Rock's "Prince of Darkness" sets up Christian center

PHOENIX (Reuters) - Shock-rocker Alice Cooper has a surprise for those who see him only as the man in haunting black eye makeup whose a stage show features mock hangings, real snakes and plenty of fake blood.

The self-styled “Prince of Darkness” is throwing his energy into building a Christian teen center in Phoenix for at-risk youths from the area, hoping to break ground by November.

He wants the $7.3 million center to transform a grassy expanse at the city’s Grand Canyon University into a place where youngsters can escape the streets and perhaps even become interested in a music career.

“If you get a kid that’s just as addicted to that guitar as he would be addicted to selling crack, it will change his life right then and there. I’m sure of that,” Cooper, 59, told Reuters in an interview.

“Some of these kids just don’t have a chance. All their environment does for them is teach them how to dodge bullets and be really good criminals.”

The rocker, who is known for songs like “School’s Out” and “Welcome to my Nightmare,” became a born-again Christian more than two decades ago after overcoming a drink problem.

Cooper has helped raise about $2 million to get the project off the ground through the nonprofit Solid Rock Foundation, which he founded in 1995 with youth pastor Chuck Savale.

Land for the 29,000-square-foot teen center, to be called “The Rock,” has been donated by Grand Canyon University, which is a Christian-based school.

The center will include a recording studio and sound room, a concert hall, and a coffee house with a stage for performers. Activities will be underscored by a Christian message.

“We’re a Christian organization and that’s our thrust,” said Cooper.

Religion came early to Cooper, who was born Vincent Damon Furnier, the son of a car salesman-turned- pastor, but it didn’t stick around as he became a rocker.

“But it got to the point where I was drinking so much that I was throwing up blood in the morning,” he said. “Guys in my business -- like Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison -- usually lasted until the age of 27. I watched them drink themselves to death. And I was pretty much on my way there.”

He decided to get sober, nand a decade later, he became a born-again Christian and took up golf.

These days Cooper still tours with his band for five months a year but admits that the rock ‘n’ roll show is more vaudeville for all ages with a healthy dose of comedy.

He also has a weekly radio show syndicated on 110 stations worldwide, and owns a restaurant, Coooper’stown, in Phoenix.

There is no talk of retirement. Besides, the veteran rocker is quick to point out that he hasn’t even done his first farewell tour. He said he will know when it’s time to go.

“When it’s done, it’s done, and I will not regret it,” Cooper said. “I don’t live in the past. I don’t live in the what happened before. I live in the what’s next.”