously happy. We went straight to a hospital where they examined him, and he filled out all sorts of reports for the doctors and police and told everyone that he had shot himself in the foot. The police told him, "The next time you shoot yourself, shoot yourself in the fucking head." He was classified 4F and didn't even complain much about the cast he had to wear for two months. The bullet is lodged in his right anklebone, and, contrary to rumour, it never improved his playing."

Dennis Dunaway's version (edited from 'Snakes, Guillotines, Electric Chairs...':

"On April 12, 1968, Uncle Sam notified Neal to report to the induction centre, so he decided to get drunk first. Mike Allen and Vince's sister, Nickie, were the only sober people on the ride. The other passengers were Vince, Neal, and two six-packs of Budweiser. In their inebriated wisdom, they had decided to drive into the desert for some moonlight target shooting.
Two jackrabbits darted across the road. Neal snatched the .22 out of Vince's hands, aimed, and fired. Nickie stopped the car's forward motion. "Did you get it?"
"I don't know," Neal said. He handed the rifle to Vince, grabbed a flashlight, and ran down the road swinging the light around. "Where the hell did it go?"
Crack! The .22 fired again. Nobody looked as surprised as Vince.
"I've been hit," Neal yelled. "I'm shot. My ankle's shot." A warm stream of blood filled his boot. "You stupid idiot, you shot me."
Vince slid off the hood, laid the rifle in the road, and ran up to Neal. "I'm sorry," he yelped. "I didn't mean to shoot. Are you all right?"
"No, I'm not all right. You shot my fucking ankle!"
Once [at the hospital], Neal had instructions: "Don't anybody say a thing," he said. "I'll do all the talking." The pain worsened as the numbness wore off.
In the emergency room, a cop confronted them.
"It was an accident," Neal said. "I shot myself."
"No, you didn't," the cop replied.
Neal hopped up and down on one leg, aiming an imaginary rifle toward the wound. "I shot myself," he insisted.
The cop took a long look at Neal, then Nickie, then Mike Allen, and when he got to Vince, he pointed authoritatively and said, "He did it."
Vince sat speechless.
The cop said, "Nobody's filing any charges, so it looks like you girls are getting off lucky this time."
Nickie said, "Thank you."
The cop looked at Neal and said, "Next time, shoot yourself in the head."

Glen Buxton

Glen avoided the drift after being classed as 4-F through health reasons. Both Dennis Dunaway and his sister Janice confirm it was due to sever allergies, however going from the generally available information about the draft process (see above) it's unclear why he would have even have been called to have a physical, unless it was a preventative measure:

"..I think Glen had one of the really legit reasons for not being taken - he had horrible allergies to dust, grasses, pollens, etc. And let us not forget... feathers! He couldn't use a feather pillow - EVER!
(Janice Davison (Glen's sister) August 2003)