Live from the Astroturf, Alice Cooper: Detroit Free Press Film Fest

This is part 2 of a 3-part tour blog series on the Live from the Astroturf, Alice Cooper film festival circuit.

Dennis Dunaway
April, 2019


Detroit is a world away from Phoenix but the Detroit Alice Cooper fans are every bit as enthusiastic. The FREEP (Detroit Free Press) Film Festival was by invitation only and it required Michigan content. Alice was born in Detroit and the original group lived there when “I’m Eighteen” became a national hit, so they invited Chris Penn, Steve Gaddis, Cindy and I to the festival where our film was scheduled to be screened twice.

When we got to our rooms at the hotel, I looked out the window and saw the bridge to Windsor, Ontario. That’s where Disc Jockey Rosalee Trombley of CKLW had made “I’m Eighteen” a hit.

We had to hurry over to the magnificent Fillmore. The lobby was full of energy with lots of people arriving as others were handing out free bags of popcorn and promoting their films. Toby Mamis had arranged for our passes for the premier of Boy Howdy! The Story of Creem Magazine through executive producer Margaret Kramer, wife of Wayne Kramer of Detroit’s legendary MC5.

Music journalist and co-founder of Creem magazine, Jaan Uhelszki, came up to say hi as Detroiters surrounded Cindy and I to talk about parties they had attended at the Alice Cooper farm house, and various shows they had seen us play. Several had even seen the Battle Axe show at the Pontiac Silverdome in 1977.

And of course, Boy Howdy! was cheered as a hometown favorite. Jaan was iconic in Creem Magazine’s history and, following the film, she joined a panel and shared many stories about getting the magazine off the ground and dealing with it’s controversial success.

Dennis Dunaway with the Nightmare - Alice Cooper tribute band.

Dennis Dunaway with the Nightmare - Alice Cooper tribute band.

Sightseeing: Dennis Dunaway, Cindy Smith Dunaway, and Steve Gaddis.

The following night, Live From the Astroturf got its own cheers. This was my third time seeing it on a big screen and I realized that each theater has its own EQ and room acoustics. The bass sounded slightly different at each showing. But I could always hear all of the instruments, especially the drums, and so it always sounded like we were playing live in the room.

After the film, Steve, Chris, Cindy and I did a Q & A. Chris and Steve explained how the film came together so spontaneously. And how, with hard work, everything fell into place better than we had hoped for. Someone asked Cindy about what it was like to live at the farmhouse with the band. Her response was so vividly detailed that everyone applauded. One person said she made them feel like they were actually there. It was a landmark breakthrough for Cindy feeling comfortable speaking in front of a crowd. It was the first time she was convinced that people were truly interested in her point of view.

After that, an Alice Cooper tribute band called Nightmare! played an acoustic set in the lobby. I sensed they were wishing they could crank up some amps but it was a refreshingly good-sounding acoustic set.

The next morning called for some sightseeing: Hitsville, Barry Gordy, and Studio A where Motown created all of that wonderful music. The original instruments were still there including the drum kit played by Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder who both started out as drummers there. Every inch of that place is hallowed ground.

Then we visited Jack White’s Third Man records. Everything in the place was hip and slickly displayed. It was a great reminder that music is still alive and well in that city.

The next night, we decided to hoof it, as Glen Buxton would say, to the theater where our film was screening. The gusty wind was frigid and had bits of ice in it. In 1969, a trek through those streets was risky, but even though the fashion was still boots and leather jackets and faces that hazily recalled a lot of great parties, this Detroit was full of friendly people. And the film got yet another warm reception. And Cindy was comfortable answering fans questions.

We had made a splash in Detroit. We felt like we were on a roll.

Stay tuned for part 3 of 3 of this tour blog series.