Visitors to Fayette County Historical Society’s newest exhibit, “Coming Home for the Harvest,’’ may be surprised to see mention of Alice Cooper, a rock performer recognized for his horror-themed theatrics.
Be Local means appreciating that an internationally known star has a connection to Southwestern Pennsylvania.
“His grandparents lived here,’’ explained Mary Tickner, historical society member. “He would come back summers and stay in Fayette County.’’
Cooper was born Vincent Damon Furnier in 1948 in Detroit. But Tickner said Cooper’s grandfather, Thurman Sylvester Furnier, was president of the Church of Jesus Christ, headquartered in Monongahela. Furnier is buried in Vanderbilt.
Cooper, who continues to perform at 71, has given interviews in recent years to Pittsburgh media, mentioning his grandparents lived in Uniontown and that he would spend summers here as a youth.
The historical society’s piece on Cooper is placed next to a sculpture of Marquis de Lafayette, for whom the county is named. That’s because, officials explained, Cooper is a seventh cousin to Lafayette, a reference made in Cooper’s 2007 memoir, “Alice Cooper, Golf Monster.’’
A synopsis of the first chapter is available to read in a section of the exhibit the historical society dedicated to authors. In it, Cooper acknowledged his French heritage and wrote:
“My seventh cousin was the Marquis de Lafayette, the same Lafayette who secured the support of the French during the American Revolution and fought alongside George Washington at Valley Forge. Look at a portrait of Lafayette and you’ll notice the same high cheekbones and long black hair as me. Some say I look just like him, especially when I’m on stage with my sword. I can feel my bloodlines, since swashbuckling comes naturally to me—that’s the French part of me, I guess.’’
According to his website, Cooper moved to Phoenix with his family and started the Alice Cooper band while in high school. Frank Zappa discovered the band in 1969 and signed them to his record label.
Their break-through album, “Love It To Death,’’ came out in 1971, along with an elaborate touring stage show. In 1975, Cooper released his first solo album, “Welcome to My Nightmare.’’
Also an actor, Cooper’s website said his most memorable appearance was as himself in the 1992 movie “Wayne’s World,’’ causing Wayne and Garth to proclaim, “We’re not worthy.’’
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which inducted Cooper in 2011, notes on its website, “Alice Cooper specialized in psychedelic-tinted music that presaged (and inspired) glam, hard rock, metal and even punk.’’
The hall noted, “Outside of the horror shtick, Alice Cooper never skimped on songwriting, which explains why “School’s Out” and “No More Mr. Nice Guy” remain fist-pumping favorites.’’
It also adds, “As a solo artist, Cooper continued to deliver the same drama and straight-faced horror as his old band, although the menace grew campier over the years. This time, the audience is in on the joke.’’
Fans of Alice Cooper may like to visit the Fayette County Historical Society’s new exhibit, which celebrates many artists with Fayette County connections. The show is open noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 20 at the Abel Colley Tavern and Museum, Route 40, Menallen Township.
Those interested in joining the Be Local Network can call 724-425-7515 or email Sharon Wallach at firstname.lastname@example.org. Discount cards are available at the Herald-Standard, 8 E. Church St., Uniontown, and at the Greene County Messenger, 32 Church St., Waynesburg.