Courtney Chronicles (Part 2)
In the second half of our explosive interview, the rowdy rock icon talks about her struggles with crack and heroin, her crusade against crooked lawyers, and that crazy day she almost jumped off of Lenny Kravitz's roof.
But though she's undeniably intelligent, she's also notoriously volatile: her moods can shift radically several times a day. Giddy and high-spirited at one moment, she can turn needy and paranoid the next. A life-long insomniac, she often stays up until dawn, tweeting and texting and Googling herself. And while she's been linked with a long string of high-profile lovers in the past few years, she often seems lonely. On a frigid Tuesday night a few months ago, just as I was heading to bed, I received a text from her around 1 a.m. "Come on over!!!!!!!" it read, "Pleeeeeeease!!!!! I have 2 talk with you!!!! Also can you bring over a pack of Marlboro Lights, and something sweet, like um, a Kit Kat? Also something healthy to drink. Acai Juice!!!? The fridge here is fucking bare." I arrived to find her in a tattered bathrobe, scrubbed clean of make-up, sitting quietly in the candle-lit kitchen of a friend's house. For a moment, I was struck by how girlish and vulnerable she looked—so different from the tough-girl image she assiduously cultivates. She looked up at me with her green incandescent eyes. "Where's my fucking Kit Kat?" she said.
While she’s more-or-less managed to overcome her addictions to crack, cocaine and heroin, it's a stretch to describe Courtney as sober. Even though she claims to disdain the taste of liquor, she's still,known to enjoy an occasional cocktail, or three. She's also on a daily diet of prescription pills, both uppers and downers—“all doctor-prescribed, I promise!” But she genuinely seems sincere about her desire to lead a more sober life, partly because she's tired of her image as pop culture’s class clown, but also because she's desperate to become a better role-model to her estranged daughter, Frances Bean. Whenever we met in person, Love was usually clear-minded and razor-sharp. But on some nights she had a habit of deluging me with hundreds of rambling, misspelled emails and texts. One day in November she sent me 53 text messages in a row, urging me to follow up on the injustices being perpetrated against her by her former lawyers. “Maer!!!!!!! Why are you such a fucking pussy!!!” read the first text, which I received at 6 a.m. The last one, 12 hours later, said, “good nite, sweetie. And sweeet dreamz!!!”
How old were you when you first started using?
The first time I got high on coke is captured on camera. I was 19 at the time. My friend Jennifer shot a whole roll of film of us doing giant lines. It wasn’t a very pleasant experience, though.
Later that day Jennifer gulped down a bunch of Dilaudid and OD’d. I had never driven a car in my life, but I threw her in a car, and drove her to the hospital, and the doctors saved her life. After that, I was really scared of drugs. Before I met Kurt, I was more or less clean, but then Kurt earned his first million and decided to become a junkie, and I decided to become a junkie along with him. That’s the co-dependent side of me. After he died there were all these stupid jokes I made up: What did the co-dependent say when the junkie jumped out the window? “Wait a minute, I’m coming!”
You almost did jump out of a window, didn’t you?
Not a window, a roof! It was shortly after I found this huge box in my house, filled with fradulent credit cards. There were hundreds and hundreds of them, all made out to different names and entities, and they were all being charged to me. It was the first time I realized that I was being taken for a ride. My lawyers and accountants had literally stolen hundreds of millions from me right under my nose. The whole thing sent me into a real tailspin. For a long time, it was all I could think about. I was spending all my days obsessively going through these documents, smoking crack, and getting high all the time.
You know, when Kurt died he left behind hundreds of millions of dollars. His estate earns more money every year than any other deceased musician in history. Even more than Elvis! But despite all this, at one point I was so broke that myself and Frances had to move in with my stepfather. These people were feasting on billions of dollars, and my child and I didn’t have a dime.
After I figured out what was going on, I was determined to find a paper trail. I hired a forensic accountant to find out how all these fucking people had managed to screw me so royally. The strange thing is, while the drugs screwed me up in a lot of ways, they improved me in certain others. I’ve never been good with numbers, but when I was on crack I could do math really, really well. I became a fucking whiz at calculus. But I also became kind of psychotic, unfortunately.
Lisa Leveridge, my old guitar player, found a fucking five-page letter I wrote during this period to Stella McCartney. It was completely illegible—just filled with this crazy, paranoid gibberish. I mean, I don't even know Stella McCartney! Thank God I never sent it. I went through some really crazy stages, but thankfully I never went completely over the edge. I wasn’t seeing helicopters and tanks or anything like that.
Were you just on crack at the time?
Mostly crack. But I was taking it day and night. Thankfully, that only lasted a few months. It all started off as a joke.
How do you start smoking crack as a joke?
Because you’re out one night with a food star, a rock star, and some hangers-on. Then somebody calls their dealer, and orders up some crack, and you have to prove you’re the life of the party. It's a problem I have.
A few years ago, at Ted Demme’s funeral, Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson dared me to walk up to Harvey Weinsten and tell him off. So I did, and then he didn’t talk to me for years. I think he still hates me. The funny thing is, I can’t even remember what I said!
Why did you do that?
Because at the time, people could convince me to do anything. I was fearless. One of my counselors at rehab told me, “You have to stop being the person that does these dares, let some other young…Angelina, let some other sucker do them.” She was right.
For some reason I don’t have the sense of self-preservation that other people do, which hasn’t always won me a lot of friends. But as Gwyneth once said to me, "Once you’re A-list, you’re always A-list," and I try to remember that.
I get offers to do a reality shows nearly every day. But I’m not going to put myself out there and whore myself out. I may be a drug addict, but I still have some self-respect.
When did you first start doing heroin?
The first time I tried smack I was about 16, I guess. It was a horrific experience. At the time, I was working at a dance hall in Taiwan, trying to earn money, so I could afford an apartment in San Francisco. I was utterly broke, so I was sleeping in a bed with a bunch of Brazilian dancers. I got crabs, and I had to get up every night to dance to Gloria Gaynor and Billy Idol's "Rebel, Rebel." After a while, I was like, “Get me the fuck out of here.” All these other dancers were constantly nodding out. We all had to wear numbers on our dress. But I had no money, and they were holding my passport, so I was kind of stuck.
So, one day I went to this doctor’s office and he had packets of Seconal lying around. I started stealing from him. I loved barbiturates, which killed a lot of people—Marilyn Monroe and a whole lot of others. Barbiturates are the most dangerous drugs in the world. Before I met Kurt, I was more or less clean, but then he earned his first million and decided to become a junkie, and I became a junkie along with him.
Soon after, some guy turned me on to heroin, which happened by accident. I was hanging out with some guy, and he offered me a few lines, and I did it because I thought it was coke. The next thing I remember is waking up on a plane to San Francisco wearing a fur coat and a Chinese wedding dress, with $10,000 in my pocket. That was my first real heroin experience. But I didn’t start doing smack regularly till much later. When I moved to New York, I got $500 from my trust fund and tried to stretch it out for a whole month. I didn't spend money on drugs at all.
Did you get them for free?
I scammed them for free. [laughs] There was this guy I knew—this half-Puerto Rican, half-Italian who was known as the “Trashcan Adonis.” He’s clean now and owns a chain of hotels, and he’s on his fifth marriage. But at the time he was working as a teacher at inner-city schools. A really smart guy. He chain-smoked Kools, and did a lot of smack, and he was very generous with me. I’d cop from him every once in a while, but I was determined not to become a junkie.
By this time, I had traveled through Liverpool and Ireland. I'd been exposed to this great school of rock. I hung out with Echo and the Bunnymen and saw New Order’s first concert. I worked on U2's War for a few days. But I also met a lot of really sad, wasted people, and I didn’t want to turn out like them. When I came back to California, I tried hard to stay sober. But one night, my boyfriend at the time, who was working for Ben Stiller, took me to this star-studded party at Charlie Sheen’s house in Malibu. Tom Cruise was there, and Madonna, and my friend Jennifer Finch, who used to be the lead singer of L7. At some point Jennifer—who has been very clean for 16 years now—convinced me to shoot up. “Come on, everyone’s doing it." So that’s when my whole heroin drama began.
I finally quit in 1996, when I gave my word to [The People vs. Larry Flynt director] Milos Forman that I would not do any drugs while he was filming that movie. In the beginning they made me take pee tests, but after a few weeks they stopped. When I give someone my word, I keep it. I promised I would never shoot heroin again, and I haven't, except for one incident in July ’05, where I shot myself up on purpose to kill myself.
Well, obviously, I wasn’t successful. Things didn’t turn out exactly as planned. I was rushed to Bellevue on July 9, 2004, because somebody called the police and told them I was about to jump off Lenny Kravitz’s roof. I don’t remember much about that day. You'd have to ask people around me who were there. But the gist of it is someone saw me on Lenny's roof, and the next thing I knew I was in the psych ward at Bellevue.
Do you think you were going to jump?
No. Not really. But the EMT's certainly did.
How long did they keep you at Bellevue?
For 72 bloody hours. I was going crazy the whole time because they don’t allow you to smoke there. And then one night they wheeled in two African-American hermaphrodites on a gurney with their faces smeared with feces, who were both talking to Satan. That’s when I really freaked out.
I also got my period while I was there, but they don’t let you use tampons, because you could supposedly use them to off yourself. So I threw a giant fit and they finally released me and sent me to rehab at Silver Hill. Lady Gaga is very young, and very talented, but she surrounds herself with this coterie of gay stylists who’ve turned her into a Barbie doll. If she doesn’t watch out she’ll turn into a lonely drag queen.
When did you first realize that your drug use was becoming a problem?
When I was pregnant with Frances. When my doctor informed me I was having a baby, I knew I had to get clean real quick. I checked in to a hospital to detox. But then my world was turned upside down by a very bitter, very ugly woman named Lynn Hirschberg, who published an article about Kurt and me in Vanity Fair. She is famous for doing hatchet pieces on other women and blow-jobs on famous Jewish men. She’s constantly falling in love with celebrities like Rick Rubin, Quentin Tarantino, Harvey Weinstein, and Jerry Seinfeld. In fact, she was fired from Vanity Fair because she sent Jerry Seinfeld an article she had written about him and allowed him to edit it before it appeared in the magazine. She’s a monster—that’s all I can say. I don’t have hate in my heart for anybody, but she’s more responsible for my husband’s death than anyone.
Was it her article that convinced you to enter rehab for the first time?
I went to rehab before her story came out. I had checked myself into Cedar-Sinai’s chemical dependency center to come down off of opiates. The guy who ran the unit at the time was an addict himself, and he offered me morphine to induce an abortion. I told him, "I want this child. Are you out of your mind?" He told me, “Oh, if you kick heroin, you’ll miscarry anyway.” But you know what? I’m built like an ox. I wasn’t about to lose my baby. She came out a few months later and she was beautiful and healthy and perfect.
Don’t you think your drug use had any effect on your child?
No, I don’t. I think the stress caused by Lynn Hirschberg’s article had a lot more of an impact on her than anything I ever did. When that article came out, I’d been in a chemical dependency unit for a whole week! After I went home, Kurt was using a lot of heroin, so I usually spent the night with friends. I didn’t stay around Kurt too much when I was pregnant. That whole episode made us drift apart.
Yes, it’s true, I used heroin in the first three weeks of my pregnancy—but so fucking what!? I didn’t even know I was pregnant at the time! I also took a few puffs on a cigarette when my belly was out to here, but most of those nine months, I walked around with nicotine patches all over my body. When you have a baby inside you, you’re not going to do drugs or something stupid.
You admit that Kurt was doing loads of heroin long before Lynn Hirschberg came onto the scene. Isn't it a little unfair to blame her for his death?
Maer, stop being such an asshole! Who do you think you are? Barbara Fucking Walters? Go read that article again! Do you know what it's like when someone sets out to do a hit piece on you? As a writer, wouldn’t it be your worst nightmare if you drove someone to suicide? I hope so. Because that’s what Lynn Hirschberg did to Kurt, all right? She humiliated and emasculated him. She sent him over the edge. She deserves most of the blame for his death. Do you really want to challenge me on that fact?
Not at this very moment, no. [Laughs.] But do you ever wonder about your own part in all this? Might you have been happier with your life and career if you hadn’t been so self-indulgent?
Not necessarily. I’ve been able to stop using when I’ve needed to. As I said, when I was a movie star, I didn’t do any drugs at all. But the fact is, men always get a much easier time about their problems than women do. Just look at Keith Richards. That guy has done more drugs in his life than I could ever imagine. But he gets celebrated as this cool survivor, while I’m branded as some shameless skank.
Do you think there’s a connection between drug use and creativity?
Definitely. Look at the most brilliant artists of the past two centuries. Proust. Tennessee Williams. Scott Fitzgerald. Jim Morrison. Kurt. They all were fucked up on something or other. It goes with the territory. Artists are more sensitive than other people. Maybe we need something to dull the pain. My world was turned upside down by a very bitter, very ugly woman named Lynn Hirschberg, who published a hatchet job about Kurt and me in Vanity Fair. She’s more responsible for my husband’s death than anyone.
You know, I’ve been through a lot of trauma, I’ve witnessed a lot of death. I’ve looked the devil in the eye. According to the London Times, I’ve had $900 million stolen from me. I’ve had my daughter metaphorically and literally kidnapped. My husband’s money is supporting a squad of corrupt lawyers who fucked me over. It hasn’t been easy. I can be eccentric, egotistic and temperamental. I can be a real bitch. But I also know that I'm a really good artist. So do you really expect me to be well-adjusted all the time? Look at all these little stars—Britney and Lindsay and all the others. Being famous is a dangerous profession these days.
Lady Gaga seems to be doing okay.
She may be doing fine at the moment, but I’m worried about her future. She’s very young, and she’s very talented, but she doesn’t seem to have any female friends. Or any straight guy friends for that matter. Instead, she surrounds herself with this coterie of gay stylists and advisors who’ve turned her into this weird, sexless Barbie doll. I was raised by gay guys myself, and I turned out all right in the end. But you know, you can only pull off this meat-dress act for so long. If she doesn’t watch out she’ll turn into a lonely drag queen. Straight guys just aren’t in to that kind of thing.
According to the tabloids you recently flew from New York to London to detox in some luxury hotel. What were you there for?
I went there to get off of Adderall. And a few other prescription pills.
Are you completely clean now?
More or less. I believe in moderation, so I had a glass of rose a few weeks ago. The other night, someone offered me a bump of cocaine at an art gallery opening, and I did it. I felt completely like shit afterwards.
Why did you choose to detox at a hotel instead of a rehab?
Because I’m through with hospitals and rehabs! Detoxing with a doctor at a chic hotel in London is a much more pleasant experience than detoxing at a fucking hospital. In fact the whole thing turned out to be much cheaper than most rehabs I’ve attended.
You know, a friend of mine just bought a fleet of charter yachts, and while he was giving me a tour one day, I came up with this genius idea. If I ever need to detox again, I’ll just rent out a yacht. You can get another addict, and for 40 grand a week you can both rent a boat with a crew of 10, and bring along 12 of your friends. Think about it: you cruise around the Caribbean, and whenever things get rough, you can dock at some exotic port. Of course, you’ll probably spend most of your time puking in your cabin, but there’s a doctor on board, and you’ll you have all the meds you need, and you’ll be surrounded by your friends.
It’s a brilliant idea, I think! If I ever have to detox again, that’s what I’ll do. I’ll get together everyone I love, and rent out a boat, and we'll all escape into the ocean.
Maer Roshan is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Fix. Previously he was Deputy Editor of New York Magazine, Editorial Director of Talk, Features Editor of Interview, Founder of QW, and Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Radar Magazine and Radaronline.com. (Those who crave more Visions of Love can check out our slide-show of her 20-year career.)