In the wooded surrounds of the outskirts of Olympia, Washington, stands a quiet property. The grass grows long and not far away water trickles along a small creek. In so many ways the collection of ramshackle buildings are unremarkable. Yet it is here that rock wild child Courtney Love retreated after the tragic demise of her husband, grunge rock icon Kurt Cobain. And recently released photos of the abode raise many intriguing questions.
The collection of images tells a story. That story involves the hellraiser that is Love, a rocker who has been outraging audiences for close to three decades now. It is not often that interested onlookers are presented with the chance to see just what Love got up to behind closed doors. Now, with these pictures of her Olympia mansion, we can see that the reality is every bit as shocking as we might have expected.
Love is perhaps best known for being the lead singer of the rock outfit Hole. To others she will always be Mrs Kurt Cobain. But what is for certain is that this grunger’s antics have often garnered more interest than her creative output. There was that time she admitted to streaking in rehab, for example. Or the time she claimed crack improved her math skills.
Yet Love, who has battled various addictions through the years, was, at one time at least, a successful musician and actor. After Hole disbanded, she went on to forge a solo career. She has also acted on the big screen, appearing in movies such as Sid and Nancy, The People vs. Larry Flynt and Man on the Moon.
You can quote Love’s resume, but that doesn’t quite do justice to her persona. As Lynn Hirschberg wrote in a now-infamous 1992 Vanity Fair magazine article, “She [Love] has always known what she wanted and what she wanted was to be a star. More precisely, Courtney always thought she was a star. She was just waiting for everyone else to wake up.” At that time, in the early 1990s, Love was arguably at the height of her fame.
Born in San Francisco, Love’s was a dysfunctional childhood. Her father left and her mother brought her up on a hippie commune in Oregon. According to the rocker, she began stripping as a teenager, got into plenty of trouble and was even banished from reform school. She also traveled, living at various times in New Zealand, Japan and the U.K. Doubtless an upbringing of such transience was a factor in leading her to Olympia later in life.
While in Liverpool, England, Love reportedly dated musician Julian Cope. She then got hitched to singer James Moreland, who was far from complimentary about his ex-wife when he spoke about her years later. “She definitely has an evil side. She once tried to burn my bed when I was sleeping. A fire started and I woke up in shock,” he said, as quoted in Poppy Z. Brite’s Courtney Love: The Real Story.
Long before Love met Cobain and found rock success, she was displaying signs of erratic behavior. “Courtney is a violent person who, even in the midst of our anonymous, crummy, poverty-stricken little marriage, threatened to have me beaten up for $200 when I didn’t do what she wanted,” added Moreland. Of course, as her ex-husband, Moreland’s quotes should perhaps be taken with a pinch of salt.
Love formed the band Hole in 1989. It wasn’t long before the group began garnering attention with songs such as “Dicknail” and “Retard Girl”, which aptly captured the punk aesthetic for which Love and co. were aiming. The band’s debut album, Pretty on the Inside was released to modest success in 1991.
The year before the release of her band’s debut album, Love arguably enjoyed an even more seminal moment in her life. At the Satyricon club in Portland, OR, she bumped into Kurt Cobain of the rock band Nirvana. Cobain’s group had released their own debut album, Bleach, just the year before. Yet 1991 was the year the pair would embark on a whirlwind romance that would coincide with Cobain’s band hitting the big time with their second album Nevermind.
Love and Cobain tied the knot in Hawaii in February 1992 and at the time they wed they were one of the most high-profile couples in the music industry. In August that year the pair welcomed their daughter Frances Bean to the world. Undoubtedly, Love’s union with Cobain had boosted her own music career and fame – she was now a bona fide celebrity.
Unfortunately, one of the habits that increasingly dominated the marriage of Love and Cobain was drug-taking. Both were drug users and addicts. In an interview with Vanity Fair magazine, Love even stated that she took heroin when she was pregnant with Frances Bean, although she had not known she was expecting at the time. That comment provoked a social services investigation.
As tempestuous as the relationship between Love and Cobain was, nobody expected it would end the way it did. Tragically, on April 5, 1994 Cobain took his own life – he shot himself in the head with his own gun. It was an event that sent ripples throughout the music industry and popular culture at large.
Cobain was just 27 when he died. The rocker left an apparent suicide note that has been pored over countless times in the intervening period, searching for reasons why or even hidden meanings in the text. What is clear is that, in the period leading up to his death, Cobain was in the clutches of severe depression and heroin addiction.
Cobain’s note directly references his wife, Love, and his daughter. “I have a goddess of a wife who sweats ambition and empathy and a daughter who reminds me too much of what I used to be, full of love and joy, kissing every person she meets because everyone is good and will do her no harm,” it reads, heartbreakingly.
Cobain also left a postscript addressed to his family. “Frances and Courtney, I’ll be at your [sic] alter [sic]. Please keep going Courtney, for Frances. For her life, which will be so much happier without me. I love you. I love you!” the Nirvana frontman wrote. They are the emotional words of a man who was clearly suffering.
For Cobain’s widow the shock and pain of the loss was inescapable. Love released a recorded message to fans just days after her husband’s passing. “I’m laying in our bed, and I’m really sorry. And I feel the same way you do. I’m really sorry you guys. I don’t know what I could have done. I wish I’d been here. I wish I hadn’t listened to other people, but I did… And I have to go now. Just tell him he’s a f*cker, OK? Just say, ‘F*cker. You’re a f*cker.’ And that you love him,” the musician stated.
And so Cobain’s death brought to an end a two-year marriage that had produced one child. It had also produced many memorable moments, good and bad, for both the couple and the watching public. And if anything can be learned from the couple’s words dedicated to each other around the time of Cobain’s death, is that it was a relationship between two complex and unpredictable characters.
It is usually the habit of married couples, of course, to make a home together. But the home, or homes, that were made by Love and Cobain, both metaphorically and literally, were as unconventional as almost every aspect of their respective lifestyles. In 1992 when the couple were arguably at the very peak of their individual and collective success, they lived together in a ground-floor apartment in Los Angeles. Photos from that period show a far-from-lavish pad: not at all what you would expect from two of the world’s most popular rock stars of that time. And the connections to Love’s later Olympia abode are clear to see.
As well as being small and dingy, the apartment was messy. In one particular photograph, featuring Cobain in the bedroom with, inexplicably, a parrot on his head, there were clothes and possessions strewn all over the floor. The bed was untidy and there were random names written haphazardly on the wall. It conjured up the image of badly kept rented student accommodation.
Lynn Hirschberg wrote about Love and Cobain’s L.A. home in the 1992 Vanity Fair article. “Their home, in the Fairfax area of L.A., is sparsely furnished. There are guitars in their open cases on the floor, and a Buddhist altar has been set up against one wall. Dead flowers sit in a vase next to a pair of those see-through body-anatomy dolls. In fact, there are dolls everywhere,” Hirschberg stated.
In the intervening years more has been learnt about Love’s home habits. Years after Cobain had passed away, in 2011 Love lived in the West Village district of Manhattan. The townhouse she resided in was more consistent with the lifestyle of the rich and famous: a reported $27,000 a month rent would have made most people’s eyes water. Yet Love was allegedly evicted due to decorative changes she made to the abode – unauthorized, of course. There was also a case of a small fire started by a candle.
Love and Cobain had also owned a property together in an upmarket neighborhood of Seattle. Years later, when the home was put up for sale by subsequent owners, it was described by the property’s realtor as “a perfectly maintained home of extraordinary presence situated upon a beautiful, park-like lot in the heart of Denny Blaine. Built in 1902, it features a shingled exterior distinguished by expressive windows, stone accents and Queen Anne styling, completely updated throughout.” Quite the upgrade from the couple’s L.A. pad, certainly.
And in 1995 – just a year after her husband had so tragically taken his own life in that very Denny Blaine property – Love bought another house. This abode, in Olympia, WA, was rather different from the tiny apartment that she had shared with her husband in L.A. It was also different from the palatial Seattle residence. Thanks to recently released pictures, fans of Love, or curious onlookers, can get a glimpse at the property and the surprises that lay within.
Perhaps the most striking thing from initially viewing the images is just how rural the property is. Olympia, the capital of Washington state, is only a small city and a long way from the hustle and bustle of Seattle. But the Love property seems to be in the middle of nowhere. Unkempt gardens surround the home.
As for the house itself, some of the pictures show a rather grand façade. Yet it depends which side of the property you look at. While on one side it appears to be a pleasantly picturesque home, from another angle the house looks like a ruin. And on closer inspection, that is exactly what Love’s former residence is.
Consisting of three bedrooms and two bathrooms, the house itself is described as 2,302 square feet in size. Additionally, there is a guest house and even an eight-stall barn. From the shots, however, that guest house and, what appears to have once been a garage, are completely derelict. From first viewing the buildings look like they have been badly affected by an earthquake or some other such disaster.
Parts of the guest house – if indeed that is what the building is, because it’s hard to tell – are crumbling and some of the weatherboarding is falling off. It’s the same with the garage. Debris litters the space in between. It is something you would expect to see in a warzone, not an apparent rural idyll. As for the barn, it is smothered in graffiti and is equally as derelict.
That’s the outside; what about the interior? Well, as previously mentioned, Love’s band Hole released a debut album called Pretty on the Inside – and that’s highly ironic in this context. Love’s former pad in Olympia is anything but. The interior of the property, from what we can see, is arguably even worse than the facade. Perhaps the most striking aspect, initially, is that there is absolutely no flooring or wall coverings.
Graffiti is strewn across the walls of several of the rooms shown in the realtor’s photos. The floors are barren: it looks to all intents and purposes as though everything has been robbed, right down to the floorboards. There is debris in the forms of glass, bricks and mortar covering the floor of some of the spaces shown.
The images depicting the inside of the guesthouse, garage and barn more than tell the story. Worst of all is the barn. Without exaggeration, it looks as though it was the scene of a particularly nasty riot. Even the most optimistic of renovators or interior designers couldn’t do much with it.
In terms of any positives that can be taken from the property, they are few. One, perhaps, is the fact that the surrounding area seems to be wild and peaceful. Several of the pictures show quiet countryside, although the gardens around the house certainly need their fair share of attention too. And there is a lot of land: 295,337 square feet to be precise, which is a little short of 7 acres.
In terms of other positives, the house is located just west of the peaceful city of Olympia. It also fronts onto a small creek. And, of course, it was previously owned by a famous rock star, which is bound to add some form of prestige. But as Mark David so aptly states in a Variety magazine article reporting the listing, the whole property “is in a total state of neglect”.
A picture is worth a thousand words, as the old expression goes. But the words of the realtor responsible for selling the Olympia property are also fairly revealing. On the property listing, the Virgil Adams Real Estate employee responsible for the sale, Spence Weigand, makes his own interesting observations. Weigand describes the house, in something of an understatement, as a “major fixer”. Rather closer to the mark he adds, humorously, that the property is “not for the faint of heart”.
Weigand wasn’t done there. The remarkably frank realtor added that the “main home needs a ton of work (also known as everything).” He also remarked that the property’s guest house had suffered some fire damage in the past. Perhaps to any future proprietor, that would be the least of their concerns with all the issues this remarkably ramshackle abode throws up.
In the 1992 Vanity Fair article, musician Kat Bjelland offered up her opinion of her friend Love. “Only about a quarter of what Courtney says is true,” Bjelland said. “But nobody usually bothers to decipher which are the lies. She’s all about image. And that’s interesting. Irritating, but interesting.” For someone who seems set on image, the pictures of Love’s ex-abode are shocking, but perhaps revealing too. After all, as previously mentioned, the Olympia home was purchased just a year after the suicide of her husband.
Love and Cobain’s former home in Seattle was coincidentally also recently put up for sale. It was kept in rather better condition than Love’s Olympia abode, although the couple didn’t inhabit it for long. In fact, it was here that those tragic events in 1994 unfurled: Cobain killed himself in the property’s greenhouse.
Love, unsurprisingly, had the greenhouse demolished soon after Cobain’s death. Three years later she would go on to sell the property. A rock-star property with a lot of history, at the time of the sale it was listed as available to interested parties for a not-insignificant fee: a cool $7.5 million, no less.
It’s fair to say Love won’t get anywhere near the Denny Blaine property value for the Olympia pad. The rocker reportedly purchased the home for $447,000 back in 1995. At the time of its listing more than two decades later, and perhaps unsurprisingly considering the state of disrepair into which it had fallen, the home was now priced at just $319,900. Love’s antics certainly hadn’t protected the property’s value.
Fans of Love must be thrilled with the chance to see behind the curtains, so to speak, of the icon’s former home. There is something quite voyeuristic about the photographs of the abode. And it’s fair to say that, with all we know about Love, the scenes from inside are pretty much what we would have expected. In fact, an old expression springs to mind when you are looking at the photos: if these walls could talk!