Talking Books & Business Advice With Courtney Love
By Sarah Grant
While Courtney Love’s former contemporaries in Nirvana score a nomination for entry into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame, Love, 49, will end 2013 nomination-less, but nonetheless moving forward. The GRAMMY- winning singer/guitarist just finished touring with members of her band Hole (currently performing under Love’s name) with plans to release a new album and her memoir for Macmillan, Courtney Love: My Story, in the coming months.
In less than 20 minutes on the phone, the Love careened from one topic to the next from depression in the Hamptons to fixing trade lines to her bitter take on hip-hop. Most surprisingly, the loquacious front-woman talked about business advice she’s sought out and learned (the hard way) in her quarter-century career. Love is hardly the Lean In archetype, but she is proof that if you sit at enough tables — if you refuse to leave enough tables — you may eventually find yourself sitting square next to Warren Buffett, just as she did.
Read on for that story and plenty more on how Love earns her credit in the straight world.
I wanted to talk about business.
Yeah. What’s the best business advice you received?
I sat at Le Bernardin with Richard Johnson, who was editing Page Six, and I was sort of sick of how Page Six was treating me. I wasn’t being a bad girl or anything. He said [to me]: “New York is a 13-mile island and you only want to live in three of it, so even if you’re going to get a divorce, make sure it’s polite, because you’re going to see that person — again and again and again and again.”
Business advice? I am so close to understanding mortgage fraud entirely, but we’re not getting into that. However, I can fix your credit without breaking the law if you’re making under half-a-million, you only own one house, and you skipped a mortgage payment or something? I can get you up to $800.
The most important thing is personal finance, because corporate finance is something that happened to me while I was sleeping in the ‘90s and on a lot of drugs. So corporate finance, I had a vast, vast amount of wealth that I had no idea I had, because it was in different entities and LLCs. The most important thing, I think, is to keep three credit cards on the go, make those payments on time and watch every one of your trade lines.
The most useful thing is to have a couple CEOs as buddies. I have one major politico as a buddy, I have one major litigator — who is like, the closest voice to God there is in Manhattan — as a buddy, I have one LVHM CEO as a buddy, one hotelier as a buddy. We make big money, but they steal it all from us.
You were young and a mom when you inherited your late husband’s estate. What was it like having to learn the business at that point?
I’m still the [estate] owner. The problem is that I sold some of it, which was really, really stupid. That’s another thing: if you own something, don’t sell it. Just don’t. I mean, I do hedge funds with people I trust like Woody Harrelson and Edward Norton, who went to Yale. Although he did go for Japanese history, he’s still really good with money.
You know, my friend Oliver Stone made this movie called Wall Street 2 and I was sitting with my friend [big-time director/producer] Brett Ratner and this really old dude. [That night] every trader was in Cipriani’s; they were all kissing his ass. I had no idea who he was. Two days later, Brett got this text and it was from Warren Buffett, who was the little old man. He said that he really liked Courtney and he wanted Courtney to do a PSA. I had no idea who Warren Buffett was and I was sitting with him all night. That’s kind of on the stupid side, I have to say.
The other important thing, I just have to get this out, is: audit, audit, audit. If the IRS knows you’re going to audit, they get scared of you.
Being Courtney Love isn’t enough to instill fear?
No, they’re not scared of me. They just think I’m crazy. They think I’m crazy until I audit.
That sounds like a PSA right there.
Well, yeah, but if you audit, say you find $750 grand, they’re going to try and knock it down to $420 grand, but it doesn’t matter because the auditing only costs $20,000 and you just scared them so that next quarter, they’re not going to f*** you. You understand? But some businesses are almost like the drug business. T-shirt businesses — nickels and dimes. You can’t audit a t-shirt business, because they’re not going to be honest with you and they cook the books. They’re all in New Jersey and they’re all mafia run.
So, the music industry is not like the film or book industry, both of which can be sleazy. The music industry is the sleaziest of any of the entertainment industries, so it’s difficult to keep track of these things.
And whoever your first lawyer or your first manager is — that’s how the die is cast. There’s a brotherhood. They’re not going to disbar your first lawyer for not representing your best interests; they’re going to go from where that lawyer stopped off and try to improve from there. So there’s no going back and fixing.
Publicist: OK, only one or two more questions, please.
All we did is money! [Laughs]
You mentioned the music industry. Are there still tactics working against women in particular? How has it changed in two decades, from your point of view?
I think rock has taken a huge hit. There have only been four successful rock records this whole year. Fall Out Boy, Queens of the Stone Age, Vampire Weekend and one other I forget. Three of those albums were recorded under the same umbrella. It’s a niche market right now. I thought hip-hop would come and go, and kind of acclimate? Instead, it came and it started dominating and dominating and dominating. I’m still waiting for when it drops and there is a correction.
It doesn’t really affect me because I made it in under the line, but right now kids consider “making it” getting into a Buick ad, which is not something I would have ever considered, or getting on Glee. S*** like that.
You’ve said that Patti Smith was one of the first subversive voices that inspired you. I heard that you read Smith’s memoir before starting work on your own.
I was reading Patti’s, because mine is not Patti’s. I have a co-writer. Patti wrote that herself. And I’m reading more Russell Brand’s book, which is more my tone. Mine’s not as good as Patti’s. Patti’s is a specific story about her and [artist Robert] Mapplethorpe. Mine’s not as good, but mine is still good. Mine’s just not as… gracefully chiseled. I tried [to do that]. I went away for a week to a friend’s place in the Hamptons, but it was [during the] winter and so desolate and depressing I can’t even tell you.
Who are you working with?
A guy. I don’t have to say his name, but he’s done this before and he’s done this on a lot of really successful books.
What surprising memories have you unearthed?
We have a life map because in all my stories I’m always 15. The good news is that I don’t have to kiss and tell. Basically, I’m going to come out of this thing like the Virgin Mary. Obviously, I have progeny, so I’ve had sex once. Otherwise, you’re not getting any of that shit. I’m very discreet about that stuff. The only person I really talk about is me, me, me. I have lots of good stories, though: Johnny Depp gave me CPR once. There are some great some great stories in there.