“He thinks the conversation was real, but he couldn’t put his hand on a Bible and say that it was.”
Those are the words of Shep Gordon, the manager of rockstar Alice Cooper, in describing a conversation the Godfather of Shock Rock had with pop artist Andy Warhol in 1964.
The conversation itself pertained to a Warhol painting that Cooper wanted — and that Cooper recently discovered “rolled up in a tube” in a storage locker, the Guardian reported.
The painting is a red Little Electric Chair silkscreen, part of Warhol’s Death and Disaster series. More specifically, the silkscreen depicts the death chamber at upstate New York’s Sing Sing prison, where Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were killed for conspiring to share atomic secrets with Soviet Russia.
In the early 1970s, Cooper recreated this scene at one of his concerts, where he pretended to be electrocuted. Warhol attended that concert, as the two had already become friends vis-a-vis regular visits to New York City’s famous Max’s Kansas City venue.
Around that time, Gordon says that Cooper’s then-girlfriend, model Cindy Lang, decided to purchase Warhol’s Little Electric Chair.
“As I recall,” Gordon said, “Cindy came to me for $2,500 for the painting. At the time Alice is making two albums a year and touring the rest of the time.”
But then — as death-faking, binge-drinking rock stars are wont to do — Cooper just forgot about it.
“It was a rock’n’roll time, none of us thought about anything,” Gordon added. “[Cooper] ends up going into an insane asylum for his drinking and then leaves New York for L.A.”
And thus, the iconic Warhol work simply gathered dust alongside Cooper’s early 1970s touring equipment.
That is, of course, until Gordon heard how much money a Little Electric Chair could get you at auction (in November 2015, a green Little Electric sold at Christie’s for $11.6 million). In 2013, Gordon suggested that Cooper dig it up out of storage and at least hang it in his home, but an apparently austere Cooper opted against it, saying that he “didn’t want anything of such value in the house.”
Thus the Warhol painting — of which around 40 versions were made — went back into storage.
Now, however, Gordon says the 69-year-old rocker seems to have changed his tune, and may hang the painting in his home when he ends his world tour this December.
“You should have seen Alice’s face when [Warhol expert’s] Richard Polsky’s estimate came in.” Gordon told the Guardian. “His jaw dropped and he looked at me. ‘Are you serious? I own that!’”
Next, check out the kind of New York City that Cooper and Warhol inhabited with these photos of Studio 54.