Thursday, September 13, 2007

Courtney Love

Less than 60 seconds after I handed a copy of my zine to Kurt Cobain and walked back over to my friends, I heard an awful ear-shattering squeal. The crowd lingering after Fugazi’s powerful show began parting like the Red Sea from the source of the racket, through the entire club, towards me. At the end of this corridor of music fans stood Courtney Love. She was drunk, irate and yelling someone’s name. I quickly realized as the crowd parted right up to where I was standing with friends, that it was my name Courtney was yelling. Holy shit! I gulped fear as I saw her eyes widen, honing in on the obvious target of her anger… me! As Courtney began charging through the club towards me and I prepared for an unavoidable confrontation, I took a moment to think about how I got myself in this situation.

I’d been publishing my fanzine 10 Things since 1991 with the help of a bunch of friends. We wrote about local Seattle bands, reviewed zines and music, interviewed musicians, and usually had tons of columns and editorials on everything from recipes and fashion to politics and social issues. After two years our hodgepodge of underground music and alternative ideas had grown into a fairly popular zine, slapped together in what I hoped was an entertaining package--written, designed, assembled and distributed totally by my friends and I.

One night at one of my favorites clubs, The Off Ramp, I spotted Courtney Love and some of the other members of her band Hole sitting in a booth. The newest issue of 10 Things was hot off the presses and I knew I had shit-talked about Love moving to town and sinking her claws into Kurt Cobain. Since I had brought a pile of my zines to the club, I did what any self-respecting zinester would do--I walked over to Courtney, introduced myself, and gave her a copy. It couldn’t have been five minutes before she came running over to talk to me and I was sure I was going to get yelled at. Love’s reputation had got around Seattle fast. She was known as a drama queen that was usually wasted and loved to make scenes. And boy was she wasted when she came to talk to me. Luckily it turned out she was a bit too wasted to read and hadn’t gotten to the part in my zine yet where I gossiped about her. It wasn’t a lengthy editorial on my part, but I had mentioned she seemed to have moved to town and was clearly after Kurt Cobain’s money and fame. But Courtney said nothing of my comments at all. Sweet, I thought to myself, I’m off the hook! She instead told me she liked my zine and went on a 20 minute ramble about how crappy Seattle’s college radio station was. The station, KCMU (now KEXP), was embroiled in a huge controversy after trying to limit the heavier music DJs played--ironically at the height of the grunge explosion. Over half the DJs were on strike. Courtney said she and Kurt wanted to lodge some kind of protest, but her drunken ideas didn’t seem very well thought out. She then proceeded to tell me the reason she was at the club that night was to steal the bass player of Janitor Joe, the Minneapolis band that was about to take the stage. Janitor Joe was Joe Breuer from The Bastards new band and I loved their 7” singles I had picked up. I was there to see them rock out, however, rather than steal one of their band members. Love continued, saying she helped break up Joe’s previous band and was going to break up Janitor Joe, like she had The Bastards. Nice! I completely thought she was talking shit, but sure enough, within a few months bass player Kirsten Pfaff had left to join Hole. Janitor Joe, however, continued with a new bassist. In June of 1994, Kirsten Pfaff died of an overdose, a little over a year after joining up with Courtney Love.

Even though Love was loaded and shit-talking when I ran into her at the Off Ramp, I ended up having a decent conversation with her. She was funny and flirty, and while certainly not someone I’d trust, I definitely saw a bit of her human side shine through that night. I went home and listened to a couple of my Hole singles (I don't think they had an album out yet) and came to the conclusion I had been kind of an asshole in what I’d written. So I wrote a small editorial for next issue of 10 Things in which I mentioned finally meeting Courtney. I apologized for printing gossip about her. Over the next few months I spotted Courtney at a party or two (once at the Jalepeno House in the U-District), but avoided talking to her until my new zine came out with the retraction.

Fast forward to the Fugazi show where this story began. I had seen Kurt Cobain sitting on a bench staring around aimlessly like he was pretty high, just after Fugazi finished their encore. “Nevermind” had already bolted Kurt and Nirvana into being mega-stars. It was actually the first time since the album was released that I had seen him out at a club trying to blend in. It wasn’t working of course. Everyone was whispering about Cobain being there, but no one was talking to him. So I did. I walked up and said hi, made some small talk about the show we had just watched, and I gave him a copy of my zine. Kurt smiled, said thanks, he like my zine, and started reading it as I walked away. Courtney Love must have walked up soon afterwards, seen him reading the zine, and began screaming for my head on a spike.

So there I was talking to my friends when the crowd parted and a yelling and irate Love came charging at me. She instantly got up in my face and told me she had read the zine I’d given her months before and was totally pissed at me. She said she felt betrayed because she thought we had a great conversation, then got home and read my editorial. I tried to explain I wrote it before meeting her, but she cut me off again and again. Courtney was truly an amazing piece of work, she laid into me for what seemed like five minutes without stopping to breathe. She ranted and raved about a wide variety of things that had nothing to do with me. It seemed like I represented everything bad that had been said about her in the press. She told me that she really was smart, that she was an accomplished musician in her own right, and how much she loved Kurt. About then she stopped, smiled at me, and asked to bum a cigarette. Immediately after I lit her smoke, her smile faded and Love started back up with the verbal assault. How pissed could she really be at me? And how weird was this whole experience? I was barely absorbing what Courtney was saying, I had too much going on in my head and she was droning on and on. A rockstar was screaming at me in a club because of something I’d said in my little punk rock fanzine. And there was a good-sized crowd gathering around us to watch the spectacle unfold. At some point I just started laughing. Thankfully, Love started smiling too. While she continued to yell at me, her volume level dropped a little and it seemed like she was just doing this for fun. Fun at my expense, sure, but at least she wasn’t entirely serious or angry. She was soon smiling the entire time she continued to rant at me. Eventually the situation calmed down and she paused long enough for me to blurt out, “Courtney, after meeting you I wrote an apology in my new zine!” We walked over to where Kurt Cobain was and took a look at the copy I’d handed him together. She made a half-hearted attempt to get him involved, saying “Kurt, this is the guy that thinks I’m just after your fame and money!” He seemed a bit too high or bored to care, he just kind of smiled and handed her the zine. After the longest pause in her now 15 minute rant, she read the paragraph with my apology. Then Courtney looked at me, smiled, and said, “Oh, it’s all good then. No big deal.” I quickly used the opportunity to leave the drama of the situation and rendezvous with my friends.

As I walked away I thought about Courtney’s final words. “No big deal?” I had just gotten yelled at for 15 minutes in a crowded club by Courtney Love with Kurt Cobain by her side. No big deal my ass, that was fucking awesome!


Jeanna said...

This. Is. The. Best. Story. Ever.
I can hear you telling your grandchildren this while sitting in an old recliner, unable to move.
It must live on!

Anonymous said...

i stumbled upon this & have got to say that this is an amazing story...
wow. that must have been such a crazy thing to go through.

Anonymous said...

Wow! How envy am i. Congrats for living that pretty weird yet beautiful punk rock scene.