The Untold Truth Of Courtney Love

As the singer, guitarist, and prominent creative voice behind the '90s rock band Hole, Courtney Love entertained millions who related to her complex lyrics while also impressing critics. Through Hole, Love sold a lot of records and became very famous for her extremely personal and melodically interesting hits like "Doll Parts," "Violet," "Miss World," and "Malibu." Then she became a household name, redefining the concept of a rock star for a new generation with her outspoken nature and publicly living her way through scandals and tragedies — particularly her relationship with fellow grunge icon Kurt Cobain, which ended with the latter's death. She's also a feminist icon, an important figure in fashion, and a versatile actor.

Love is a consistently confounding and surprising public figure, and she still captures attention for her personal and professional moves more than 30 years after she put on her celebrity skin. 

Her childhood was fraught with drama

One could argue Courtney Love's early years were a harbinger of things to come. Filled with drama, a young Love, born Courtney Harrison, began acting out at an early age. She was barely a year old when her parents, Linda Caroll and Hank Harrison, divorced in 1965. Love's very publicized estrangement from her father had its roots in her childhood, when her mother persuaded a court in 1971 to deny her ex-husband visitation rights with his daughter after he allegedly had given Love LSD.

After her mother married again, the family moved to Oregon. With the birth of two stepsisters, Love's penchant for disruptive behavior became apparent, after Love was found with extensive drawings of violent acts befalling her sisters, as per her biography "Courtney Love: The Real Story," by Poppy Z. Brite. A third marriage would see the family first decamp to a rural commune near Eugene, where Love struggled to fit in at school — classmates called her "Pee Girl" because her parents neglected to wash her clothes, and a therapist diagnosed a low-level case of autism. Speaking to Vanity Fair in 1995 (via Brite's biography), Love's mother noted that Love had a lot of pain in her as a child. But, according to a friend of Love's, the singer accused her mother and third stepfather of neglect and only caring about her stepsisters. 

When Love was 8, her mother and stepfather decamped to a sheep ranch in New Zealand, where Love's dark and disruptive behavior proved tough to manage. Over the next few years, Love was shipped back and forth between New Zealand and the states, depending on whichever caregiver, including her mother, was tired of dealing with her.

Courtney Love was a teenage criminal

In New Zealand, Courtney Love was enrolled in Nelson College for Girls, a boarding school, where she eventually got expelled. She was then sent back to the states for the last time, returning to Oregon. "I talked one of my mother's gurus, of which she had many, into letting me live with him," Love told The Sunday Times. "He got $3,000 a month from my trust fund, which he'd spend on boys, and I went to the junior high." Therein, Love befriended some teenage sex workers. "They were so glamorous, I just wanted to hang out with them," Love said. "I ended up going through the juvenile system with them because I got arrested shoplifting a Kiss T-shirt." She was 13. 

At a juvenile prison to await her hearing, Love erupted when guards wouldn't allow her to watch a TV report of her arrest, as per "Courtney Love: The Real Story." She tore a bedsheet, and when a judge heard her case, they dismissed the shoplifting charge but entered a guilty verdict for criminal mischief — the bedsheet was government property. Sentenced to two years' probation and after a runaway attempt, Love served time at two different juvenile correctional facilities, and then successfully petitioned for legal emancipation at 16.

Love spent the remainder of her teenage years all over, including stops in Ireland, England, Taiwan, Spain, Alaska, and Portland. In that city, she found employment as an exotic dancer, illegal because she wasn't 18. To protect her identity, she adopted the name "Courtney Love."

She was an actor before she was a musician

After establishing both her celebrity and artistic credentials with the well-selling, critically acclaimed Hole album "Live Through This," Courtney Love considerably switched up her trajectory. She went from guitar-slinging grunge icon to glamorous Hollywood movie star, earning raves and some awards attention for late '90s biopics "The People vs. Larry Flynt" and "Man on the Moon." Love's turn to acting was nothing new — a decade before she found success with Hole, she'd appeared in many small and independent film projects.

After some collaborations with experimental filmmaker George Kuchar, Love was cast in a small role in the Sid Vicious biopic "Sid and Nancy," having failed to secure the part of Nancy Spungen. That film's director, Alex Cox, gave Love a leading role in his 1987 movie "Straight to Hell," around the same time she played a bride in the video for the Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated."

She was in many bands before forming Hole

Courtney Love taught herself how to play the guitar, the instrument she'd play throughout her time in Hole and subsequent solo releases. And yet by the time she gained professional-level competency on the guitar, Love had already been a member of several prominent rock bands. In the early 1980s, Love hit London and for a while dated and lived with Julian Cope, frontman for the alternative rock band Teardrop Explodes, soaking up the rock star lifestyle.

In the summer of 1982, while living in San Francisco, Love took in a show by future popular hard rock band Faith No More, and, unimpressed with the lead singer, appointed herself the group's frontwoman. "I demanded to be in their band, and then I broke a bottle over my head, that is the legend, I can't recall," Love told "Behind the Music." The gig only lasted a few months; Love's departure was a mutual decision. "Faith No More didn't want to have the image of a chick singer anymore, and I was unhappy as hell," she explained. Wanting specifically to be a member of an all-female band, Love moved on to Sugarbaby Doll with Kat Bjelland, who would later front Babes in Toyland.

She had other romances before and after Kurt Cobain

Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain were the queen and king of '90s grunge, their well-documented marriage lasting from a February 1992 Hawaiian beach wedding until Cobain's death in April 1994. That wasn't Love's first marriage, nor would it be her first relationship to invite scrutiny and end abruptly. In the late 1980s, Love was briefly married to indie rock musician James Moreland. It ended in an annulment, following Love allegedly telling Moreland that she'd hire people to assault him if he didn't do exactly what she said. Love also may have lit Moreland's bed on fire and later admitted to the whole marriage being a bad idea.

Then in 2010, Love entered into a romantic relationship with Henry Allsopp, an art broker and the godson of Camilla Parker Bowles, the future queen consort of England. "Mandrake," a gossip column in The Telegraph, decried the relationship, and Love tweeted photos of herself she snapped in Allsopp's home. A short period later, Allsopp broke up with Love, and she had to move out of his house. "The royal family was terribly worried," Love told Vanity Fair.

She blamed a reporter for her husband's death

Kurt Cobain was hugely famous in 1992. His band, Nirvana, had kickstarted the grunge revolution, and that year he married another rising star, Courtney Love of  Hole. Six months after the wedding, Love gave birth to their only child, a daughter named Frances Bean. Journalist Lynn Hirschberg profiled the Cobain-Love family in a September 1992 cover story for Vanity Fair. Hirschberg wrote extensively about both musicians' history of drug use, particularly heroin, and she reported that Love had used that potent opiate during her pregnancy. "It is appalling to think that she would be taking drugs when she knew she was pregnant," an unidentified friend of Love said in the article.

When that Vanity Fair issue was released, Love had just given birth. Child services subsequently — but temporarily — removed the weeks-old Frances Bean from the care of her parents. The experience proved traumatic for Love, and she pins Cobain's death by suicide on Hirschberg. "As a writer, wouldn't it be your worst nightmare if you drove someone to suicide? I hope so," Love told The Fix in 2011. "She deserves most of the blame for his death," Love added, believing that Hirschberg's article "humiliated and emasculated" the late Cobain.

Nevertheless, Love also told The Fix that Hirschberg was correct — she had used heroin early in the pregnancy. "But so f***ing what!? I didn't even know I was pregnant at the time!" she said.

How Courtney Love named Hole

While Courtney Love created Hole, it operated under a collaborative atmosphere at first. The other members — Kristen Pfaff, Eric Erlandson, and Patty Schemel — all received songwriting credits on Hole's second album "Live Through This," but the band would continue on with revolving membership as Love used the band as her personal artistic vehicle into the 2010s. The band was a very personal thing for Love, and that's reflected in how she named the entity on her own, inspired by both a work of classical theater and a harsh comment delivered by her mother.

Hole referenced a line from Euripedes' ancient Greek tragedy, "Medea." "The woman is called Medea, and she killed her children. And apparently — there's different translations -– but she said, 'there's a hole that burns right through me,'" Love told the BBC (via Far Out). "And she's talking about the void, the abyss that she feels and which needs to be filled, but she doesn't know what with. It's not a genital reference or anything, it's the void in all of us."

There's also the possibility that Love picked up on something she once heard. "My mother's this kind of new-age psychologist, and I said, 'You know, I had this terrible childhood,' and she said, 'Well, you can't have a hole running through you all the time, Courtney,'" Love recalled on "Later... with Jools Holland" (via Far Out).

When Hole ruled rock, Courtney Love started a lot of fights

Grief is a horrible, unpredictable thing, and it can manifest in any number of ways for those dealing with the aftermath of a traumatic death. For Courtney Love, her period of grief following the suicide death of her husband, Kurt Cobain, directly led into multiple acts of public rage and violence.

Hole's album "Live Through This" hit stores (and was met with critical plaudits) exactly one week after Cobain died. Love had to promote the record, but in the wake of the tragedy, she wasn't much able to enjoy her moment of glory. In the middle of an Australia-bound flight in January 1995, Love engaged in a fight with a flight attendant that grew so serious the musician was arrested, arraigned, and sentenced to a month of probation. During a March 1995 Hole concert in Orlando, Love allegedly punched two teenage fans; criminal charges were later dismissed. Hole headlined the July 1995 iteration of the Lollapalooza traveling alternative rock festival, but during the first stop in Washington state, Love attacked Bikini Kill singer (and close friend of Cobain) Kathleen Hanna, punching the latter onstage. Police issued Love a criminal citation with a charge of fourth-degree assault.

She's a fashion innovator

The grunge rock movement of the 1990s inspired fashions of the era almost as much as it did the music. Washington state-based bands like Pearl Jam and Nirvana inspired the trendy wearing of loose plaid shirts and Doc Martens boots, while Hole singer Courtney Love's whole look became something countless young women emulated. Central to the style was a slip, traditionally worn underneath dresses but which Love wore on its own. That fad has also been attributed to a famous fashion house, but Love claims credit. "History is funny. I would say that Calvin Klein didn't actually invent slip dresses as outerwear in '91. I did. At least more than him," Love told Interview in 2019.

Also characterized by short, "baby doll" dresses and other items commonly worn by children, the whole Love style had a name. "It's called 'kinderwhore,' which is a word I made up in '90 or '91."

She thinks she was blacklisted in Hollywood

After breaking out with "The People vs. Larry Flynt," it seemed like a major movie career was in the cards for Courtney Love. That didn't happen, and she thinks she knows why. "I'm in actor jail!" Love told The Guardian in 2006, alleging a concerted effort in Hollywood against hiring her. She had allegedly previously complained about Nicole Kidman, calling out how she seemed to hoard the best projects. "I had to write an apology letter to Nicole Kidman," Love said. Kidman got a role Love had been vying for — "Not getting 'Moulin Rouge' broke my heart," Love later told Contributor in 2012. 

She also told The Guardian that she had to send an apology note to Steven Spielberg, in charge of making a movie about a rivalry between 19th-century actors in which Love wanted to star. "I knew I had to apologize for past transgressions," Love explained.

Love was also among the first celebrities to call out the criminal, predatory behavior of powerful producer Harvey Weinstein, more than a decade before he'd be imprisoned for such actions. When asked by TMZ in 2005 to provide guidance for young, female actors, Love said (via CNN), "If Harvey Weinstein invites you to a private party in the Four Seasons, don't go." After Weinstein's legal situation grew dire in 2017, Love shared the TMZ item on Twitter (now X), writing, "Although I wasn't one of his victims, I was eternally banned by ... for speaking out against #HarveyWeinstein" (via TMZ).

The lost roles of Courtney Love

In addition to Courtney Love's opinion that she was purposely prevented from advancing in Hollywood, she was linked to many major TV and film productions. Some of them got made, some never appeared in a movie theater or on a TV screen, and none would ultimately involve Courtney Love. One of Love's first rejections came in 1976, when she unsuccessfully auditioned for a reboot of "The Mickey Mouse Club." More than two decades later, Love told the Marc Maron podcast that she had landed the role of Marla Singer in "Fight Club" but lost it to Helena Bonham Carter, after being fired because she wouldn't allow co-star Brad Pitt to star as her deceased husband Kurt Cobain in a planned biopic.

In 2002, entertainment news outlets confirmed Love's assertion on Hole internet message boards that she'd soon appear before the cameras in an adaptation of William Shakespeare's royal supernatural tragedy "Macbeth." Love would play the tormented Lady Macbeth in the movie by first-time director Vincent Regan and alongside actor Peter Mullan. The project fell apart and was never filmed. Similarly, a Janis Joplin biopic, for which Love was offered the title role, never materialized. In 2013, Love told Wonderland that she was to join a TV talent show as a judge and mentor (without naming the series), a gig that never panned out.

She may or may not have had a couple of high profile relationships

Courtney Love worked with Edward Norton on the 1996 movie "The People vs. Larry Flynt." According to her, and various tabloid magazines, they started a relationship. According to him, they did no such thing; in a 1997 profile in Interview, Norton said Love was "a friend of mine. Who I am not going out with. Who I'm not romantically involved with but worked with on a film." Love told Vanity Fair in 2003 (via the Irish Examiner) that they carried on a romance for four years, which ended around 2001. "I love Edward so much," she said. "I dumped him for a movie role. If that isn't shallow, I don't know what is." At the time, Love claimed to have named Norton as the sole beneficiary in her will and also besmirched Norton's next partner, Salma Hayek. Love predicted Norton would never marry the Mexican actor on account of how "he can barely understand half of what she's saying." Love apologized for her remarks.

In August 2005, Love announced that she was pregnant, the result of a fling at a West Hollywood hotel with the just-divorced Steve Coogan. The British comedian and actor denied all of it.

Courtney Love was involved in a landmark social media lawsuit

Fashion designer Dawn Simorangkir made some clothes for Courtney Love in the late 2000s. Love accepted the items and wore them, and then Simorangkir asked the musician to pay for the clothes, in the area of several thousands of dollars. In response, Love refused to pay the bill and then took to Twitter (now X), Etsy, and MySpace, to deliver a word-assault on Simorangkir. Love accused (via Rolling Stone) the designer of using her rock star fame to advance her own career and also called her "a drug-pushing prostitute" who had previously been linked to assaults and had a court remove her child from her care.

Simorangkir sued Love, on the grounds that the disparaging tweets constituted defamation. The designer argued that Love's substantial fame and social media following in the tens of thousands negatively impacted Simorangkir's career. It was the first defamation lawsuit in the United States in which social media was cited as the channel for the allegedly hurtful information. In 2011, Love and Simorangkir settled the suit, with Love delivering a $430,000 payout to the designer. Three years later, Love settled a second defamation lawsuit brought by Simorangkir after Love took to Twitter again taunting the designer. 

She was allegedly involved in a murder plot

Following the suicide of Kurt Cobain in 1994, Courtney Love has been accused of having something to do with her husband's death. Whil mothing conclusive has ever been proven, Love was named as party to an additional conspiracy allegedly intended to lead to a death.

In 2016, Love's daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, registered for a divorce from husband Isaiah Silva. As the couple separated, Silva took with him a guitar, a customized, left-handed 1959 Martin D-18E — which once belonged to Kurt Cobain and was the last he played in public, notably on Nirvana's "MTV Unplugged" episode. Frances Bean claimed she never wanted Silva to have the instrument (at one time insured with a $1 million policy).

Silva filed suit in 2018, reporting that his former wife had gifted him the guitar just before they married. Then, he alleged, his attempts to resolve the divorce peacefully were undercut by Frances Bean's drug use and the team of Love and her manager, Sam Lufti, aggressively attempting to acquire that guitar. In that suit, Silva claimed that Love, Lufti, and Ross Butler —  Frances Bean's alleged drug supplier and a star of "13 Reasons Why" and "Riverdale" — planned to kidnap and then murder him, allowing for the removal of the guitar. The lawsuit was settled out of court in 2022, with no details provided to the public.

Courtney Love started a feud with Gwen Stefani

One of the next big things in '90s music after the quick arrival and slow descent of grunge bands like Hole were punk-and-ska-influenced rock groups like No Doubt. In 2004, Hole's singer Courtney Love picked a fight in the press with No Doubt's singer Gwen Stefani. While ruminating on the nature of celebrity in an interview with "Seventeen" (via "We Are the Champions," by Ken McLeod), Love called out Stefani. "Being famous is just like being in high school. But I'm not interested in being the cheerleader. I'm not interested in being Gwen Stefani. She's the cheerleader, and I'm out in the smoker shed." Stefani responded with words and music. "Someone one time called me a cheerleader, negatively," she told NME in 2005. "And I've never been a cheerleader. So I was like, 'OK, f*** you. You want me to be a cheerleader? Well, I will be one then.'" Stefani's cheerleader-chant-inspired "Hollaback Girl" topped the Billboard pop chart.

Love injected new energy into the dispute five years later when, during an appearance on "The Howard Stern Show" (via Us Weekly), she claimed to have had a relationship with Bush singer Gavin Rossdale while he was married to Stefani.

Courtney Love may have prevented breakout success for Redd Kross

Brothers Jeff and Steve McDonald started a punk band as children in the late '70s which in the '80s and ' 90s would evolve into the bubblegum pop-meets-hard rock band Redd Kross, a draw on the Los Angeles rock scene for years. The band bore some musical resemblance to Nirvana, and it also had the same manager. For those reasons alone, it's entirely possible that Redd Kross could have enjoyed a bump in record sales or a promotion to the mainstream. But then Courtney Love, a person the McDonalds had wronged in the past, intervened.

"Flash forward to Nirvana being the biggest thing in the world — 'OK, can we please go on tour with your band?'" Steven McDonald recalled to The Guardian. "We were told we couldn't because Courtney Love said we were mean to her when she was fat." Jeff McDonald explained that years before Love married Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, they routinely prank-called Love. "But not about being fat. We didn't even know she was fat." Love was able to leverage that animosity into ensuring that Redd Kross would never get to be Nirvana's opening act on tour.

She wasn't 'Beautiful' enough

Around 1993, Linda Perry and Courtney Love were contemporaries. The former fronted the alternative rock-leaning band 4 Non Blondes (a one-hit wonder with "What's Up?") while Love served as the frontwoman for the grunge band Hole. Both would take their careers into the pop realm. Love recorded the radio-friendly Hole record "Celebrity Skin," and Perry became an in-demand songwriter for the likes of Pink, Alicia Keys, Gwen Stefani, and Christina Aguilera. The latter's self-empowerment ballad "Beautiful" hit No. 2 on the Billboard pop chart in 2002, and that's after Perry wouldn't let Love record it.

"In my entire life I've never wanted a song fully rendered, that someone else has written, ever," Love told DigitalSpy of "Beautiful." "But I begged her for it," she added, explaining that Perry had waited more than a decade to record after writing the song. Perry's reasoning, according to Love: "She said to me at the time, 'You're not ready for top 40. You will be. You'll hate this song because you didn't write it.'"

At least one of her grandparents is famous

Courtney Love's mother, Linda Carroll, was placed up for adoption when she was an infant. It wasn't until adulthood that Love learned the identity of her biological maternal grandmother: novelist and Newbery Medal and National Book Award-winning children's book author Paula Fox. Love and Fox (who died in 2017) met each other once, and a relationship never developed. "Paula's absolute dislike of me is shocking and inexplicable," Love told Observer in 2013. Fox just really didn't think much of her granddaughter, whom she categorized as an unlikeable has-been. "She's awful, she's awful. She's terrible!" Fox said. "Courtney had her moment, and was very strong, and she had enormous vitality, but that moment is gone."

Love theorized that some of the tension between her and her grandmother related to Fox's inability or unwillingness to reveal the identity of Carroll's father, or Love's grandfather. So, Love did some research and discovered that Fox was cohabiting with actor Marlon Brando at the time of her mother's conception. That's enough for Love to speculate that the star of "The Godfather" is her grandfather. "It's very probable," Love wrote on Facebook (via Film News). "If you look at me before my first nose job, I kind of look like Marlon Brando," Love told Observer.

She rescued Chris Rock from a Hollywood fight

Courtney Love has certainly been involved in a fair amount of fights and feuds with other celebrities. But on at least one occasion, she actively prevented a verbal confrontation between two famous actors from escalating into violence.

Comedian Chris Rock hosted the 2005 Academy Awards. During one of his segments, he humorously observed that Jude Law had starred in a lot of movies the previous year. Some time later, Rock and Law crossed paths again, attending the same Hollywood event. "I was just walking by him and said, 'What's up' and he kept walking," Rock told Esquire. "I think ten minutes later he started realizing who I was." Rock sensed a palpable tension, if not danger, but that's when Love came to his rescue. "I was sitting with Courtney Love, and she might've saved me from a fight." Law backed off and stood down because of Love's verbal warning. "Courtney kind of barked, or was growling, and that was it," Rock recalled.

Her relationship with her daughter is complicated

Courtney Love gave birth to her one and only child, Frances Bean Cobain, in August 1992. It's not been a peaceful relationship between mother and daughter. In October 2003, Love allegedly attempted to break into the Los Angeles home of an ex-partner, James Barber. Thereupon she was arrested and charged with a count of being intoxicated with a controlled substance. Love was sent home and took a large dose of the prescription painkiller OxyContin and then became ill, leaving 11-year-old Frances Bean to care for her until an ambulance arrived. Days later, after Love wouldn't allow a home visit by Children and Family Services, Frances Bean was removed from her care and sent to live with her paternal grandmother.

The custody dispute picked back up in 2010, when Love announced on Twitter (now X) her intention to file suit against Frances Bean's guardians (and Kurt Cobain's mother and sister) Wendy O'Connor and Kimberly Dawn Cobain (via People). Love claimed that the duo had siphoned money from her bank accounts under the auspices of raising Frances Bean, then 17 years old and protected with a restraining order against her mother. A year earlier, Love was blocked from accessing a $1.2 million trust fund set up by Kurt Cobain before he died.

From feud to friendship with Dave Grohl

Kurt Cobain's death in 1994 left in its wake a power vacuum over control of Nirvana's lucrative catalog. The parties: Cobain's wife, Courtney Love, and his Nirvana bandmates, Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic. The adversarial relationship reached courts in 2001, when Love filed to stop the release of "You Know You're Right," an unreleased Nirvana song, on a planned boxed set. She also wanted to eliminate an existing group arrangement over the rights to Nirvana songs, asking a judge to give her full control over her late husband's catalog. In 2002, according to The Guardian, Grohl called Love an "ugly f***ing b****" during a Foo Fighters show. Love replied, "He's been taking money from my child for years." 

Later that year, the legal matters were settled, and "You Know You're Right" was released. Frustrations continued, and in 2012 Love suggested on Twitter, now X (according to Gawker) that Grohl had attempted to romance her daughter, Frances Bean Cobain.

In 2014, on the occasion of Nirvana's induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Love and Grohl embraced on stage. Love explained on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (via Spin) that her feud with Grohl was summarily over, and that it ended over a mutual appreciation of attractive celebrities and sex workers. They bonded over agreeing that an unnamed female actor possessed "the sexiest boobs in Hollywood" and shared a long-term bet over which one of them could seduce the most exotic dancers.