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.

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind-the-scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
News
Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant
Life...arcane public school games explained
PROMOTED VIDEO
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
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    C# Algo-Developer (BDD/TDD, ASP.NET, JavaScript, RX)

    £45000 - £69999 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Algo-Develo...

    Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, Apache Mahout, Python,R,AI)

    £60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

    Data Scientist (SQL,Data mining, data modelling, PHD, AI)

    £50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...

    Java Developer - 1 year contract

    £350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

    Day In a Page

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone