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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I’ve been listening to Nirvana’s Nevermind album recently. When it came out in 1991, I got it on cassette after work and ran home to listen to it even though I had the beginnings of a headache. In fact, I listened to it over and over on full blast until my headache developed into a blinding migraine. Guitarist Warren Cuccurullo — 9/11 conspiracy theorist, amateur porn star and member of cool band Missing Personsreportedly said, “You know, there have been a lot of casualties in rock-n-roll.” I was one of them! But at least I didn’t suffer permanent damage, unlike Warren, who, according to Wikipedia, believes that “the planes that hit the World Trade Center on 9/11 were a hoax created by computer-generated imagery.”

I only saw Nirvana live once, in 1993, when the band taped MTV Unplugged. My kind, patient and talented photographer friend, Frank Micelotta, was shooting the performance for the album art and took me along. (As I recall, a lot of his photos of lead singer Kurt Cobain were used to illustrate stories about Kurt’s suicide the following year.) I had a prime seat next to Kate Moss.

Frank was always photographing celebrities, but he made an exception once and took a picture of me. It’s framed and hanging by MrB’s night table. I put it — frame and all — in my crappy scanner to show you. It’s more sepia in real life.

WendyB at 26 years old. Photo by Frank Micelotta.

I remember that Frank said, “I know you’re not going to like this” because it wasn’t a smiley picture. He was right. I didn’t like it at first. But now it’s the one non-smiley photo of myself of which I approve.

In addition to the photograph, my souvenirs from that period of time include a Nirvana t-shirt. Even though I’ve sworn off the big t-shirt/leggings look, I briefly revived it for this post.

Photo by Jennine Jacob.

What Wendy Wore for This Post
T-shirt: Nirvana (1993)
Jeggings: Citizens of Humanity (2010)
Boots: Michael Kors (pre-2005)

Here’s the back of the shirt.

I tried to take a photo of the little holes left when my late dog, Mr. Chubbs, nibbled the shirt many years ago, but it didn’t come out. Chubbs wasn’t usually a shirt-nibbler. I don’t know what got into him that day. He did eventually suffer from doggy dementia; maybe t-shirt mastication was one of the earliest symptoms.

I also had a Hole t-shirt but it vanished a few years ago.  Did Mr. Chubbs eat it entirely? It was a tiny tank top so that’s possible. I was a huge fan of Cobain’s wife Courtney Love and her band Hole. I bought the shirt when I saw her at Roseland in May 1999. For a long time, Courtney could do no wrong in my eyes. Even the notorious 1992 Vanity Fair story about her pregnancy didn’t throw me. I was willing to believe that Courtney kicked heroin after she realized she was pregnant, rather than using late into her pregnancy as writer Lynn Hirschberg indicated.

Biographer Poppy Z. Brite says Vanity Fair airbrushed Courtney's cigarette out of this photo.

While I still listen to Hole’s albums Live Through This and Celebrity Skin (and sometimes even the first, harsher Pretty on the Inside), I’ve lost my tolerance for Courtney’s bad behavior. Her public harassment of her estranged daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, via Twitter on the girl’s 18th birthday, was particularly pathetic — especially because it happened about a month after Courtney started a style blog to improve her image. Does she seriously think bad outfit photos are the cause of her image problems? Worse than having her only child take out a restraining order against her? I don’t want to speculate on what ails Courtney. She went through all kinds of shit as a kid, but at some point, a terrible upbringing doesn’t excuse today’s destructive behavior. I’ve seen this kind of thing up close and personal: “talented but troubled,” which is so intriguing in a 20-something, is damn sad in a 40-something.  If you want to be a tragic pop-culture icon, you better die at 27, because 20 years later, it’s not a pretty picture … no matter how many fabulous outfit photos you post.

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43 Responses to “What Wendy Wore: Smells Like Teen Spirit”

  1. Eli says:

    It’s all rather tragic, wasnt a book written by or about her mother, basically doing the same thing? So sad to continue such a disgusting cycle, poor Francis Bean. It makes me scared to have kids, is it really that difficult to take care of them? Granted CL does not have her shit together at all

  2. Cameron says:

    Okay… this is just serendipity: My anti-spam word is one of the subjects of this post: tshirt.

    Anyway, I have a Sepultura T-shirt somewhere with my mom in Virginia in a storage facility along with my yearbooks and other things from high school. Maybe I should have my mom send it back so it can be more feminine later?

    And that is a beautiful photo your friend took of you way back when. I think I actually watched that episode of “Unplugged” back when I lived in Kansas–around the same time I had that Sepultura shirt, btw. What a great time for music back then.

    And poor Warren… did he take enough drugs to completely destroy his mind like a few others before him to come up with something as batshit insane as “computer graphics did 9/11″? Ohhhhh…

  3. Rebecca says:

    You were at the taping of Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged???? SO JEALOUS. That’s one of my favorite albums ever (I think it should be on every self-respecting indie kid’s “Must Own” list). I listened to it on repeat my freshman year of high school while reading J.D. Salinger’s Nine Stories.

  4. Susan says:

    OMG, you were there on the Unplugged show… that is an iconic one! I can listen to it for hours! thanks for sharing this story- and you look beautiful, you would look beautiful wearing anything… :)
    xoxo

  5. Susan says:

    oh and I agree about Courtney too. I have always thought she was very talented- but she ruined her life. I lost my tolerance for her when I realized that she ruins Frances’ life too.

  6. Mary says:

    Nirvana are one of my favourite ever bands, I still listen to them on a regular basis. That unplugged version of Pennyroyal Tea is most excellent, so jealous you were there! I saw them in 1991 at the Reading Festival, then twice in Melbourne in 92. I LOVE them so! Furthermore, I almost met Courtney at CBGBS in 91. I saw Hole play and the people I was with were saying ‘you gotta meet Courtney’ so there I was poised to say hello when she barged past me and almost knocked me over! Needless to say she was a mess. BTW that photo of you is utterly gorg!

  7. Brie says:

    I saw Nirvana live just a month before Kurt died.It was a surreal thing to have seen him that close to his death though his death did not shock me. Living in Washington State at the time, you saw things and have interactions with people of the grunge era when you attended all the shows/punk concerts. Kurt was sweet and shy…but very drugged up most the time near the end.

    Courtney…I loved “Live Through This” and it got me through a break-up that was awful soon after that album came out. I always knew she was self-destructive from what I observed…after Kurt died she photocopied and handed out copies of his suicide note to fans! I, unfortunately, own a copy because of this very fact. She also was barred from many of the clubs in Washington and Oregon for a time due to her causing drama. I have never looked up to Courtney but enjoy Hole’s music. She is talented but too self-destructive to use as a role model.

    BTW…that photo of you at 26? I think I saw you on the Unplugged show when I watched it…I have a good memroy for faces and I may have seen you in the audience because you look familar to me from that photo. I may be wrong but that is just the impression i get.

    • WendyB
      Twitter: WendyBrandes
      says:

      Good stories …

      I haven’t seen the Unplugged video in a long time but back in the day I never spied myself in it. I would only be visible in a big pan of the whole room because I was directly facing the band. Whenever the camera is on the band, you see people sitting to their side and in back of them.

  8. Jemina says:

    WOW, I LOVE that non-smiling pic of you, so artsy indeed, and WOW!!! you rock that oversized tee + leggings combo like no one else dear. That Rock tee and your smiley pic is QUEEN!!!

    Kisses
    J
    XOXO

  9. I wasn’t cool enough to like Nirvana at the time, I was still too busy reading Famous Five and making daisy chains. Lame! Of course now it is different (ok, I still like Famous Five and daisy chains, but whatever). That photo of you is fabulous.

  10. WendyB you are the epitome of cool in that well-worn Nirvana tee, casually throwing it out there that you were (and imagine I’m typing this next part in all caps) present at the taping of Nirvana Unplugged sitting next Kate Moss. !!!!! :0

  11. Your last line, YES.

  12. Rebecca says:

    True story: My husband was at the notorious concert in Portland where Courtney Love stomped off the stage after the entire front row began to chant “Show your tits!” He denies starting such an ugly thing.

    Anyways, I miss the old Courtney. The new version makes me pee a little.

  13. McGone says:

    I still can’t believe you were at that show. Got me all green-eyed with jealousy.

    Have you ever read Charles Cross’ Cobain biography “Heavier Than Heaven”? If not, I recommend it.

  14. Lara says:

    Okay Wendy, have you ever done a closet post? I am dying to know where you keep all your clothes! I can’t believe you still have a Nirvana tee!

  15. NancyDaQ
    Twitter: feralitomsn.com
    says:

    Courtney Love, she’s such a trainwreck. After the NYT article, I concluded that it’s not going to end well for her at all. Kind of sad, she has had so many opportunities to pull herself together and just keeps F’ing up.

  16. stacy says:

    OK… fantastic picture of you… not such a fantastic picture of Courtney (she kinds of looks like she’s in drag until you see the stomach).

    How lucky for you to be at that show!

    Oooh, and my anti-spam is “Jrotten!” How appropriate.

  17. that photograph is stunning. . i love non-smiling shots and yours looks pensive and deep in thought.

  18. Erika says:

    Haha, your last blurb about C.Love is hilarious. And I couldn’t agree more. And if anyone could look awesome in a Nirvana tee – it’s you.

    XOXO,
    style activist

  19. maya griggs says:

    I like your smiley photos, your smile could brighten up anybody’s day, but this photo is my favorite. Your hair and pose, everything is so elegant. Looks like one of those beautiful vintage photos..

  20. Sonia Luna says:

    One of my regrets is never to have seen Nirvana live, you can imagine I’m seething with envy right now!
    I agree with you on the “talented but troubled” thing, eventually you have to make peace with your past and get your act together, especially if you have kids of your own.
    I love that picture of you!

    • WendyB
      Twitter: WendyBrandes
      says:

      I’ve had to deal with a few people who are still fucking up their lives at age 40 because they had bad mommies and daddies. Meanwhile, they’re terrible parents/friends/professionals…you name it. I’ve got less and less tolerance for having people like that in my life. I feel sorry for them but I don’t want them ruining things for me.

  21. K-Line says:

    Your rant is SO on. Those bad ass rock stars gotta give up the crappy attitude when adulthood kicks in. I never saw that pregnant Love photo but it’s totally obvious they’ve airbrushed out a cigarette. Which totally disturbs me (addiction notwithstanding). Poor little fetuses have no control over in vitro substance abuse. And I’ve heard cigarettes can actually be more harmful than heroin in the long run (don’t quote me though, my doctor friend was tipsy when we had the discussion).

    OK, enough judgy-Krissie. That photo of you is gorgeous.

  22. lisa says:

    Hehe that shirt cracks me up! And that’s a gorgeous photo of you even though it’s not smiley.

  23. LiLu says:

    The “1993” credit is by far the best part of this. Love, love love.

  24. Joy D. says:

    Ugh you just had to add Courtney right? I hope one day to know the whole story on that….craziness. Part of me wants to hate her but I don’t know her at all.
    Back to fashion…
    I love that portrait photo, it reminds me of the movie Nowhere for some reason.

  25. Miss Janey says:

    Miss J LOVES the photo of WendyB and couldn’t agree more about Courtney Love. Being a train wreck is bad enough. Involving one’s children in it is unacceptable.

  26. drollgirl says:

    you saw nirvana live?! i never had the pleasure!

    and i love the portrait of you. your nose is positively perfect! adorable! love it!

    and COURTNEY. don’t get me started on that trainwreck! i am mean and hated her from the get-go. yeesh. she just gets worse and worse.

  27. You look fabulous, as usual.

    Sometimes, no matter how fast a person tries, they can’t outrun their past. It seems like this is the case with Courtney Love. Every time it looks like she’s going to get it together, she falls down again.

  28. Lynette says:

    Susiebub! What a great Anti-spam word!

    Anyway, I have finally arriven, as they say–I know that’s not a real word, but I love how it sounds–because I have actually met someone mentioned in your post, WendyB. In April, 2005 I reviewed “Prime” by Poppy Z. Brite for the Jackson Free Press, then I got to meet her and her husband Chris when Poppy came to our fan-tab-u-lous local book store Lemuria for a signing and reading. I found both folks to be intriguing, plus I was jealous of their living in New Orleans. Little did we know what awaited that city and the Mississippi Coast a few short months later.

    I wish so badly that the Jackson Free Press online archives still supported all of my book reviews, cooking articles, etc. from back then, but all I can get to appear are the first few sentences. It’s aggravating at best.

  29. Marian says:

    That photo of you at 26 is STUNNING! The mood captured is just wonderful! Breathtaking!
    xoxo
    marian.

  30. Siouxsie Law says:

    I love the pic of you smiling in the smiley face Nirvana shirt. One of the few pics of someone smiling widely while wearing that tee.

  31. Alicia
    Twitter: T
    says:

    I had no idea that Hole’s bassist was in the 27 club. I’m sad.

  32. ali says:

    just read that vanity fair article. You can’t help being charmed by her as the interviewer is charmed and repulsed by her…

    she just sounds like the most horrible kind of human being to have a personal relationship with.

    as for the troubled and talented 20something……the effort it requires to be untroubled is almost parallel to that required to be genuinely talented….

    i can’t imagine the appeal. it makes me sick. i guess i hate her because im terrified of becoming her.

    that picture of you is beautiful!

  33. Tabitha says:

    I love the Nirvana t, you are a girl after my own heart.

  34. Melissa
    Twitter: jeweldosedaily
    says:

    I was the same way for a while with the Courtney Love could do no wrong thing… especially after her performance in the people vs. larry flynt… I still don’t think she got enough credit for that one! lol