Salvador Dali

Salvador Dali

As teenagers Alice and best friend Dennis Dunaway were big Dali fans and there was talk of using Dali's painting - 'Geopoliticus Child' - as an album sleeve for 'Pretties For You', but it apparently didn't suit the records of the time (plus was likely too expensive) and so was not used. In 1983 Alice finally got close to having his Dali album cover when the cover of 'Da Da' used artwork based on part of another Dali painting called 'Slave Market with the Disappearing Bust of Voltaire'.

In 2018 The Sky Arts channel in the UK films a dramatisation of Alice's meeting with Dali as part of the second series of their 'Urban Myths' show. The show would take well known events, both true and false, and make short dramatic films based on them. The Alice/Dali one featured well known UK comedian (and Alice Cooper fan) Noel Fielding as a passable Alice, David Suchet as Dali, and Paul Kaye as Shep Gordon. The accuracy of the film is questionable but it's a fun watch none the less.

The Dali Hologram

In March 1973 Dali produced the first three dimensional hologram which featured Alice, wearing around two million dollars worth of jewellery including a tiara and necklace. Alice sat cross legged on a rotating base, wearing the jewels, holding a statuette of the Venus De Milo as if it was a microphone. A Dali sculpture of Alice's brain with a chocolate eclair covered in ants (a Dali trademark) was placed behind him.

The meeting of Dali and Alice was initially the idea of Alice Cooper co-manager Joe Greenburg. He contacted Dali's representatives and an initial meeting was set up between Dali and Dennis Dunaway at the St. Regis hotel in New York where Dali was staying. According to Dennis Dunaway's Book 'Snakes! Guillotines! Electric Chairs" Cindy Smith was also present at the meeting.

"When Joe Greenberg told me that he had arranged for me to meet the great surrealist at the St. Regis hotel in New York to discuss an art project, I ran to Carolyn [Pfeiffer] for advice. "Oh, he's easy," she said. "Just call him Maestro. That's all you need to know. Trust me." Dalí had an idea about doing a 360-degree hologram of Alice. He said that Alice and he were "the world's two greatest artists." As we nervously waited for Dalí at the hotel bar, Cindy laughed and nudged me. "Why are you so nervous? You're as crazy as he is."

The wait wasn't long. I saw a reflection of light and turned to see Dalí and his wife, Gala, walk through the door with another man. Dalí looked straight at me and walked right up. I extended my hand and said, "Maestro." His face lit up like I was his best friend in the universe. He politely introduced Gala and the young scientist who would be handling the hologram. After Dalí got drinks for everyone, he escorted Cindy to a table and swept her up in gaudy conversation. Dalí made our heads spin with a multilanguage explanation of his vision. When he did land on English, it would be in fragmented sentences involving flaming giraffes and such. He seemed exuberantly sincere. With the tips of his moustache curled behind his spectacles, his giraffe-hide vest, some pungent odour that had to be intentional, and a fancy cane topped with a gargoyle's head, he was every bit as surrealistic as his paintings. As the bar filled up with people, Dalí greeted them and ordered drinks as if he were the host in his own home. He did live, I guess, in the hotel.

A second meeting was set up, this time in Dali's apartment at the St. Regis hotel, and again it was Dennis and Cindy, along with Joe Greenberg and Charlie Carnal, who attended.

For our second meeting, Charlie Carnal and Joe Greenberg came along. This time we met in Dalí's apartment. It was all friendly until Charlie made a move to sit down in a wheelchair with an open umbrella attached to it. "No! No!" Gala shouted, "You can't sit down there." While Charlie apologized, she explained, "If you sit there, rain will come pouring out of the umbrella, and it makes a big mess."

Dalí, cloaked in the same outfit and the same foul odour, continued talking as if he hadn't been interrupted since our last meeting. With a flourish, he showed us a plastic model of a brain and announced that this was Alice's. In its centre was a chocolate éclair crawling with ants that had been painted, he declared, by the great Dalí!

When we lined up to say goodbye, Dalí kissed each person on both cheeks. When I got to him, I produced a lithograph of his Don Quixote that I'd brought with me and asked if he'd sign it. Dalí clapped his hands, and everyone gathered around as I held the print steady. Dalí started with a tiny dot. He drew and drew, but it was still just a dot. Then he got a maniacal expression on his face and wildly signed "Dalí." He repeatedly hit the picture with the pen while everyone applauded.

I didn't walk out of there. I floated.

Dennis was disappointed that when the hologram was eventually unveiled he wasn't even invited to the event, and for years his involvement in the whole enterprise was forgotten. At the official launch, it was Alice alone. Alice said that he loved the confusion that Dali portrayed in his work to which Dali said that "confusion was the perfect form of communication!"

The Hologram, actually called 'First Cylindric Chromo-Hologram Portrait of Alice Cooper's Brain', can been seen at the Dali museum in Figueras, Spain, and a replica is at the Dali museum in St Petersburgh, Florida. Unfortunately, the St Petersburg museum rotates their collection every three months so check that the hologram is on display before travelling.

Footage exists of Dali and Alice together at a press conference and of the hologram shoot, clips of which are featured in 'Prime Cuts'.

Alice's version of meeting Dali: (source unknown)

In early April of 1973, a mind-melding of sorts took place in New York City. Over the course of about two weeks, shock-rocker Alice Cooper and Dali, fabled surrealist, ate together, drank together, and basked in the glow of each other's exceptional freakishness. And lo, it was beautiful. In the light of the recent publication of Meredith Etherington-Smith's biography, The Persistence of Memory, (Random House) - and the fact that Alice's and Dali's coming together is mentioned however scantly - the time seemed right to query Alice about just what, exactly, happened.

How Alice Met Dali

Dali invited Alice and his manager Shep Gordon, over to the St. Regis Hotel. "We met in the bar. Gala (his wife) comes first. She'd dressed in a full tuxedo. She looks exactly like Fred Astaire - top hat, cane, spats. I went "Wow!" Then about six boys and girls - or whatever they were - about 16 or 17 years old, came in. These creatures he had with him were like something out of Satyricon. They were dressed in a lot of silk. Flowing things, loose things. They didn't say anything but they were real pretty. I had this vision of Count Dracula and his wives. They kind of floated around the room. Then Dali comes in. He said, "I am the great and grand Dali!" And I said "Hi, I'm Alice Cooper." I felt like Jerry Lewis, you know."

The Clothes Dali Wore

Purple crushed velvet pants; a pair of gold elastic shoes ("you know, where the toes go up to the end"); a pair of purple glitter socks that Elvis gave him; a giraffe-skin coat; his usual moustache; and sideburns "kind of up in pincurls."

The Cocktails Served

Scorpions - for the whole entourage. The drinks came in bowls with lilacs floating in them. Dali ordered a glass of hot water. "He pulled a jar of honey out of his pocket and started pouring the honey in. He filled it up and up and up until he had this long strand of honey, then with his right hand he reaches into his other pocket and pulls out a pair of scissors and cuts the honey. I looked at Shep and said, 'We're in trouble. This guy is out there.

What About Alice's Snake?

Renowned for letting a 12-13 foot boa constrictor loose on stage, Alice did not pull his boa out with Dali around. "A lot of people are disappointed when they meet me because they expect me to chase them around with an axe. Well, that's Alice on stage. I don't even hang around with Alice."

What Dali Talked About Over Dinner

The psychotronic membranes of the brain and the radio impulses constantly shooting out of them into space. In five different languages. One word in French, one in Portuguese, one in Spanish, one in English and one in "whatever." "So you only picked up every fifth word."

How Dali Proposed His Idea to Alice

"He gave me my brain." Dali presented a brain sculpted out of plaster (or something) with a chocolate eclair running down it's middle and ants crawling all over it. "He said, "This is Dali's version of Alice Cooper's brain," And I said, "Wow, I never thought I'd ever get this."

What Alice Asked Dali to Do

To be filmed biting the head off the Venus De Milo in a Hologram while wearing $2 million worth of diamond tiaras and necklaces. "They had armed guards there and everything. It was just ridiculous."

What Happened At The Press Conference Afterwards

"I was sitting there wearing all black and my eyes are all smeared and I'm drinking a tall can of Budweiser and he's all in white and looks like some kind of saint. He's explaining on and on and on and they ask me, "What do you think of this?" And I said, "I haven't understood one word he's said since I met him." And he jumped up and said: "Perfect! Confusion is the greatest form of Communication."

Jay Stowe

Russell Beal was the photographer for the Hologram shoot and emailed me with his memories of the day:

"Sometime in late 1972, or early '73, I was approached by a South African artist whose name was, I believe, Joffe. He claimed that he'd spent about a year trying to put together a project involving holography and Salvador Dali, and that Dali had finally acquiesced. How Alice Cooper came into the picture, I don't know, but Joffe told me that he, personally, had to finance the project, and he had very little money to work with.

I thought it was worth doing and agreed to take it on. My studio, which was on West 55th Street was really not suitable for the shoot, but in the same building was a brand new video production facility, and they agreed to let me use their stage and lighting equipment if their name (Video East or Video West, I don't remember) and not mine, would be credited with doing the production. I supplied the camera equipment, a 16 mm Eclair NPR, the stock, which I believe was an Eastman colour reversal stock ( maybe 7252 ), processing, and a small crew. We also had a smoke machine. The electrician worked for the facility.

If I'm not mistaken, Warner Records was involved, and if I'm not mistaken again, it was they who arranged for news media to be there. Prior to the shoot, they were conducting interviews, and the news guys had set up their own lighting, which made me drape the camera with a black cloth in order to avoid the possibility of a light leaks fogging the film in my magazine. This caused a stir because holographic technology was still considered new and exotic, and the news people began to speculate about whether or not I'd covered the camera because it was "secret".

That chaotic, circus atmosphere carried through the whole day, largely due to Dali's hunger for attention, and the "lunatic act" he did. We did not get along. Cooper, on the other hand, was a congenial, soft-spoken man, and very cooperative. I do remember being concerned about the case of 16 oz cans of Budweiser which accompanied him. He disappeared into the control booth at the rear of the studio and never came out until he was needed to work. I was worried that he wouldn't be able to function, but he was fine - a nice guy, and a real professional."

Several days before the shoot, security people from Harry Winston's, the jeweller who made the necklace and tiara, arrived at the studio to inspect the premises. They wanted to see all the stairways and entrances, and make arrangements to secure the entire floor during the shoot. They were going to limit entrance to the floor on that day. However, that never happened. They merely hovered around the jewels.
It was my understanding that the pieces had been designed by Dali, and were worth about $1.5 million.

Alice arrived with several people, and his beer, and quietly retreated into the control booth. A car was sent to the St. Regis Hotel to pick up Dali, but he refused to ride in anything but a white limousine, and those arrangements had to be made quickly. He finally arrived at the studio with a rather large entourage and immediately went into his act. The brain, which I thought was made of some sort of plastic, and the wax sculpture of a chocolate eclair, were carried in on red velvet pillows and placed on a table. The press people started their interviews.

This took place shortly after the death of Pablo Picasso. While they were both alive, there had been opposing viewpoints as to who was the world's "greatest living artist" , the press people tried to exploit the controversy with Dali. He was asked whether or not he thought Picasso was a genius. His reply was something like, "Yes...but not a first class genius, like me!"

Then, Joffe explained to me that the eclair was to be mounted between the two lobes of the brain, but Dali had made no provision to do it. It was a life-size wax sculpture, very realistic in appearance, except that the icing was a melting clock. The brain was a pale pink colour and had ants painted all over it. It also bristled with carpet tacks which were glued to the surface.

I suggested to Joffe that we fashion a hook out of a paper clip and stick it in the bottom of the eclair. We could then wire the eclair to the brain via the paper clip. Joffe objected strongly, stating that I was not to stick a paper clip into "an original Dali sculpture." However, when no better alternative was found, that's what we did. I was told to be very careful.

We were so engrossed in the project, that we never noticed that Dali was watching the whole thing. That is, until, as luck would have it, the sculpture broke in half in my hands. Dali shrieked, "IS BROK-EN!!!!" I nearly jumped out of my skin! Almost as a reflex, I jammed the two halves back together, and because it was rather soft, it actually stuck, and you couldn't see the crack. I turned to Dali and showed him. "It's fixed", I said, weakly.

"NO! IS BETTER BROK-EN!", Dali shrieked again. It was then that I decided that I couldn't do my job unless I ignored him. And that's what I did.

The stage was set up with a motorized turntable. We needed the subject to turn a 360 degrees as we shot, so that there would be a complete image on the holographic cylinder. The film would be processed and then the images transferred to a flat piece of film which was bent into a cylinder and held in that shape by being inserted into a clear glass or plastic tube. The tube was then placed on top of a lamp housing containing a special lamp which produced a light of a certain wave-length, and if you walked around the contraption, you could see a three dimensional "ghost" image on the cylinder.

We worked with Alice first, and when he was finished, he said good bye, and left. Next, we did a nude of one of Dali's models. Then worked with Dali, who refused to do more than one take, stating that it was the moment, not the result, which was important. He left, and it was over."

This is from Errors are theirs not mine!

Monthly Feature - For June: Alice Cooper Hologram

'First Cylindric Chrono-Hologram Portrait of Alice Cooper's Brain' White-light hologram, 1973. In this revolving 360-degree hologram, rock star Alice Cooper is either singing into, or about to bite the head off of, a "shish kebabbed" statue of the Venus de Milo. Not only does 'First Cylindric Chrono-Hologram Portrait of Alice Cooper's Brain' offer another example of how Dalí ventured far beyond painting-exploring, in this case, how technology could enable an artist to paint in three dimensions - but it combines two of the greatest showmen of the 1970's. This piece is currently on display as part of the Museum's temporary exhibition A Disarming Beauty: The Venus de Milo in 20th-Century Art.

Cooper came into prominence with the release of his 1973 album 'Welcome to My Nightmare' which contained the hit singles "Only Women Bleed" and "School's Out." The hologram pictures him modelling a million-dollar tiara that Dalí had delivered specifically for the project - an unusual accessory for a musician known for staging shows that included fake guillotining and live snakes.

Dalí reportedly enjoyed working with Cooper, saying that the hologram is "the perfect replica of the brain of 'Alice Cooperpopstar. . .the best exponent of total confusion I know" [sic]. And Cooper returned the compliment. "The only thing that we have in common [is] confusion," he said. "We don't make any sense to each other in conversation. He speaks in five different languages at once, and you are supposed to understand what he's talking about! We'll just stand there and then I'll say something that has nothing to do with what he's talking about. Then he'll say something back that has nothing to do with what I was talking about. We'll just go on like that."

'First Cylindric Chrono-Hologram' was unveiled at the Knoedler's Gallery in New York City and merited mention in the May 10, 1973, issue of Rolling Stone.