Two widows, one heroine

Some rock wives have a post-baby breast job. Others wash hubby's underpants. By Justine Picardie

Given that suicide is the ultimate distinction on a pop star's CV, it is hardly surprising that, in a convenient symmetry, two rock widows are currently to be seen on the publicity circuit at the same time. Centre stage is Courtney Love, the wife of dead American rock star Kurt Cobain, who shot himself in the head last year; standing in the wings is Deborah Curtis, the wife of dead English cult hero Ian Curtis, who hanged himself 15 years ago.

Courtney Love, recently in this country to promote her new album, Live Through This, is now as famous as her revered grunge-God husband. She's the one on the cover of this month's Vanity Fair, dressed as an angel in a presumably ironic comment on her reputation as rock'n'roll's newest, biggest hell-raiser. She has also been hailed as a feminist hero ("with a capital F," she declared last week), even though she wears teetering high heels and a see-through baby-doll nightie on stage (that's ironic, OK?) And after the shock-horror Pregnant Courtney Takes Heroin scandal, she now appears to have been rehabilitated, in popular imagination at least, as the caring, sharing mother of her small daughter, Frances Bean. Plus, every other rock star in the Western World apparently wants to have sex with her. Courtney Love, a formerly screwed-up stripper who is now hailed as an icon for the Nineties, has therefore proved what every other woman believed to be impossible: that, yes, you can have it all.

Meanwhile, up in Macclesfield, Deborah Curtis has been quietly writing a book (Touching from a Distance, Faber, £9.99) about life with her husband, who built a flourishing career out of misery (and, incidentally, paved the way for Kurt Cobain as the voice of angst-ridden youth). Curtis, as one might have expected from a man who named his band Joy Division after the female concentration-camp prisoners kept alive to be used as prostitutes by the German army, turns out to have been a complete pig. He left Deborah and their baby daughter at home with no money to pay the electricity bill, while he lived it up on tour with a groupie known to the rest of the band as "the Belgian boiler".

Deborah, who had been his girlfriend since she was 16, says: "I tried to provide a steady background life for him to depend on - a shelter." She nursed him through his increasingly frequent epileptic fits, but was soon deemed to be bad for the band's image. ("If Ian was going to play the tortured soul on stage, it would be easier without the watchful eye of the woman who washed his underpants.") When she did dare to turn up backstage at a Joy Division gig, she was made to feel embarrassingly unstylish and therefore redundant. As she observes, "How can we have a rock star with a six-months pregnant wife standing by the stage?"

Courtney Love, it seems, has the answer. It's fine to be the pregnant wife of a rock'n'roll hero if you continue to look cool; and even better if you're ready to go on tour soon after giving birth, after a trip to the plastic surgeon to get your breasts back into shape, and with a reliable nanny to take care of boring details like dirty nappies and baby food. Oh, and it helps to be thin, too (child-bearing hips simply aren't hip, you know).

Most important of all, even if you are a rock goddess yourself, it's best to know your place. As Courtney Love told Vanity Fair, in their marriage "Kurt wore the pants in a big way". That's presumbly why she's got a "K" tattooed an her belly, to prove her eternal devotion.

It is hard not to be completely gripped by the continuing Courtney Love saga. (You can already imagine the next instalments: Courtney Goes Gay! Courtney Weds Keanu!! Courtney Runs For President!!!) Still, in her own way, Deborah Curtis is just as much of a rock'n'roll survivor. She has successfully raised her daughter, to whom her book is dedicated, and she has also had another child in a happier second marriage; she has, moreover, reached her late thirties sane, purposeful, and very clearly in charge of her own business - a Macclesfield recording studio. This is, I realise, not nearly as glamorous nor as profitable an occupation as Courtney Love's, but nevertheless, qualifies Deborah Curtis to be recognised as a true feminist heroine, albeit of a more low-key variety than the ones who make it on to the front cover of Vanity Fair.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law

footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League
Life and Style

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
Designer Oscar de la Renta takes a bow after showing his Spring 2015 collection in September, his last show before his death
fashionThe passing of the legendary designer has left a vacancy: couturier to America’s royalty, says fashion editor Alexander Fury
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    IT Project Manager

    Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

    Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

    £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

    Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

    £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

    IT Manager

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

    Day In a Page

    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

    'You need me, I don’t need you'

    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
    How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

    How to Get Away with Murder

    Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
    A cup of tea is every worker's right

    Hard to swallow

    Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
    12 best children's shoes

    Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

    Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
    Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

    Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

    Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Let's talk about loss

    We need to talk about loss

    Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Women may be better suited to space travel than men are