Brush With Greatness: Courtney Love

Courtney Love
Courtney Love

I remember reading an article on Iceland’s economic crisis a year or two ago which reported that it’s no big deal in Reykjavik to have known Bjork before she was famous; Reykjavik has such a small scene that nearly everyone living there crossed paths with her at some point. For those who lived in Portland during the 1980s, Courtney Love is like that, a ubiquitous scenester whom everyone has a story about. I lived in New York for all of the 80s, but I maintained close ties with people back home and many of my friends were originally from there, so it’s not at all that remarkable that I would meet Courtney when she passed through New York sometime in 1985 or 1986.

David Chelsea is watching:
Boardwalk Empire: The Complete First Season

My friend Anne Richardson, who writes a blog on Oregon and Oregon actors in film, uses my brief brush with greatness as the peg for a recent post on Courtney and her film career. Anne’s post, my response and Anne’s response to my response are quoted below (If the whole thing reads slightly garbled, it’s because I correct a few errors that Anne has now deleted, the most notable being that I put a character based on Courtney in David Chelsea In Love):

“I first heard about Courtney Love from fellow Portlander David Chelsea, who was living in the East Village when he met her during a visit she was making to a mutual friend. This was before she had appeared in any film or made any records. Undaunted by her skimpy resume, she told him then she was going to be more famous than Madonna.

David tells me I remembered this all wrong!

Here’s his corrections: I believe she had just filmed Sid And Nancy, but it had not been released. I don’t remember her mentioning Madonna, but she did tell me she intended to become famous and have Belinda Carlisle for her best friend.

Courtney Michelle Harrison was born in San Francisco in 1964. She grew up in a commune in Marcola, Oregon, a tiny town no one ever heard of, and for which she holds no fondness. She wittily references her miserable childhood with her choice of hair accessory, above. After a brief incarceration in Hillcrest Youth Correctional Facility, and multiple failed foster home placements, she moved to Portland where she hung out at Satyricon, volunteered at KBOO, attended Portland State University, and worked in strip clubs and gay clubs.

Satyricon, which no longer exists, is where she met both her future bandmate Kat Bjelland and her future husband Kurt Cobain.

Did Courtney become bigger than Madonna/Belinda? She did when it comes to the world of film. And in a strange but true coincidence, the man who guided Courtney to a 1996 New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress in The People Vs. Larry Flynt, is himself an Oregon filmmaker. Milos Forman came to Oregon in 1974 to make One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.

Courtney is still interested in being famous. But she has refined her attitude:

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.

Courtney Love”

My comments:

“David Chelsea here. It’s nice to be mentioned on the blog, but my memory differs from your report in a few details. I did meet Courtney Love in New York, but I never put her up in my own apartment- she was staying with my friend Libby Shapiro. I believe she had just filmed Sid And Nancy, but it had not been released. I don’t remember her mentioning Madonna, but she did tell me she intended to become famous and have Belinda Carlisle for her best friend. Also, Courtney isn’t in David Chelsea In Love, which covers an earlier period in my life, but I did eventually put a character based on her into a comic for Dark Horse Presents that hasn’t appeared in print yet.

Did Courtney really meet Kurt Cobain at Satyricon? He seems like such a Seattle creature that it’s odd to hear of him turning up in Portland, let alone meeting his wife there.”

Anne Richardson
Anne Richardson

Anne’s reply:

“Yes, she has said in interviews that she not only met Cobain in Satyricon, but that she knocked him down to the floor during that first meeting.

I wasn’t in Portland during the Cobain/Love courtship, so don’t look at me!

Here’s an account of how it happened, on Jan. 12, 1990. You’ll like this since it references R. Crumb.”

Here is a frame from The Girl With The Keyhole Eyes, my upcoming story in Dark Horse Presents: