The Dark Truth Behind Billy Corgan

For more than 20 years, Corgan has been the front man, face, and main creative force behind Smashing Pumpkins, one of the most popular alternative rock bands of all time. But in addition to creating memorable anthems like "Today" and "Bullet With Butterfly Wings," he's also gotten caught up in a heap of trouble (a lot of which he started himself). Here's a look back at some the more troubling moments in the life and career of Billy Corgan.

He's had a long and complicated history with Courtney Love

Right before Courtney Love began dating Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, she was involved with Billy Corgan. That relationship might have continued on a bit longer had Corgan been willing to pay for Love to fly home from Europe. In 1991, she accompanied Corgan when Smashing Pumpkins played some dates in Europe with Nirvana. But in the documentary Montage of Heck, Love mentions that Corgan wouldn't pay for Love's return trip, so her journey home began with a ferry ride with Cobain and the rest of Nirvana. Love admits she'd had a crush on Cobain already, but that Corgan's stinginess more-or-less pushed her to Cobain.

Corgan later reportedly pulled out of a tour with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Nirvana because he wouldn't share a bill with Cobain's band, but he and Love reportedly got back together in the months after Cobain's death in 1994. That led to Corgan writing some songs with Love for Celebrity Skin, the 1998 album by her band, Hole. Corgan nevertheless trashed the album in the press, saying it "left a bad taste in [his] mouth." But years later, Corgan agreed to work with Love again, this time on her 2010 solo album, Nobody's Daughter. He later said two songs he'd written, "Samantha" and "How Dirty Girls Get Clean" were included on the album, even though he didn't want them used. And so he unloaded on Love on Twitter, saying things like "maybe you should go live off your husband's money."

As of 2014, the two alt rockers have reportedly reconciled. Demonstrating that they've truly let bygones be bygones, Love showed up to play with the Corgan and the Pumpkins at a New Jersey tour stop in August 2018. Love sang with the band on two Hole songs — "Celebrity Skin" and "Malibu," both of which Corgan co-wrote — as well as on the 1995 Pumpkins banger "Bullet with Butterfly Wings."

He's made several transphobic comments

Devi Ever is a transgender rights activist who makes custom guitar metals for rock musicians. In 2011, she made one for Corgan, and weighed in on a Smashing Pumpkins message board that the experience was not a good one. In particular, she was miffed that she spent a lot of money on the project and Corgan provided zero feedback (pardon the guitar pun) on the project.

Corgan, rather than apologize for the confusion or even simply defend himself, took to his Facebook page to unload a litany of hateful, violent, transphobic comments at Ever. Corgan called her "an ugly pig, a "he/she," and made a promise to "knock [her] f*****g lights out" and then "sue [her] for so much [she'll] never be able to afford so much as to even make a f*****g guitar cable."

And this wasn't the only time he showed a lack of tolerance for trans people. In 2005, he posted on Livejournal (ask your parents, kids) a story about spending the night with a woman, only to find out she was trans. He immediately ran off, and in the post constantly referred to her as he/she or him/her, and even bragged that he found her later on and threatened to "break both his arms and his legs" (yes, the misgendering is all Corgan's) if she didn't stop talking about her night with Corgan. Classy.

He made the recording of Siamese Dream very difficult for the rest of the band

Smashing Pumpkins' 1993 major-label debut, Siamese Dream, has been hailed as one of the best albums of the '90s, if not of all time. It made the band one of the biggest in alternative rock, and sold four million copies.

And it was a nightmare to record. Corgan had such exacting standards of what the album should sound like, he scrapped all contributions from guitarist James Iha and bassist D'Arcy Wretzky—he re-recorded all of their parts himself. That means the only two members of the band actually heard on Siamese Dream are Corgan and drummer Jimmy Chamberlain. When Siamese Dream was released, Corgan said to Spin Magazine about his bandmates: "I gave them a year and a half to prepare for this record ... yet they continue to keep failing me."

Nearly 20 years later, Corgan revealed that he had been suicidal during the recording of the album and was actively "plotting his own death," including planning his funeral and giving away all of his possessions. That might explain at least some of his ornery nature, though the rest of it was simply Corgan being an ornery guy.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

He got into a feud with Anderson Cooper, over cats

One wouldn't ordinarily associate an ultra-serious rocker like Corgan with fuzzy-wuzzy kitty cats, but the pictures don't lie: In 2014, Corgan adopted two cats, Sami and Mr. Thom, from an animal shelter in his hometown of Chicago. That kind of celebrity advocacy doesn't go unnoticed, and Corgan wound up on the cover of local pet rescue magazine Paws Chicago holding those cats. (In the accompanying article, Corgan called them his "rock 'n' roll kittens.")

CNN anchor Anderson Cooper got a hold of the magazine and poked some light fun at Corgan's cat-loving side on an episode of Anderson Cooper 360, suggesting that Corgan was "off his alternative rocker" and that it was jarring to see rock stars doing "less rock starry things," such as posing with cats. Once again, Corgan took to social media, this time to eviscerate Cooper. "Sorry to disappoint," he tweeted at Cooper, "but when I'm not raising cain for a great organization like PAWS Chicago, I'm still making REAL music. I realize you're too busy being a globalist shill to know the difference, but there are those of us who do as we like."

That seemed to be all Corgan cared to say on the matter, until a few months later, when Corgan's concert merchandise tables started selling T-shirts bearing images of Corgan's cats captioned with "F**k you Anderson Cooper." Oh, that Billy and his wacky sense of humor.

He warned Marilyn Manson against dating Rose McGowan

One of the most high-profile couples in the late '90s was shock rocker Marilyn Manson and Scream star Rose McGowan. (One of their shining moments was their showing up at the 1998 MTV Video Music Awards, with McGowan basically naked.) Manson and Corgan became close when Corgan served as a consultant on Manson's 1998 glam rock album Mechanical Animals. They became so close, Corgan eventually wrote a "strongly worded letter" to Manson to warn him against dating McGowan. According to Manson, Corgan claimed McGowan "would ruin [his] life and ruin [his] career" if she stayed with her. However, in her 2018 memoir Brave, McGowan recalled that Manson's "whiny friend Billy," meaning Corgan, told the "Dope Show" singer that if he dated an actress he would "look like a p*ssy."

It's never explained how McGowan would ruin Manson, or why Corgan had it out for her. Manson and McGowan eventually did break up two years later, although McGowan attributes that to Manson's cocaine use, not Billy Corgan. So ultimately, it might have just been Corgan causing drama because he was bored and he could.

The disastrous 2010 Smashing Pumpkins tour

Corgan prepared to hit the road in 2010 with the "reunited" Smashing Pumpkins for eight months of shows. He had a ... difficult time assembling the old lineup. Or really, any lineup at all. For example, bassist Ginger Pooley opted to stay home and take care of her newborn baby. (Nicole Fiorentino of Veruca Salt stepped in.) Longtime drummer Jimmy Chamberlin sat this one out to focus on his jazz fusion side project, although Corgan claims to have fired him, telling Rolling Stone that Chamberlain was "a destructive human being." (Pot, kettle?) To replace him, Corgan held open auditions and hired 20-year-old amateur drummer Mike Byrne.

The new Smashing Pumpkins couldn't even get through its first show without incident. As the concert at Los Angeles's The Viper Room drew to a close, Corgan put down his electric guitar in favor of a ukulele for a solo acoustic set. As Corgan tried to play a song called "Love is the Sweetest Thing," a heckler shouted out for him to play "Tiptoe Through the Tulips," and another requested the theme song from Welcome Back, Kotter. Corgan stopped playing, said "I'm too old for this sh*t," and left the stage. The planned encore was canceled, probably for the better.

He thinks activists are dangerous

In 2016, Corgan was a guest on The Alex Jones Show, a syndicated radio program hosted by lunatic pundit Alex Jones. Corgan weighed in on those out there fighting for social causes, comparing them to members of the Chinese communist party that took over China in the 1940s. "They're Maoists," Corgan said. "They have the Little Red Book in their hand. The only thing that's going to adjust their ideological fixation is reality."

Corgan went on to compare those activists to members of the Ku Klux Klan, and their activities to keep the South segregated in the 1930s. "If you could go back to Selma 1932, and the Klan member spitting in some person of color's face, don't you think that guy thought he was right, too?" So there you have it: in Corgan's world, if you want change and social progress, you're no better than the Klan.

He served up tea and experimental multimedia noise collages

In 2012, Corgan opened a teahouse in his native Chicago called Madame ZuZu's. It also operates for a performance space for emerging artists, such as ... Billy Corgan. At Madame ZuZu's in 2014, he presented an "ambient/musical interpretation of Herman Hesse's Siddhartha; built by modular synthesis, on the fly." That meant live readings of passages of Hesse's 1922 spiritual novel while Corgan messed around on some synthesizers ... for eight full hours.

But it wouldn't be an episode in the life of Billy Corgan if it didn't involve a feud. While there was a line out the door to see the performance, Corgan wouldn't let Chicago Tribune reporter Greg Trotter in to cover the event because Tribune humorist Red Huppke had made fun of Corgan before the reading/ambient jam took place, writing, "The problem with sipping oolong in a hip suburban teahouse is that it can seem pretentious, but not always pretentious enough." A reporter by any other name is just as toxic as all the others, in Corgan's mind anyway.

In March 2018, Corgan closed Madame ZuZu's because of what he said were "various reasons which involve tenancy," even though business was "robust and steady." He wants to reopen the shop at a different location some day, but until then, the shop is closed. On the last day of business, ZuZu's gave away free tea, so even Billy Corgan can be nice once in a while.

He sold some really expensive snacks

"Curated subscription boxes" have been all the rage for a few years now. For a set fee, subscribers receive, generally once a month, a box of special goodies. In 2015, Corgan teamed with online specialty foods store Farm to People to launch his own box of personally selected snacks (for a limited time). Among the organic and vegan treats that Corgan picked himself, most of which were also sold at Madame Zuzu's: sprouted hazelnut butter, bourbon smoked sea salt, and honey mustard. That sounds tasty enough, but these kinds of boxes generally run about $10 to $15 anywhere else. Billy Corgan's Curated Taster, on the other hand: a whopping $129.95. While it did have more snacks than a typical box, for that much money, you should be able to fill an entire car with your eats, not just a "taster."

That time he was a big time player in pro wrestling

Corgan is a lifelong fan of the one thing more rough-and-tumble than being in Smashing Pumpkins with Billy Corgan: pro wrestling. In 2011, he co-founded the Illinois-based regional wrestling organization Resistance Pro Wrestling, and by 2015, he'd moved on to work with Impact Ventures, parent company of TNA Wrestling. For a time, he was a minority owner of TNA, but was trying to stage a full buyout for awhile (while competing with other interested parties, such as WWE, who wants the TNA library for use on its Network).

Regardless of the sale, Corgan was named company president in 2016 (for real, not a wrestling storyline) ... and then sued current owner Dixie Carter just a few months later (also for real, not a wrestling storyline). Court documents relating to the suit are not a matter of public record, but wrestling writers believe he sued because his deal to buy TNA went bad. And we mean bad — Corgan has left TNA completely and accused the company of not paying back $1.8 million he loaned them, and threatened to possibly convert his loan into a 36 percent stock in ownership, which he could then sell to anyone, including "a [pro wrestling] titan," a not-really-veiled reference to WWE. This never happened, as in November of that year, he and Anthem Sports (the company that actually did buy TNA) reached a final settlement regarding Corgan's money, but the simple fact that he could have done it? Damn.

In 2017, Corgan turned around and bought the National Wrestling Alliance, an old and mostly forgotten brand founded in 1948 that once boasted Ric Flair. He hopes to run it like a startup and "target the general fan," according to the Chicago Tribune. Good luck, Billy.

Another year, another controversial reunion tour

In February 2018, Corgan unveiled plans for the "Shiny and Oh So Bright Tour," a 30th anniversary celebration of the Smashing Pumpkins which would feature only songs from the Pumpkins' first five albums (the good ones), like Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. Along for the ride would be good ol' Smashing Pumpkins "golden age" drummer Jimmy Chamberlain and guitarist James Iha, along with some backing musicians. A notable omission: bassist D'arcy Wretzky, whom Corgan threw out of the band in the late '90s. Corgan's reason: his "distrust of her in the studio coupled with her apparent slow descent into insanity and/or drugs (take your pick)."

For a while there, it really seemed like Wretzky could be a Pumpkin again. In 2016, Corgan made a Facebook Live video to let fans know he'd "been in communication with D'arcy for the first time in 16 or 17 years," and that "it's awesome to have my friend back." That same year, Wretzky told BlastEcho that playing with her old pals wasn't necessarily a no-go. "Circumstances would have to be a certain way," she said. Those circumstances apparently didn't line up, because in January 2018, Wretzky told BlastEcho she had received word that "the band has decided to go with a different bass player." In the end, Corgan and Wretzky just couldn't patch things up. "I honestly think he may have a brain tumor," Wretzky told Alternative Nation. "He's always been insufferable."