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Notorious Celebrity Interviews: Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain for Vanity Fair, September 1992

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Happy day-after-Christmas! Got the post-holiday blahs? Cheer up with a notorious interview from a celebrity.

This week, it's the infamous 1992 Vanity Fair profile of Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain. Famously, this article resulted in Child Protective Services temporarily removing baby Frances Bean Cobain from the custody of Kurt and Courtney. It is a divisive article that makes Courtney's defenders claim that the piece is exaggerated, while her detractors use it as more fuel against her.

Strange Love
by Lynn Hirschberg

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  • First off, Courtney is an hour late for her interview.

Courtney assumes that people will wait. She assumes that they will forgive her as they stare at the clock and stare at the door and wonder where the hell she is. And they do forgive her. Until they can’t stand it anymore and then they get mad, fed up, and move on. But by that time Courtney is gone—she’s off keeping someone else waiting.

  • Courtney on her fashion and makeup style:

She tries to achieve what she terms the “Kinder-whore look”... Her hair and makeup remain consistent: white skin, red lips, blond hair with black roots. “It’s a good look,” she explains. “It’s sexy, but you can sit down and say, ‘I read Camille Paglia.’ ”

  • She demanded more money than Nirvana for her record deal:

Courtney’s deal, worth around a million dollars, is bigger and better than her husband’s. “I got excellent, excellent contractual things,” she boasts. “I made them pull out Nirvana’s contract, and everything on there, I wanted more.... If those sexist assholes want to think that me and Kurt write songs together, they can come forward with a little more.”

  • But then...there's the drug use.

All this would be perfect, except for the drugs. Twenty different sources throughout the record industry maintain that the Cobains have been heavily into heroin.

  • Hirschberg implies that Courtney is the one who introduced Kurt to drugs.

Kurt didn’t do much more than drink until he met Courtney. “He tried to be an alcoholic for a long time,” she says. “But it didn’t sit right with him.”

There have been rampant reports about the couple’s drug problems, and many believe she introduced Cobain to heroin.

  • The most notorious part of the interview is when the reporter implied that Courtney might be using drugs while pregnant. Her info came from two anonymous sources, plus Love herself.

They are expecting a baby this month, and even the most tolerant industry insiders fear for the health of the child. “It is appalling to think that she would be taking drugs when she knew she was pregnant,” says one close friend. “We’re all worried about that baby.”

“It was horrible,” recalls a business associate who was traveling with them at the time. “Courtney was pregnant and she was shooting up. Kurt was throwing up on people in the cab."

  • The timeline is damning. In the interview, Courtney admits to going on a drug binge in January of 1991. Her daughter was born seven months later, in August.

“We went on a binge,” she says, referring to a period last January when Nirvana was in New York to appear on Saturday Night Live. “We did a lot of drugs. We got pills and then we went down to Alphabet City and Kurt wore a hat, I wore a hat, and we copped some dope... After that, I did heroin for a couple of months.”

After their New York binge, it was suggested to Courtney that she have an abortion. She refused and, reportedly, had a battery of tests that indicated the fetus was fine.

[A month after the interview,] There’s still talk about drugs and she knows it. Throughout the industry, there is increased worry about little Frances Bean. 

Courtney has heard all this before and, in a perverse way, she thrives on it. “I heard a rumor that Madonna and I were shooting heroin together,” she says rather gleefully, lighting up a cigarette.

  • The reporter sure does not pull any punches.

In the circles she travels in, Kurt Cobain is regarded as a holy man. Courtney, meanwhile, is viewed by many as a charismatic opportunist.

  • And she sure does not portray Courtney's relationship with Kurt very nicely.

“People say, ‘How did she get Kurt?’ ” says one friend. “Well, she asked. And she wouldn’t take no for an answer.”

Courtney pursued him for months—got his number, called him, told interviewers that she had a crush on him. She even resorted to religion... Finally, she persuaded an eager-to-please prospective manager to give her tickets (plane and concert) to a Nirvana show in Chicago.

Still, there were problems. “He thought I was too demanding, attention-wise,” Courtney says matter-of-factly. “He thought I was obnoxious. I had to go out of my way to impress him.”

  • She hates that people believe her rise in fame is due to Kurt, yet she revels in being his wife:

She definitely relishes her position as Mrs. Kurt Cobain. It was one of her goals, not something she left up to fate.

“No matter what label I’m on, I’m going to be his wife,” she says. “I’m enough of a person to transcend that.”

“Life is like a perennial honeymoon right now,” she says. “I get to go to the bank machine every day.”

“I get a chance to prove myself. And if I do, I do. If I don’t—hey, I married a rich man!”

  • Kurt's friends apparently all hate Courtney.

Since Courtney and Kurt’s courtship began last year, she has reportedly antagonized Grohl and Chris Novoselic, the other two members of Nirvana. “Courtney always has a hidden agenda,” says someone close to the band. “And Kurt doesn’t. He’s definitely being led.”

“They all hate me,” she says. “Everyone just fucking hates my guts.”

  • And Courtney apparently hates multiple people:

Including Clive Davis, Kat Bjelland of Babes in Toyland, Inger Lorre of The Nymphs, Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill, everyone in Pearl Jam, everyone in Faith No More, Jennifer Finch of L7, Axl Rose, Dave Grohl, Chris Novoselic, and Chris Novoselic's wife.

  • Courtney has a weird hatred of Madonna.

“Madonna’s interest in me was kind of like Dracula’s interest in his latest victim.”

“The British tabloids called me ‘leggy’ and ‘stunning’... The best article was about Madonna. It had a really big picture of me as a blonde and a really small picture of her as a brunette. I cut that one out.”

“I didn’t want to get involved with her, because she’s a bad enemy to have.”

“I don’t want her to know anything about me, because she’ll steal what she can. What I have is mine and she can’t fuckin’ have it. She’s not going to be able to write lyrics like me, and even if she does get up onstage with a guitar, it’s not going to last. I don’t care how vain and arrogant this sounds, but just watch: in her next video, Madonna’s going to have roots. She’s going to have smeared eyeliner. And that’s me.”

“In some pictures, I come across as a fourteen-year-old battered rape victim. And she wants that image.”

  • Madonna's response to this outburst:
"Who is Courtney Love?"

mods, the article is several thousand words long, so these are just some excerpts.

Almost 30 years later, what do you think now about Courtney Love?

misunderstood victim of misogyny
tormented brilliant musician
toxic narcissistic personality
why not all three?

Read more in this series: notorious interviews with Chris Evans, Jennifer Lopez, Kate Winslet, Beyoncé, Channing Tatum, Cara Delevingne, Miles Teller, and Johnny Depp.

Tags: 1990s, courtney love, interview, magazine covers and articles, music / musician (alternative and indie), ontd original

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