Courtney Love: ‘I went through 280 macarons last week’
Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.
My personal style signifier is vintage. Any time I see an Edwardian tunic dress, I buy it. I layer it with Rick Owens T-shirts. Also, James Perse.
The place that means a lot to me is Reference Point, off the Strand in London. It’s got a nice clientele and great books and events. It’s where I found my new hobby – pub quizzes. Fuck an Academy Award, I’ve never been as ecstatic as when my team won two pub quizzes. reference-point.uk
The last thing I bought and loved was a Stefano Pilati YSL jumpsuit from my stylist Panos Yiapanis, who doesn’t often sell his archives. But in general I’m done with shopping, I have enough. I don’t buy things unless they are investments and I can rewear them. For touring next year, I have decided on an anti-suit suit by bespoke tailor Chris Kerr, who did suits for the Kingsman movies. chriskerr.com
And the best souvenir I’ve brought home is a Stanford T-shirt that I nicked recently from some dude. I was at someone’s house having an adventure. In the morning I didn’t want to do the walk of shame in my slutty dress, so I grabbed his T-shirt.
The best books I’ve read in the past year are, firstly, Desperate Characters by my grandmother Paula Fox. We only met once and we didn’t get on. But I am writing my autobiography and got the urge to read her books at last. She is minimal, meticulous. I try to bring the same restraint to my lyrics. And then, mind-blowing, Virginie Despentes’ King Kong Theory. The chapter on sex work – the tenderness she shows towards men and women alike is striking. Then there’s Rebecca Solnit’s Recollections of My Non-Existence and Wanderlust. I also give out copies of John Berger’s Ways of Seeing like the Bible. There’s a brilliant chapter about being naked and the nude.
The podcast I’m listening to is “60 Songs That Explain the ’90s”, hosted by Rob Harvilla. He is God’s gift to bros and women. I went from “Bitter Sweet Symphony” to “Nookie” to “Zombie” and “Common People”. He’s hilarious. It’s never about what you think it’s about.
My style icons are Paula Yates, Kate Moss, Michael Stipe and Woody Harrelson. For me, growing up, Paula was the coolest woman in the world. Kate, obviously. But you can’t do Kate. Many years ago, I went to Portobello Road with Kate to a vintage shop and we both bought Victorian jet-beaded capelets. I wore mine out first and was photographed and got slammed. Kate wore hers out and they were knocking them off in a week. I couldn’t compete. Michael turned me on to Hedi Slimane, Dior Men. And Woody, just for having the balls to call me up before my first Academy Awards and say, “Court, come on, wear the hemp Armani gown.” He turned out to be right. I was like, “Make [your wife] Laura wear the hemp Armani,” and she did.
The best gift I’ve given is Winston Churchill’s walking stick, to my ex-boyfriend, who’s a massive Churchill fan. I bought it from a collector and had my driver go to York to get it.
And The best gift I’ve received is a letter from Sylvia Plath to Ted Hughes that Kim Jones gave me. He made a spectacular box for it and it has her tarot cards in it – I’ve been throwing tarots since before I could read Green Eggs and Ham. It’s a love letter to Ted and they’ve clearly been shagging and she’s really happy. I love Sylvia, but what I will tell you is that when I was very ill in hospital I posted what books I was reading and I put Ted Hughes’ Birthday Letters up there. And all these girls, mostly in America, they were like, “Fuck Ted.” And I thought, “Do you realise the burden that me and Ted share?” I was like, read his poetry. I stand by my Birthday Letters fandom.
I have a collection of Chinese lotus slippers. Foot binding was in flower for more than 1,000 years. I’ve read a few books about it. You’d either get a “golden lotus”, a three-inch shoe, or a “silver lotus”, which is a four-inch shoe and made you less desirable on the marriage market. Bigger than that and then, man, you’re flat-footed and nobody’s marrying you. I’ve bought nine pairs and I respect them.
In my fridge you’ll always find bone broth and oxtail stew made by my chef Dan. I was raised a California hippie, “vegetarian good, red meat bad”, but that shit healed me. He makes incredible kimchi. And he gets salami from Wild by Nature. There’s a macaron company called Mademoiselle Macaron, and they’ve been making me crazy-tasting vegan ones, including cumin flavour. I went through 280 of them last week. They counted. Plus Ladurée, who do caramel and chocolate. Because I can’t drink any more, I don’t do drugs any more, I got obsessed with tea. I love PG Tips.
The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is LuYang. She’s a Chinese multimedia artist who recently had an exhibition in London. They created a really dark video game on why all hells are below in every religion, called Uterus Man. With its incredible Buddhist imagery, the exhibition blew me away. @luyangasia
My first job was in wardrobe [at Paramount] helping my first boyfriend’s mom on the movie Mommie Dearest, and I watched Faye Dunaway in fittings! To see how a real diva does it. Wrist to finger. Nipple to clavicle. A true fitting takes time and patience, but is worth every moment.
The beauty staple I’m never without is Fracas scent. Or if I’m feeling mature I rock Ormonde Jayne’s Vanille D’Iris. Then there’s indie perfume maker Francesca Bianchi, who uses a lot of patchouli. There’s one called Sticky Fingers and another called Sex and the Sea, and honestly, it’s fucking sexy. I’m also into Weleda Iris Balancing Day Cream.
My favourite building is Chateau Marmont in LA. The greatest thing about the Chateau is that you can choose to participate or absolutely be a lone wolf. All you’ve got to do is walk through the courtyard at 10.30 and you will know who’s who, who’s getting fat, whose box office is great, whose box office sucks, who’s got all the things right. Or you can choose to wholly isolate. But for my daughter Frances and for me I would say that that building has been a fortress of absolute safety. Its owner André Balazs keeps you safe, even if you’re broke and even if you’re going through shit.
My beauty and wellbeing gurus are Jasmina Vico, a facialist based in Fitzrovia. She’s not married to any product lines. She has magic fingers. The best facial I ever had. And I don’t like facials. Then there’s Dr Jerome Poupel who is a chiropractor and healer. He does JP McManus’s horses and also a lot of racing drivers and has contributed much to the restoration of my health. And Hortense Suleyman, with whom I practise a mix of Pilates and yoga.
In another life I would have been unhappy. I love my job. I like myself best when I’m singing. I know who I am.
I couldn’t do without my dogs. I have two Pomeranians, Bell and Shijo Kingo. I have never bonded with a dog the way I have with Bell. I said to my therapist: “I depend on the dog too much, I’m getting a second.” I had a friend who had two poms and a Bengal cat. So I said, “Exactly that recipe.” I called my new pom Shijo Kingo after my favourite samurai, and I have a cat named Cowboy who hasn’t talked to me in two years, but we’re cool.
The work of art that changed everything for me was Tracey Emin’s My Bed. We’re not like close buddies, but I always consider her a war buddy – in a different regime that fought the same wars.
When I feel the need to be inspired I tend my roses. For the past three summers, the Duchess of Cornwall rose from Trevor White Roses has bloomed first and stayed around the longest. I also have the Emily Brontë and Anne Boleyn roses from David Austin Roses and a rock ’n’ roll rose, with red and white stripes. The other thing is walking. I’ve joined the Pedestrianists, a group of urban walkers whose anti-tours involve day- (and sometimes night-) long drifts across London. You get your best ideas when you’re just frickin’ walking.
My favourite place to escape is Ischia. None of the superyachts can get in there, so the super-rich go to Positano. The food’s insane. I have an immune illness that has a lot to do with my diet. I was terrified the Italians would be like, “California phoney diet”. And instead the chefs all over the island were seeing who could do the closest to Ladurée macarons, but dairy- and gluten-free. Albergo Della Regina Isabella is the top-notch place to stay. I also go to Japan twice a year and go to a ryokan spa. You don’t do more than three days in a ryokan; you will get bored. Someone told me a particular French prime minister had been there for a month – they really must have needed to clear their head.
The most delightful musical experience of my life was a recent trip I and my co-writers on my forthcoming album made to the Royal Academy of Music in London to listen to baroque instruments. I want to use as many real musicians as I can. There was a guy playing a heraldic trumpet. Then a Bach bassline that sounded as if Bach was into Pantera or Radiohead’s Kid A. It blew my mind. I was inspired to do so by The Left Banke’s “Don’t Walk Away Renee” and The Zombies’ “Odessey and Oracle”.
An object that I would never part with is my gohonzon. It’s the scroll I chant to, inscribed by Nichiren Daishōnin in the 13th century. It represents the inherently enlightened potential of every human being. I chant Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō twice daily.
My favourite room in my house is my living room. It took me three years to persuade my manager that I should be able to buy a 17th-century Flemish verdure tapestry. Now I literally feel like I’m in a country manor. Then there’s my Fellini La Dolce Vita poster. It’s Japanese and it’s on linen. Cameron Crowe once said to me, “Your life isn’t a tragedy, Courtney. Your life is La Dolce Vita.” I’m like, “I’m going with that”. Many years ago, Sam Taylor-Johnson gave me her picture Fuck, Suck, Spank, Wank, which is on the wall. She introduced me to the whole world of YBA in the 1990s. There are also photographs of west London taken by the writer Jon Savage in 1977, one of them – Uninhabited London – showing a graffiti of the words “The Clash” that the band’s bassist Paul Simenon had painted. The negatives were given to the Tate. The way we received punk in America, it didn’t upset the whole damn thing, it didn’t create a different politics. But these pictures made me realise the importance of 1977 British punk in a way that I hadn’t appreciated before. When Kurt and I were married, the only great interview he ever gave was to Jon Savage. Kurt was like, “Yeah, I told him the truth.”
The last music I downloaded was drill. I’ve got really into UK female drill. I love that there’s all these female protagonists in hip-hop now. When I started, there just wasn’t that much for me to really glom on to. The last one that I bought is “Bonjour Cava” featuring Miss LaFamilia by Shaybo with her rapping in French and Yoruba and English. The musical aesthetic of drill is like Joy Division, sevenths. The drill that I like is British south London chick drill. And the last great band I saw was Picture Parlour at the Windmill in London’s Soho.
I’ve recently discovered calligraphy. I took a class when I did a pilgrimage near a monastery in Japan. I get why Steve Jobs did it. In Japanese there are 48 words for honour and there is a word for sadness that translates as “the flower – a morning glory closing”. It’s incredible. The other thing is a 35-year-old piece of footage that recently emerged of me in my first band Faith No More. I was wearing my white slip dress. I was born in that thing.
I learned to love fashion from my grandmother Louella, who went to the collections in Paris. She adored Balmain, Givenchy and Dior. She kept an 8x10 of her and her “Darling Hubert” – I think she loved Givenchy more than my grandpa Jack. I thought of Louella when I went to Kim Jones’s Fendi haute couture show last season. It brought me to tears. That’s the true haute couture I remember hearing about from grandma Louella.
I love wearing Batsheva, The Vampire’s Wife and La DoubleJ – created by women I very much admire. I love the origin stories of each of these lines and I feel I’m wearing part of their story. It helps that the clothes are beautiful. I also love Preen by Thornton Bregazzi. When I want to feel Notting Hill, it’s Preen. And of course, the queen herself, Vivienne Westwood. I am so grateful I got to work on her last campaign. I hadn’t worked with Juergen Teller since his rock-and-roll days. A friend of mine said, “You better like the face you’ve got because Viv and Juergen do not retouch.” My face has changed, I am 58. It was terrifying on that shoot, just ripping the bandage off filter and Photoshop. But really liberating, too. It is said that ageing in public is the most transgressive thing a woman can do. Fine! Watch me age. Vivienne couldn’t give a shit and she was beautiful. At one point we were both wearing twinning regency Westwood black and white dresses. She was alone on a table, Juergen shooting her, I ran for it, jumped up, grabbed her hand, said, “Arbus twins!” to Juergen, who got the shot. She was a wonder. And [her husband] Andreas Kronthaler will carry her legacy.
The best bit of advice I ever received was if you chant the lotus twice daily, it will vastly improve your life. A guy on Melrose Avenue, 1988. What is not wrong? I’ve been practising Buddhism since then.