Rocker Alice Cooper played to about 2,000 in Towson's Courthouse Plaza today, turning the normally sedate lunchtime crowd into a rocking group that mixed teens in black attire with the regular professionals in suits and ties.
Fans, new and old, crowded in front of the courthouse to hear Cooper, one of rock's legendary bad boys of the '70s, who is touring the country promoting his new album, "Hey Stoopid." Its title cut carries a strong anti-drug message.
Teen-agers crowded on the grass, but declined to give their names as they admitted they had cut school to hear Cooper sing.
"I've heard [Cooper's] done some gross things, like bite the heads off bats," one high school senior in the crowd said.
"I thought there might be some big truancy roundup," said another teen, eyeing the police officers who stood at the perimeter of the plaza. "They'd lure us all down here, and then say, 'OK, up against the wall!' "
Area high schools, in fact, reported little increase in absenteeism, although school administrators said knowledge of the concert might give them better insight into where some of their missing students spent the day.
Today's crowd grew restless when Cooper was late, but went wild when the 43-year-old rocker took the stage and opened with one of his older songs, "Under My Wheels."
Russ Mottla, program director at 98 Rock radio, sponsor of the concert, said Cooper volunteered to act as a spokesman for Baltimore County's anti-drug crusade while in town.
Cooper's performance was part of the radio station's Free Lunchtime Concert Series, which for three years has featured rock and roll bands, usually at the Inner Harbor.
Cooper, whose hits include "School's Out" and "I'm Eighteen," has arranged with the county library to record an anti-drug video, which may eventually be used as a public service announcement, Mottla said.
"Alice had a history of being the fastest of the fast-living rock stars," Mottla said. "A few years ago, he totally turned himself around . . . and his current single ['Hey Stoopid'] talks about the stupidity of using drugs."
The words of "Hey Stoopid" may have proved difficult to hear at today's concert -- the music was loud -- and some apparently weren't getting the message anyway. Some in the crowd noted the odor of burning marijuana, although the source could not be located.
Michael Gimbel, director of the county's Office of Substance Abuse, said he hesitates to use rock stars or athletes as spokesmen against drugs because "all it takes is for one of them to get busted again for us to lose our credibility.