SURREY — At 12 years of age, Paul Smith got his first listen of Alice Cooper when his older brother played the Detroit rocker's 1974 greatest-hits album. Then he saw him on TV and put a mascara-heavy face to the name.
"I saw a different Alice," said Smith, now in his 50s. "Parents were saying, 'Don't listen to him, the guy's satanic,' and here he is with the Muppets having a great time. And as it turns out, he's a Christian."
Fast forward to today and the Surrey resident portrays Alice in a cover band called Billion Dollar Babies, named after Cooper's 1973 album and single.
Smith's band got its start about a decade ago when the lifelong Alice Cooper fan grew tired of playing the same old covers in the bar-band scene.
"I wanted to take it to the next level and do theatrics," Smith said. "I love the idea of the live snake, actresses, all that stuff, and I'm a huge fan of Alice, so that was kind of my motivation."
Smith went ahead and booked his debut show opening for a KISS tribute on Halloween at Central City Brew Pub - even though he was short a drummer. "I figured the only way to get the band together was to get a gig," he said. "As soon as I had the gig, I put it in the paper and I had all kinds of guys lining up to play."
Smith puts on a pretty authentic tribute to the father of shock rock. Though he initially had a fear of snakes, he got over it in the name of Alice, so he could wear a seven-foot reptile onstage during a few songs.
"I was not a reptile guy at all, but I realized to do it, I have to learn to wear a boa constrictor, to handle him," he said. "I was starting from no experience to the point where I can almost breed them and raise them."
"He's very much a part of the band," said Smith of Osiris, his 10-year-old boa constrictor. "He's been here longer than a lot of the musicians."
In fact, Osiris is how Smith found Ann Keech and Wendy Docherty, the two actors who join the band onstage for Alice's skits. The two worked at Cinemazoo, where Smith got the snake.
"A young kid that was volunteering opened the door and said, 'Sorry, we're closed,'" recalled Smith. "I said, 'Oh, I'm just looking to possibly rent a snake for a rock show I'm doing.'
"Ann's head popped up from the back. She goes, 'Alice Cooper? Come on in!'" But Osiris hasn't been onstage much for the last few years.
"I really needed a break from it - I actually took a three or four-year hiatus actually - and I missed it," said Smith, noting that he's ready for his return. "It just felt right, it was time to do it again."
Billion Dollar Babies is performing on Halloween - 10 years to the date of the band's debut - at the 300-seat Raymond Burr Theatre, located at 530 Columbia St. in New Westminster. Tickets are $10 each, and dressing up is encouraged, with prizes of $100, $50 and dinner for two for the top three who show up in costume.
Smith has prepared an 18-song set, running about 90 minutes, with all of Alice's hits, including "School's Out," "No More Mr. Nice Guy" and "I'm Eighteen."
"I'll just say we've got a pretty big Frankenstein coming onstage for this one," he said with a laugh.
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