An Open Letter to Courtney Love

Believe it or not, there are people who want her to make it.

Dear Courtney:

It's been years since you used to phone me from airplanes bellowing, "DON'T TELL THIS TO ANYONE!" in a voice obviously audible far from your first-class cabin. I haven't heard much from you lately, but it's been hard not to hear about what you've allegedly been up to. Busting windows and the heads of close friends and complete strangers with, as court documents put it, "deadly weapons" (a flashlight, a booze bottle) that would be perfectly harmless in average hands. Getting buzzed on cocaine and OxyContin, which you've been quoted pungently calling "evil coffee" and "hillbilly heroin." Mostly, chronically, getting busted coast to coast. While you await word on unrelated assault and pill-possession charges, you've got 18 months of random drug testing to prove to a kindly California judge that you can stay clean and booze-free. "I probably needed to get my ass kicked," you said.

But I say that attitude is your whole problem! To you, the world comprises kickers and kickees. Quite like another ex-junkie rock diva, John Lennon, who punched people right and left and thought this the unchangeable law of the rock jungle. "There are always the fuckers and the fuckees," he said. "I believe in punching," you once wrote in your journal. You are said to have been partial to Fracas perfume.

You further explicated your punching philosophy the night you seized Quentin Tarantino's Oscar at a party in 1995. "I'm picking up the Oscar, and they're really heavy, because they're lead with gold over it," you said. "You could totally brain somebody. I'm like, 'Who do you hate in this room?' All of a sudden, this little voice [Lynn Hirschberg, author of the infamous Vanity Fair article] peeps up . . . , 'You don't like me.' . . . And she bolted and she hid under Madonna and Ellen Barkin and Jodie Foster's table, and they were kicking her under the table. Jodie Foster was smoking cigars and putting them out on her and screaming, 'Face the music, bitch!' . . . Had I punched her, they'd just say, 'There goes Courtney again.' But I kept my poise."

Hirschberg and another eyewitness to this event tell me that, in fact, you staggered up to the table, grabbed the statuette, and didn't recognize her. When you picked it up and mused about braining Hirschberg with it, Tarantino gently restrained your arm and Hirschberg simply walked away. Hirschberg never met Jodie Foster, who only smokes cigars in your S&M fantasies.

But it's commendable (if true) that, this once, you avoided punching someone. You are a human fumarole. Your nonstop verbal fugues are appalling, yet also undeniably appealing. It's no wonder your grandma is the legendary, haughty highbrow novelist Paula Fox. You surely share some imagination genes.

Fox's memoir about her own parents, your great-grandparents, is called Borrowed Finery, and it sheds lots of light on your life, even though both of you only recently found out you were related. Fox's drunk dad and horrid mom kept abandoning her and then reclaiming her to schlepp from city to city in an atmosphere of showbiz glamour. Douglas Fairbanks was a cousin; maybe Marlon Brando wasn't your grandpa, but he could've been in those fast-lane circles. Fox learned to take on new personas with each move, like borrowed clothes. She says you are strikingly like her mother, and both of you strike her as "alien." Your upbringing was similarly peripatetic, and your grown-up life infinitely more so. Your memoir could be called Borrowed Schmattes, and Madonna's got nothing on you in the multiple-persona department. One more bit of enhancement and you'll be Jocelyne Wildenstein, the famous plastic-surgery addict whose catlike face could scare Michael Jackson. Where did you get those vast wax lips you're wearing these days? Julia Roberts wants them back!

It seems to me that your recent busts give you a chance to put on a more sensible ensemble, identitywise. Shred the glamour duds. Get back in touch with your talents. Do a real rock record, a movie that isn't a stunt. You were killer onstage with Live Through This, and, sitting right behind Larry Flynt at a screening on the Columbia lot, I watched a tear trickle down his cheek as he watched you portray his late love Althea Flynt, the stripper. You could write a real memoir, instead of feeding scraps of your life to the circling sharks of the infotainment press and then hypocritically concocting recipes for shark-fin soup. Instead of repeating the mistakes of your worst relatives, you could try to top the achievements of the best. Don't be your great-grandma, be like your grandma and your mother, Linda Carroll, the distinguished Oregon therapist who helped reformed terrorist Katherine Ann Power come in from the cold Weather Underground and be reborn as a nonterrorist mom.

When you do pointlessly mean, vindictive, stupid stuff, like trying to convince British girls that Kurt is about to have them murdered or bringing trouble on the head of a noted Sunset Strip dealer, just because you claimed he would never give you any of his fabled Persian heroin back when ("If you tried it, you'd be on it for a year! It's like being in hhhheaven!"), you don't remind me of your distinguished forebears. You remind me of your dad. I've been smooched by Goldie Hawn, tackled in the snow by John Cusack, mock strangled by Alan Rudolph, and threatened by your late husband, but I've never encountered a scarier person than your dad. I'm not going to get into that—just trust me: Do not emulate him. I know you know what kind of a guy he is.

Quit burning and breaking things. Let windows go unshattered and blood unspilled. Court no disaster; crack no skulls. Neither a fucker nor a fuckee be. You've had quite enough years chasing heaven—try the earth instead for a while. Rechannel that imagination into creativity. Keep your poise for real, and maybe you'll keep your daughter for good. Find something better to believe in than punching. Believe it or not, there are people who want you to make it.

Your fan when you deserve one,

Tim Appelo

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