Street Eats

I Loved Courtney

When She Danced

On a Friday night in 1996, I crowded into Seattle's Neptune Theatre for an opening-night screening of Milos Forman's The People vs. Larry Flynt. After a relentlessly hokey opening sequence depicting Flynt's backwoods childhood, the film leapt forward to Flynt's first sighting of the woman who'd become the closest thing the bullet-ridden pornographer would ever have to a soul mate: Althea Leasure, portrayed in the film by Courtney Love.

First appearing as an underage stripper in a Flynt brother's nightclub, Althea/Courtney sashays onto stage to the McCoys' 1965 hit "Hang on Sloopy," stripping down to panties while dancing in a manner that was brilliantly, perfectly... okay. Nothing fancy --no choreographed flourishes, no "steps," just a natural actor outsmarting a thousand singers- turned-movie-stars before her by rejecting vanity and narcissism to dance exactly as well or as poorly as the woman she was hired to play would have.

Anyone tempted to dismiss Love's achievement is directed to recall Barbra Streisand's nails in The Prince of Tides (which were meticulously sculpted and lovingly shot throughout the film) and Madonna's yoga poses in The Next Best Thing (ditto, ditto). When Love chose the messier path of Method, she made good on her once-pompous declaration of her acting ambitions: Forget Grace Kelly or Audrey Hepburn --Courtney wanted to be "fucking James Dean."

The coming years brought only disappointment in Love's career on celluloid, most notably in the video for Celebrity Skin's "Awful," a wonderful song ruined by a concert video filled with images so mundane--screaming into a wind machine, crowd-surfing in slow motion--it made me wish Kurt had pulled a murder-suicide.

But for a brief, shining moment, Courtney Love was the best and smartest rock-star actor that ever was.

David Schmader's favorite Courtney moment not documented above is Love's celebrated interruption of Kurt Loder's post-MTV Video Music Awards interview with Madonna, during which Courtney fell off her chair and landed on the ground on her back.

 

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