Chris Penn has worn a lot of hats over the years, from his mix-master guise as DJ CeePee and his stint as Polyphonic Spree's "robemaster" to his ongoing job as co-owner and manager of Dallas' Good Records.
But the role he's most zealous about is that of Alice Cooper Group Fanatic. The mellow, soft-spoken Penn turns positively giddy as he talks about Tuesday's appearance at Good Records by three members of the original Cooper group, all of whom were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011.
"I might just self-combust," Penn says. "For a really, really crazy die-hard fan like me, this is the Super Bowl of in-store appearances."
At age 11, while sifting through his stepdad's LP collection, Penn fell madly in love with Cooper hits like "I'm Eighteen," "School's Out" and "No More Mr. Nice Guy." He's seen the ghoulish godfather of shock-rock perform nearly 30 times since then. But he's just as knowledgeable about the lesser-known Cooper Group musicians who played on and co-wrote the hits before singer Vincent Furnier took the Alice name and went solo with the 1975 LP Welcome to My Nightmare.
One of those original members is bassist Dennis Dunaway, who recently released his autobiography, Snakes! Guillotines! Electric Chairs! My Adventures in the Alice Cooper Group (St. Martin's Press). Penn not only lined up a book signing at Good Records, but also arranged a rare reunion in Dallas with Dunaway and original Cooper Group drummer Neil Smith and guitarist-keyboardist Michael Bruce. They'll take part in a Q&A session, moderated by The News' Robert Wilonsky, with everyone sitting in mock electric chairs Penn had specially built for the occasion.
Dunaway, Smith and Bruce will also perform during the event. On Wednesday, they'll join Penn at American Airlines Center to watch Alice Cooper open for Mötley Crüe, a band that owes a sizable debt to the entire band.
Penn's keeping his fingers crossed that the Coop might invite his former band mates onstage for a song or two. But even if it doesn't happen, he says it'll be a dream come true to hang out with members of what he calls "one of the most highly underrated bands out there."
"You don't hear a lot of Alice Cooper on classic rock radio today, but the band really set the blueprint for a lot of those other groups. The theatrics overshadowed their musicality, but nobody quite sounded like they did," Penn says.
"Seventy percent of the stuff Alice Cooper still sings every night is the stuff he did with those guys in the early '70s. If he didn't play those songs, the audience would hang him," Penn says. "That is, if he didn't already hang himself."
Penn has turned his love for Alice Cooper into a family affair. His grade-school-age sons now demand to hear Cooper classics as soon as they step into the car.
The only holdout is his wife, Jennifer. Penn says that while she puts up with his need to see as many Alice Cooper concerts as humanly possible, she drew the line when he broached the idea of opening a mini-museum devoted to all things Alice.
"If I do it," he says, "I'd have to call it 'Welcome to My Wife's Nightmare.'"