Much hue and cry has been raised about a recently released letter Seattle police found in Kurt Cobain’s wallet at the scene of his suicide.
The note, written on stationary from the Phoenix Hotel, seems to disparage Courtney Love as a “bitch with zits” in marked contrast to his suicide note, which referred to her as a “goddess of a wife who sweats ambition and empathy.”
This has led to speculation that Courtney doctored the suicide note to make herself look good, and revived the sundry speculation that Love played some role in murdering Kurt.
“Do you Kurt Cobain take Courtney Michelle Love to be your lawful shredded wife,” the note reads, “even when she’s a bitch with zits and siphoning all yr money for doping and whoring…”
But there’s reason to believe everyone might be drawing the wrong conclusion. Almost every headline about the letter has attributed it to Cobain—including this one in Billboard—but I’ve yet to see any article that offers solid proof for arriving at this conclusion.
What if Kurt didn’t write it? What if it was written by Courtney herself?
Let’s start with a handwriting analysis the likes of which you might have seen on Pawn Stars. Here’s the note in question:
Now here is a known exemplar of Courtney Love’s handwriting:
If you look at the two notes together, the scraggly handwriting looks very similar, especially when you compare the letters in Courtney’s name. You also see that the letters in both notes run together in a sort of debased cursive.
Now let’s look at an example of Kurt’s handwriting from his suicide note:
I’m no handwriting expert, but what leaps out to me is that Kurt’s writing is much less like cursive than Courtney’s. Kurt writes in a blockier, print style, without the letters running into each other the way Courtney’s do.
Here’s another example of Cobain’s writing, this time from his journal, where you can see the difference even more prominently:
As you can see, Kurt’s letters almost never run into each other — each is very distinctly printed and rarely touching the letter next to it.
Beyond handwriting, let’s examine the contents of the Phoenix letter—the “voice” of the writing.
It begins: “Do you Kurt Cobain take Courtney Michelle Love …” This is obviously a mockery of a wedding vow. The structure of the sentence — “Do you Kurt”—sounds like what the minister would be asking him. Does it make sense for Kurt to refer to himself this way, as a separate entity? If he wrote it, wouldn’t it be, “Do I, Kurt Cobain, take …”?
Now let’s look at the subject of the vow: “Courtney Michelle Love.” The use of the middle name is the interesting part. From childhood, I remember seeing many girls use their middle name when they write out their signature — I recall seeing line after line in notebooks where a girl would write her full name over and over, as if she was practicing. It’s a very “girly” thing to do.
When it comes to guys, I’ve rarely seen men use their own middle name, let alone their wife’s. Some guys barely even remember their wife’s middle name! And if a guy does use a woman’s middle name, it is always in an attempt to be romantic. I’ve never heard a guy use his wife’s middle name when he was being angry or critical of her.
Next let’s look at the insult at the heart of the matter. The letter refers to Courtney as “a bitch with zits.” I’ve heard many guys cuss out women, calling them all sorts of horrible names, but never have I heard a guy focus on “zits” as the thing they most hate about their girlfriend or wife. Instead, this seems much more like the self-mocking lament of a teenage girl obsessed with her appearance and despairing that others will view her as just a “bitch with zits.”
The next insult — “siphoning all yr money for Doping and whoring”—doesn’t scan. It’s guys who need money to go whoring, not women. This reads more like a parody of Sid and Nancy. Or the kind of thing a woman would say if she were in a male-dominated industry and wanted to show she could be just as crude as the guys.
We must also consider that Cobain was carrying this note around in his wallet. Do guys carry angry screeds against their wife in their wallet? No, they are more likely to keep cherished love letters. For that matter, if Cobain had written this to lash out at Courtney, wouldn’t he have sent it to her, so that she could feel the brunt of his anger?
Lets consider the possibility this note was in fact written by Courtney herself. Now it starts to make more sense. The emotion echoes the Lana Del Rey lyric currently in heavy rotation on commercials for MTV’s Catfish: “Will you still love me when I’m no longer young and beautiful?” In this case, it’s something like, “Will you still marry this bitchy, zit-covered girl?” In both cases, the female protagonist is voicing the same sentiment: “How can you think I’m beautiful when I see myself as so ugly?”
And Kurt’s answer, judging from the fact that he cared enough to carry the vows around with him in his wallet, would seem to be a resounding, “I do!” This is the equivalent of “in sickness and in health.” Yes, I will stay with you when you have zits and act like a bitch, because I love you.
Even if the note is shown to be Kurt’s handwriting, it wouldn’t negate this alternate theory. After all, we can imagine Courtney dictating these vows to Kurt, and him scribbling them down and saving them, perhaps to pull out and show her on an anniversary.
It’s practically a cliche that soldiers carry love letters from their loved ones from home in their wallets. Doesn’t it seem more plausible that this is why Kurt was preserving this note, rather than as a constant reminder of his burning hatred of his wife’s pimples?
UPDATE: Turns out I was right. The full note has now been released, and once you see the bottom of it, there’s no doubt it was written by Courtney, who included this additional vow: “Will you promise to fuck her at least once a week, O.K.”
UPDATE II: Courtney Love tells the The Seattle Times that she wrote the note in 1991. Cobain died in 1994.
From The Seattle Times:
Love’s authorship is supported by two sources who examined the handwriting, including Love’s sister, Nicole Jon Carroll, and a former employee of the Kurt Cobain estate who has closely examined Cobain’s and Love’s journals.