5 Things I Learned While Working for Courtney Love

Before I entered the world of finance, I worked in the film and television business.  I started right out of school, a hungry kid willing to work hard to get my foot in the door.  My first job was sweeping up cigarette butts and hauling garbage on set.  My hustle did not go unnoticed.  My cliche beginnings led to a series of jobs working for all sorts of interesting characters and culminated in above-the-line credits in major motion pictures.  Quite an adventure.  One of those interesting people I met along the way was Courtney Love.

I worked for a production company associated with a film Ms. Love had been cast in.  She had signed on to the movie at the last moment and the company was scrambling to fulfil her rider.  One of the items on her rider was employment of a straight, white, under-25-year-old, male assistant.  I shit you not.  I was the youngest employee at the company and the only one who fit the bill.  I was also the only one stupid enough to take on such an assignment.  So, as a favor to my boss, I agreed to be Ms. Love’s assistant with the promise that I could have my old job back if things got weird.  I was hired and fired within 9 days.

My main responsibilities were being at Courtney’s side and acting as a walking talking cigarette vendor, making sure that no Teamsters were present when she was on the phone (she felt that Teamsters were spies), and guarding her trailer door to make sure producers didn’t interrupt her when she was having her “makeup done.”  Keep in mind that this was during a much publicized period in her life when she was apparently at the peak of her drug abuse.

A typical interaction would go something like this:

Courtney Love: Do you have any cigarettes?

Me: Yup.

(I’ve been advised by her previous assistant to carry no less than 12 packs of smokes and 10 lighters at all times)

I pass her the pack of cigarettes.

CL: You gonna make me work for it?  Grab one for me.  I don’t have pockets.

I pull out a cigarette.  Courtney is wearing a jacket with several large pockets.

CL: Light?

I offer her the lighter.

She just holds the cigarette in her mouth.  Silently prompting me to light it for her.  I move in to light it and she becomes frustrated before I can strike the flint.  She snatches the lighter out of my grip.

CL: I’ll do it.

She’s called away for some reason.  We walk and talk and 10 minutes later she wants another.

CL: Do you have any cigarettes?

Me: Yup.

I reach into the pack and start pulling one out.

CL: Ugh, just give me the pack.  You love rationing these, don’t you.

Me: Uh, okay.

CL: Hello!  Lighter?

Me: I think you still have one.

CL: No I don’t.

Me: It’s in your pocket, I can see it.

CL: Are you calling me a liar?

Me: Wha–

CL: If I had a lighter why would I ask for one from you?

I pass her a lighter and she disappears with the pack of cigarettes and lighter.

15 minutes later, she reappears:

CL: Oh. My. God.  I need a smoke.  Why are you never there when I need something?

Me: I just gave you a pack.

CL: No you didn’t.

Me: (Sigh) You’re right.  I didn’t.

I pass her another pack.

CL: (rolls eyes) I can only smoke these one at a time.  Don’t pass me a pack if I only want one.  If I want a pack, I’ll ask for it.  Okay babe?

I open the pack and pass her the cigarette.  She grabs the whole pack and lighter out of my hand and starts searching for her ringing phone.

CL: Where the f*ck did you hide my phone?

Me: I think it’s in your pocket.  I can hear it ringing.

CL: It’s not in my f*cking pocket.

She turns and walks over to the table and puts down the cigarette and searches for the phone.  She emerges with the phone in hand.

CL: I told you it wasn’t in my pocket.

Me: ???

She pauses as if trying to gather her thoughts.

CL: Do you have any cigarettes?

Imagine this exchange multiplied by every task and possession.  Cell phones, computers, clothes and other substances were all consumed at a rapid rate.

Here are some of the life lessons I learned during my nine days working for Ms. Love.

1. Don’t do drugs.

Spending time around someone who was at the peak of substance abuse problems sealed the deal for me to never, ever, ever become a user of drugs.  To this day I’ve never even dabbled.  I’m sure that Ms. Love still has a PA/assistant standing outside her trailer/hotel room/bedroom, making sure that no one disturbs her while she is having her “makeup done.”

2. Prohibition doesn’t work.  You can buy drugs and charge it back to large publicly traded corporations.

This experience opened my eyes to the sophistication and pervasiveness of the underground economy.  If you know the right nail salon, you can buy illegal narcotics and get a receipt for beauty treatments.  It’s not uncommon for celebrities to undergo beauty treatments and be reimbursed for said treatments by the studio.  I’ll leave it at that (Note: I never personally purchased anything illegal for Ms. Love).

3. If you act like jerk no one will want to work with you.  No matter who you are.

Until this point in my career I had only heard stories about actors “behaving badly.”  While working for Ms. Love I saw some tantrums that bordered on performance art.  Here’s my take on it: you can only act like an asshole if you make over $40 million per year.  Otherwise, you’re seriously damaging your career prospects.  Regardless of fan base, I doubt that anyone would hire Ms. Love for another acting gig with her reputation.Life feels lighter and easier when you make less demands on others.

4. If you are paranoid that bad things will happen to you, they probably will.

Ms. Love was constantly freaking out when a Teamster would walk within earshot of her while she was on the phone.  In her mind, the Teamsters were listening in on her conversations and reporting them to someone.  Teamsters are the transportation on a film set.  Most of them are essentially truckers and they’re definitely not spies.  I don’t know what Ms. Love was worried about exposing but I do know that this behavior manifested tragedy in her life.  She was an absolute drama factory — custody battles, miscarriages, scorned lovers, you name it.  All in the span of 9 days.

5. Don’t try and change who you are.

There’s a great line from a a famous rapper that says: “No matter where you go, you are what you are playa. And you can try to change, but that’s just the top layer. Man, you was who you was before you got here.”  Ms. Love’s perfect role is as the eccentric, volatile muse to rockstars.  I can’t blame her for wanting to reinvent herself as a glamorous movie star, but that wasn’t her.

It’s crazy looking back from my current vantage point knowing that I used to be a clueless kid taking orders from a drug addict.  For better or worse, this experience was a part of my journey.

A friend of mine sent me this article, which prompted this trip down memory lane:

Courtney Love’s Ex-Assistant Shopping Tell-All Book — She’s a Delusional Drug Addict — TMZ

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