Love was doing that dance with Interscope Records after she delivered 1994's platinum CD Live Through This and 1998's lesser-selling Celebrity Skin. She felt Skin suffered from a lack of marketing support "and it p---ed me off," says the singer, who informed the label that she would not record another CD. In January 2000 UMG filed a lawsuit seeking damages for five undelivered albums. Love countersued 13 months later, charging among other things that her contract with UMG label Interscope was invalid because, technically, she had never signed with them.
She has an interesting, if not convoluted, argument. Back in 1992, when Love was searching for her first record deal, she signed with Geffen Records. The label's founder, David Geffen, had a reptuation for nurturing such mercurial talents as The Stone Roses, Beck and Love's late husband, Kurt Cobain of Nirvana. But through a series of buyouts and megamergers, Geffen was absorbed into UMG, putting Hole under Interscope's control. "They f--- hate career artists," Love claims. "Doug Morris [UMG's chairman and CEO] have always done business one way: Throw it out there and see what sticks. Pop hits that come and go - that's what they like.
Love feels empowered in her quest to become a free agent by the recent discovery that she is part Jewish. "Think about their positive contributions in this culture: Unionizing? Jews. Leftyism? Jews. So to be part of that - the Norma Rae of it - gives me confidence. Sitting in a room with the business-affairs people at Universal Music Group, they're not looking at me thinking, Crazy girl. They're thinking, Bonsai Jew!"
If Love does win her lawsuit, she could do for musicians something akin to what Olivia de Havilland did for actors 50 years ago. The actress sued Warner Brothers to free herself from a long-opressive contract and won, upending the old studio system and inspiring a legal statute - known as the de Havilland law limiting entertainment contracts to no more than seven years. Parallels aside, it's hard to imagine de Havilland ever referring to her nemesis Jack Warner as a "wanking, wig-wearing piece of ****."
Last night'srain sits in heavy puddles on the pool tarpaulin. Two dogs, a golden retriever and a big mutt, splash across the top, giving the illusion they can walk and run and jump on water (in reality Mathison had to fish one out from under the cover this morning). Another dog, a beagle, sits in a nearby fountain, lapping at the green algae-filled water.
Inside the house, Love sits in the screening room, her knees pulled up under her slip dress, watching Michael Powell's film version of Hans Christian Anderson's classic The Red Shoes for 'like, the 65th time'. Says Love, 'I read the fairy tale as a kid, and there was no rhyme or reason to it. But then I realised it's a metaphor for fame and addiction. You want these red shoes. So you put them on and you can't stop dancing. She dances until she dies.' Pretty awful that just because she loves something it kills her. 'Well,' Love says, entranced by the ballerina twirling, spinning out of control, ' that's life'. She gets up, pulls a cigarette from one of three different packs and lights it off the fire in the fireplace.
Love smokes a lot, sometimes using the end of one cigarette to light another. During last evening's premiere of Vanilla Sky she would slip behind the theater's heavy velvet drapes for a nicotine fix, watching the film through a crack in the curtain, sending plumes of smoke over the audience. As the end credits rolled, the stars were taken to the premiere party upstairs in a loading dock elevator and escorted through a kitchen to avoid the press.
It was a big-deal party, with the usual Hollywood suspects rubbernecking the Cruise-Cruz double whammy surrounded by a phalanx of agents. Unguarded, director Cameron Crowe graciously greeted the well-wishers and wannabe actresses who sidled, squeezed, and slithered up to him showing cast me! amounts of cleavage.
"I could never go out with somebody like Cameron," says Love, who's close friends with both Crowe and his wife, Nancy Heart of ageing MOR rockers Heart. "I love him so much. But he's got to say hi to to the last ****ing waiter. He's like Cruise that way. He's got to make every single person feel important. I have so many friends like that - Drew [Barrymore] - and they just exhaust me. I mean, I'm a rock star: I was here, I was gracious, I was nice, I ate the potatoes - love you, babe, let's go! Not to be selfish or nasty, but to have to stay and make sure everybody likes you is like running for office. Rusell [Crowe] doesn't have to do it. Mick Jagger doesn't have to do it. And goddamn it, I don't have to do it."
The first time Love laid eyes on Russell Crowe she was stripping at Jumbo's Clown Room in Los Angeles. She recognized him among the customers as the guy in Romper Stomper. Twelve years later, their fortunes having grown considerably, they met again. "Russell is a really interesting and dark guy," Love says. "Even just holding his hand I get shivers. He goes through hell. But I don't know if he's seen as many dead bodies as I have."
They were friends until the tabloids reported a liaison the night of the Golden Globes last year. "We didn't ****," Love says. "We hung out, wrote crazy lyrics and poetry, drank tequila. And we had a nice thing about wanting to be friends. And then that tabloid stuff happened." Crowe criticized Love in an Entertainment Weekly interview for not making clear that he wasn't the father of the baby she miscarried last May. Says Love sadly: "That really hurt my feelings. Here I am having a miscarriage with Jim's baby, and Russell's worried about his image."
Even so, "I want to be friends with him." She laughs. "And I demand an apology!"
Crowe's response to the tabloid rumours hurt Love in ways only teenage girls can understand. "It made me feel like ugly Courtney
," Love says. "You know, Ben Affleck went on a talk show and said he made out with me at a party, and there's nothing further from the truth. Did I issue a press release saying we didn't ****? It's embarrassing that Russell was embarrassed." She looks up. "Am I a sexual pariah?"
When she doesn't have red lipstick smeared all over her face and she's walking a straight line, Love is, i fact, a highly seductive proposition.
, of course, life rarely walks a straight line. In another highly charged lawsuit going through the courts, Love is currently suing Nirvana's surviving members - Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic - to break up the Limited Liability Corporation they formed with her in 1997, making them equal partners in the lucrative Nirvana business. Love wants complete control of the catalogue and makes the bizarre claim that both she and her lawyer were 'incapacitated' at the time and forced to sign an 'unconscionable' contract.
In an open letter, Grohl and Novoselic accused Love of acting for her own financial gain. Since their first release, in 1989, Nirvana have genereated an estimated $500 million in sales worldwide. Like Hole, Nirvana were on Geffen, which means the Nirvana catalog is now with UMG - the very company Love is suing to break her personal recording contract. Critics feel that Love is using the catalog as leverage for an even better record deal for herself, and that her stance of wanting to free artists from a kind of indentured servitude through her suit against UMG is just convenience. Love denies this, but she does fess up to being capable of manipulation. "Of course I'm manipulative! Who's not?" she screeches.
"Kurt's death was so difficult for so long and Courtney
got bad advice," says Barber, a former Geffen executive. "She feels she has a responsibility to her daughter and the rest of his surviving heirs. In reality, Nirvana was closer to being Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers or Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band. If Springsteen died tomorrow, should Max Weinberg have an equal say as to how his catalog is promoted and marketed?"
When Interscope president Jimmy Iovine called her with the news that Grohl and Novoselic were countersuing Love, 'I said "**** this! I own Nirvana. Bottom line, 75 percent of the ****ing thing is mine, and you can't do **** with it without me." Love proved her power when she blocked the sale of a Nirvana boxed set last Christmas, which included a previously unreleased song. "When Kurt died he left behind a collection of music that is mind-blowing," she says. "These are really insane, beautiful songs. The point is, I have the Holy Grail of rock and roll." Love sits back with a so there! smile.