Pulled the Plug on Alice
Alice Cooper was too cool for TV in 1972. by Jeff R. LONTO
Rock 'n' Roll gained new respect in mainstream America and on network television in the early 1970s. Until then, TV rock performances had been relegated to mostly "safe" pop bands putting in token appearances on prime-time variety shows such as Ed Sullivan, as nail-biting network execs, advertisers and managers at affiliate stations crossed their fingers. The rest of the show was counter-balanced with long middle-of-the-road musical acts and largely inoffensive comedy sketches.
But around 1972, television started taking chances showcasing top-quality rock acts performing live, with programs such as NBC's Midnight Special, the syndicated Don Kirshner's Rock Concert and ABC's series of late-night specials, In Concert. The shows usually ran late on Friday or Saturday night when the increasingly lucrative young adult audience was looking for something to watch, after the kids and parents had gone to bed.
ABC kicked off its first In Concert, pre-empting the Dick Cavett Show, on November 24, 1972, featuring performances taped a few weeks earlier at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. On the bill was the Senior General of Rock, Bo Diddley, acoustic duo Seals and Crofts, R&B man Curtis Mayfield and for the opening act, shock rocker Alice Cooper.
Rock fans in Cincinnati, however, didn't get to see beyond the first few minutes of Alice's violent theatrics. Lawrence H. Rogers II was so mortified by what he saw that he ordered the ABC affiliate he owned, WKRC-TV Channel 12, to yank the show off the air immediately. Channel 12's decision to protect its viewers was responded to within minutes with a phoned-in bomb threat and several car loads of youths picketing the station. Some 4,000 letters of protest, many profane, poured in over the next few days, the biggest mail load that station officials could remember.
Station manager Ro Grignon told TV Guide that he wasn't opposed to rock concerts. "In fact, we think they're going to be a smashing success. We simply found Alice Cooper a little tense."
Meanwhile, the ABC affiliate in Kingsport, Tennessee complained to the network about the performance but ran it nonetheless. WPVI-TV Channel 6 in Philadelphia ran the show on tape delay at 1:30 a.m. Channel 12 in Cincinnati later televised an edited version of the show, sans Alice, to give viewers a chance to enjoy the other, less offensive acts that were on the show. The next In Concert show was sent to affiliate managers via closed-circuit for approval before broadcast.