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?
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Sport
football
  • Get to the point
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

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

    £13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

    £18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

    Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

    £20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power