Courtney Comes Clean
Rock's troubled icon rages on about drugs, sex, rehab, plutocrats, Kurt Cobain, Andre Balazs, Gwyneth Paltrow, and snorting coke up Pamela Anderson's ass. (And that's just Part One.)
Last September, I heard that Courtney Love had agreed to star in a large "recovery rally"—an annual event held in New York's Randall's Island State Park to celebrate sobriety. Intrigued by the prospect of the oft-distressed diva performing before thousands of former addicts and drunks, I called her to ask if she'd submit to an interview about her own experience with addiction. Much to my surprise, she agreed.
Which is why, on a bleak Sunday afternoon last fall, I found myself trapped amidst a jubilant recovery crowd on a grassy lawn, watching a "sober comedian" make lame jokes about gerbils and gay bars. Courtney, the much-publicized star of the event, had been scheduled to perform at 11 a.m. But to the dismay of the event’s organizers, she didn't show until three hours later. Apparently her hairdresser was late, her make-up artist was a mess, and then she needed to soak in her jacuzzi to calm her frayed nerves. After that, she spent an hour picking out an appropriate outfit, and frantically slipped on and discarded dozens of stylish shoes. By the time her limo finally found its way to the park, the crowd of thousands handout diminished to about 50 die-hard fans, one of whom suffered a heart attack at the exact moment Love stepped out of her car. (Courtney tends to have that kind of effect on some people.) As an ambulance rushed over to save the stricken spectator, the singer trekked blithely across the expansive grass lawn. “Where is everybody?” she bellowed, trying to keep her balance on a razor-sharp pair of Prada stilettos “Wasn't this supposed to be some massive event!”
Informed that most of the audience had long since departed, Love flashed a sad smile and beckoned the remnants of the crowd to follow her into a makeshift V.I.P. tent. There, for well over an hour, she delivered a flawless performance, capped off by a rollicking cover of Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" that the rapt audience rewarded with a standing ovation. Afterward, she patiently signed autographs and sat for an extensive interview with a documentary team, answering questions about her struggle with drugs. As she was leaving, a teenage boy who had nearly died of a heroin overdose months earlier approached her for a few private words. She wrapped her arms around him and talked to him for 20 minutes. When she left she was almost in tears.
That, in a nutshell, is Courtney Love—a mad and often maddening persona who has managed, through sheer force of will and an abundance of talent, to stake out a place at the forefront of pop culture for over two decades. At an age (46) when many of her contemporaries are playing reunion shows, she remains as raucous and relevant as ever, a performer who has made impressive inroads in movies, fashion and music.
Since our first meeting eight months ago, I've met with Love about a half-dozen times—in her suite at the Mercer Hotel, in the apartment of a mutual friend, and in the genteel West Village townhouse she is renting from Arianna Huffington. The following interview links a series of taped conversations that occurred during those visits. No doubt many readers will be riled by the notion of a recovery-oriented website prominently featuring a celebrity who has long been a poster girl for drug abuse. But she may be a perfect poster child for recovery as well. While she's kicked heroin, crack, and Adderall, Courtney Love is certainly not always sober. But there is something undeniably admirable about her honesty about her struggle with sobriety—her endless optimism after every fall that the next time things will turn out better. "I'm not a fucking role model," she snapped when I asked her if she felt any responsibility to inspire other addicts. "I'm just trying to stay alive." But role model or not, her rocky road to recovery should resonate with many of our readers. We're sure you'll let us know either way.
I think a lot of people will be surprised to see you here on The Fix. Why did you decide to speak to me?
I don’t know. I like what you are doing. And I also have a larger point to make. I’ve been maligned as this drug freak for years, and I’m getting tired of it. That's not the way I live anymore. Obviously I’ve had a lot of issues, but that was years ago! Since then, I've worked really hard to get myself together, but for some reason I’ve remained a punch-line. You know, I try to work a good program. I don’t do smack. I don’t do crack anymore. I've never taken Special K or Ecstasy. I’ve been tempted, but every time I’ve wanted to try Ecstasy, I was talked out of it. I did do M.D.M.A., however, a very long time ago. I’ve always been an early adapter. But I still can't escape this stigma for some reason. Even people like Kelly Osbourne feel free to fuck with me. A few nights ago, when she appeared on Fashion Police with Joan Rivers, that bitch even called me a crackhead!
Did she say that you were a crackhead or that you looked like a crackhead?
She called me a crackhead! That’s what my sister told me. I don’t know. I didn’t want to go YouTube it—it would piss me off too much. But we're talking about fucking Kelly Osbourne, you know? This is a girl whose life I have saved twice, once with C.P.R. and another time with C.P.R. and violence—by which I mean I had to poke her furiously in certain places to wake her up from her coma. When Kelly was on X Factor, her mother had to pay a P.R. guy in the UK 100,000 pounds a month to cover up her daughter's drug problems.