Tuesday, December 05, 2006

book review: "Dirty Blonde, The Diaries of Courtney Love"

Courtney Love is one of those celebrities who have become household names on purpose, as opposed to those who have notoriety thrust upon them. Her ascension to fame is well documented, but perhaps most accurately in her new book, Dirty Blonde, The Diaries of Courtney Love, a compendium of diary pages, notes, postcards, set-lists, lyrics, and other odds-and-ends, with an occasional recent narrative written in by Courtney in red-ink, sometimes looking like teacher's grading remarks of her own life.

Although best known as the widowed bride of Kurt Cobain, and nearly as well known as frontwoman for Hole and her subsequent solo music, Love's public persona has mostly been of a frantic, crazed, rambling riot-grrl stumbling through legal battles and rock and roll behavior that would make Steven Tyler and Perry Farrell blush. My perception of her has always been a bit lighter than that because of an encounter with her in 1993...

My wife and I were strolling down Broadway near Broome street on a sunny Saturday afternoon, and as she sometimes does, she pulled over to duck into a store or to look at a window while I ambled to the end of the block, where I waited for her to catch up. About five minutes later, I noticed her about a half block up slowly walking with a blonde woman pushing a stroller, and had assumed she had run into a friend. I didn't pay much attention and continued up another block as she and her pal walked behind me. They finally caught up, and as my wife and her pal said their goodbyes, I realized that she'd been talking to Courtney, trading mom-talk about cute babies, as Frances Bean rode in the stroller...followed by Kurt, Chris, and Dave a few steps behind! It was absolutely surreal to me, a big Nirvana fan, and my wife had absolutely no idea who she was talking to. She's just friendly like that, and apparently Courtney was too. After learning the identity of her strolling buddy, my wife said, "She's a nice girl, and that baby is so beautiful".

So every time after that when I heard about Courtney's hijinx or troubles, rather than reveling in some spoiled celebrity's come-uppance, I felt a little bad for someone who had my wife's "seal-of-niceness".

In many ways this book verifies my wife's judgment of Courtney, showing proof that she's way more of a team-player than she's given credit for, by-way-of notes planning band activities and extensive entries about people she admires and why. Based on notes from as early as late grade-school, when Courtney applied on her own for a part in The New Mickey Mouse Club TV show, it's evident that she possesses an extraordinary amount of drive, unfortunately not always used for good and not evil.

As you'd expect, a good portion of the book falls into the "rants and raves" department as she rails against family, teachers, ex-band members, ex-lovers, and those unlucky enough to cross her path at bad moments (in one note, she prays to Kurt asking him to put a hex on one of Frances' teachers), but in many entries she gives props to supportive pals like Stipe, Corgan, and...wait for it...Elizabeth Taylor.

I seriously doubt this book would appeal to anyone not a Courtney or Nirvana fan, but to those with an interest, this is a treasure-trove of insight into the workings of a very complicated, talented, troubled, recovering...and nice woman.

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