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25 Years Ago: Kurt Cobain Marries Courtney Love

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Courtney Love had been pursuing Kurt Cobain for months, possibly years. Before Nirvana hit it big, the two musicians had crossed paths in the Pacific Northwest’s underground rock scene.

Cobain was aware of Love, as were most people in the scene, because of her roles in a couple of Alex Cox’s films, including Sid & Nancy. Love had developed a crush on Cobain after seeing him play with Nirvana in 1989. The Hole frontwoman claimed that the attraction was casual at first, and it didn’t become more serious until 1991, when Nirvana was on the precipice of fame.

According to an infamous 1992 Vanity Fair profile, Love relentlessly pursued Cobain, calling him, talking about him in interviews and even doing Buddhist chants in the name of their prospective relationship. Initially, Cobain wasn’t ready for it.

“I was determined to be a bachelor for a few months,” Cobain said in Come as You Are. “But I knew that I liked Courtney so much right away that it was a really hard struggle to stay away from her for so many months.”

In October 1991, as Nirvana was touring to support Nevermind, Love convinced a prospective manager to give her plane and concert tickets to a show at Chicago’s Metro. The relationship began that night, after the concert.

“I was there in Chicago when they consummated their relationship,” Danny Goldberg, Nirvana’s and Hole’s manager, told Vanity Fair. “We chatted for a while and Courtney worked her way into the other room, where Kurt was. I didn’t see sparks, but they did go home together. That was in early October. They were married in February.”

Although the love affair moved quickly, there were also problems. Cobain’s friends and associates of the band said that he was both impressed and repelled by Love’s gregarious and flashy nature.

“He thought I was too demanding, attention-wise,” Love said. “He thought I was obnoxious. I had to go out of my way to impress him.”

A more sinister appeal of the relationship was drug use. Before getting involved with Courtney, Kurt hadn’t been into heavy drugs. His new girlfriend, on the other hand, had admitted to having an on-and-off heroin habit since she was a teenager. Many, including Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic, felt that Cobain was intrigued by the idea of being a millionaire rock star junkie, and that Love was a conduit for that experience.

Love’s drug use was “all part of the package of building a home,” Novoselic said in the documentary Montage of Heck.

Courtney subsequently talked about the couple’s heroin binge that coincided with Nirvana’s first appearance on Saturday Night Live in January 1992. Not long before that night, Love had become pregnant with the pair’s first (and only) child. Frances Bean Cobain would be born in August – and, as a result of Love’s public comments about drugs, would be taken away from her parents for a time by child services.

After the SNL gig, Nirvana launched a tour of Australia, Japan and Hawaii. Two days after the trek’s final stop at Pink’s Garage in Honolulu, Cobain and Love decided to get married. Love claims that Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth tried to stop it from happening.

“Kim Gordon sits me down and says, ‘If you marry him your life is not going to happen, it will destroy your life’,” Love told the Guardian. “But I said, ‘Whatever, I love him, and I want to be with him! … It wasn’t his fault. He wasn’t trying to do that.”

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Undeterred, the couple wed in a small ceremony on Feb. 24, 1992 on Waikiki Beach. The pregnant Love wore a vintage dress that once belonged to actress Frances Farmer. Cobain donned a Guatemalan purse and green checkered pajamas, reportedly because he was “too lazy to put on a tux.”

Because Kurt wanted a private ceremony, there were only eight people in attendance – one of them Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl. Bassist Novoselic and his then-wife Sherri did not come because they disapproved of the pair’s drug use and Love’s growing influence over Cobain. Love claimed that she was the one who banned the couple from attending.

Instead of going on a big honeymoon, the couple spent the next few months at home, until Nirvana began a European tour in June. At the time, Love declared to Vanity Fair that “Life is like a perennial honeymoon right now. I get to go to the bank machine every day.” In recent years, she talked about Kurt’s post-wedding desires.

“He wanted to stay in the apartment and do heroin and paint, and play his guitar,” Love said in Montage of Heck. “That’s what he wanted to do.”

Neither the honeymoon period, nor the marriage would last that long. The couple experienced a rocky couple of years dogged by drug addiction, controversy and media scrutiny, while both tried to maintain their positions as rock stars. When Cobain committed suicide in April 1994, a note found in his wallet referenced his and Love’s wedding vows.

“Do you Kurt Cobain take Courtney Michelle Love to be your Lawful Shredded wife,” the note read, according to Spin, “even when she’s a bitch with zits and siphoning all yr money for doping and whoring.”

In death, Cobain has become lionized as a troubled, but brilliant, rock legend. Love continues to be reviled by many Nirvana fans and even some of the band’s members. In 2006, the troubled couple’s daughter, Frances, paid tribute to her late father via a photo shoot in which she wore his wedding pajamas.

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