Courtney Love, actually - Telegraph
Who is this smart, put-together woman? Why, it's Courtney
Love, formerly the shambolic drug-addled widow of a tragic rock legend, now a sleek Givenchy muse, devout Buddhist and doting mother. But has the chaotic hell-raiser been replaced by a boring model citizen? Not quite, as Nigel Farndale discovers when he meets her
For the record, I didn't make Courtney
Love cry. She made herself cry, every time she mentioned Frances, her 15-year-old daughter from her marriage to Kurt Cobain, the front man of the grunge band Nirvana. As she raised the subject four times over the course of two hours, this meant she cried four times: real, eye-dabbing, make-up-running, sniffy-nosed tears. But this is to come. For now, if anything, it is she who is bringing me close to tears with her Buddhist chanting. I have to endure 15 minutes of it before the interview can get under way. We are in her hotel suite, one of London's most exclusive. She is in the adjoining bedroom, chanting loudly. I am sitting waiting for her on a sofa surrounded by unruly piles of magazines, a guitar in a case, two full ashtrays, burning joss sticks, property details for a £4 million house in Notting Hill, and racks of her clothes - Givenchy, mostly, as Love is the new muse for that label. Courtney
Love: ‘I had money and Ihad it stolen. It is a powerful thing. It has killed people in my life. It has hurt me’
A gong sounds, the chanting stops and she appears smiling in a skimpy black nightie and no make-up. There is a long-haired man with her. 'This is my friend David,' she says. 'We're chanting. Obviously. But he is so much better at explaining it than me.' She disappears to get changed, leaving me with her guru. As he is explaining what the chanting means I reflect on the living (despite the odds) legend that is Courtney
Love. This is a woman who seems to have teetered on the edge of mayhem all her life - the heroin addiction, the air-rage incidents, the custody battles, the jail sentences, the star-f-ing, the millions made, the millions lost, the rehab - but she has never been boring. Or predictable. And although she was described as the Yoko Ono to Cobain's John Lennon, she was always a rock star in her own right. Indeed, immediately after her husband killed himself with a shotgun blast to the head in 1994, she set off on a tour with her band Hole, which, according to John Peel, verged on the heroic. 'Swaying wildly and with lipstick smeared on her face, hands and, I think, her back, the singer would have drawn whistles of astonishment in Bedlam,' he wrote.
Back in the hotel room ten minutes have passed and the guru is coming to the end of his explanation. 'I tend to chant with Courtney
for two or three hours a day,' he says. 'A lot of celebrity Buddhists don't like to put in the time. But she loves to chant.'
No kidding. It may make for inner harmony for her, but for me the chanting adds to the chaos in the hotel suite. But then there is always a sense of chaos when Love is in town, which is why she has been banned from two of London's finest hotels (on both occasions it was to do with fire alarms being set off). When she reappears she is doing pretend karate chops, I think because she is wearing a Vivienne Westwood outfit that looks as if it came from the props department of Kill Bill. It is a black corset affair with leggings, shoulder pads and buckles. As she talks she keeps adjusting her bra to try and get comfortable. She also tries to work out what to do with a rogue cord that dangles between her legs, gives up and instead gathers her long, bottle-blonde hair over one shoulder - and teases two strands of her fringe down so that they hang dangerously over her eyes. Courtney
Love is 43 and in fine shape. Thanks to Madonna's macrobiotic nutritionist, she is back to a size eight. But her weight yo-yos - 'You have to be thin all the time to make it as an actress,' she says. 'But my rock weight is 20 or 30lb more than my film weight.' She juggles the two careers. 'Performing on stage is like great sex,' she tells me. 'Of course you want to be known for giving the best ******* in town, but you also want to get yours, too.' She has a new album out in the spring and film projects in the pipeline, trying to regain some of the form she lost since her Golden Globe-nominated role in The People vs Larry Flynt (1996) and her equally good performance in Man on the Moon (1999) opposite Jim Carrey. Actually, it's three careers if you include the fashion thing: 'Givenchy is like me,' she says. 'A legendary brand that has had its ups and downs.'
She lights up a cigarette and holds it between two straight, long fingers with nails varnished vampy black. Although her eyes are large, green and - because slightly divergent - mesmerising, it is her pouty mouth that arrests the attention. She begins applying lipstick with a paintbrush as she is talking. And, boy, can she talk. She has a big mouth in every sense. A 'big dirty rock mouth', as it was once memorably described. I have to say, I like her instantly. I like her goofy grin. I like the crack in her husky voice. I like the fact that she is funny, chatty, animated, boastful, open, vulnerable, name-dropping and unselfconscious. She is also flirty, jiggling her eyebrows up and down when she wants me to look at something on her laptop - some art she is buying. Our opening exchange goes something like this. 'Did you like David?' He seemed very nice. 'I share him with Orlando Bloom.' And how does she feel after a chanting session? 'Sometimes really aggressive. Sometimes really energised and ready for a fight.' I see. Does her chanting fill a vacuum left by heroin? 'I didn't have an addiction when I was 24, which was when I started chanting. I try to focus on gratitude when I chant, because it kills anxiety and depression dead. I play tapes of gratitude in my head. Occasionally, though, a negative thought sneaks through. Lately I've been getting weird visions of Vince Vaughn running around naked in an executioner's mask.'
While one must not make light of mental health issues - especially in relation to someone who has been in and out of therapy all her life - the journalistic devil on my shoulder does whisper into my ear at this point, 'Thank goodness she's still bonkers.' Does she ever fear for her sanity, I ask? 'I am naturally pretty paranoid,' she says. 'And I have a right to be.'
Because? 'Mostly it is about money. What has caused problems for me is not understanding money. I had it and I had it stolen. I've had to rebuild it. It is a powerful thing. It has killed people in my life, the force of greed and covetousness. It has hurt me. I was embezzled.' Love claims that an estimated $20 million of her money was siphoned off in a case that is still being investigated by the FBI. Does she mean the royalties from Nirvana? 'Not just the royalties from Nirvana; it is all the money I have made, too. I'm not a slice of baloney myself. I've sold nine million records.' It's true, it's true. She was known for her grungy guitar playing, as well as for the way she would stage-dive into the crowd wearing charity-shop dresses and no knickers. Her biggest hit, Celebrity Skin, still stands up, in my opinion. 'I had everything stolen,' she continues, 'and so did my daughter, and that is upsetting.'
And so the sobbing starts. When she has recovered her composure I note that she is clearly very protective about her daughter. 'Frances is 15 now. That's a difficult age. She slept with me for the first time in a long time last night.' She starts to well up again. 'Sorry, I hate getting emotional. We get on well most of the time but teenagers are hard. Being a single mother is hard.'
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