Since the suicide of Kurt Cobain on April 8, 1994, his widow Courtney Love has been dogged by persistent rumors that she had a hand in it. More than 21 years later, Love has now issued a cease and desist against theaters showing Soaked in Bleach, a new documentary that gives a platform to Tom Grant, a private investigator and the lead Kurtney-murder truther.
“The Film falsely presents a widely and repeatedly debunked conspiracy theory that accuses Ms. Cobain of orchestrating the death of her husband Kurt Cobain,” writes the Hole singer’s attorney in the order (read it here). “A false accusation of criminal behavior is defamatory … which entitles Ms. Cobain to both actual and presumed damages.” No complaint has been filed with the courts as of yet.
From Suburban Hitchhiker and Daredevil Films, Soaked In Bleach centers on private investigator Tom Grant, hired by Love to find Cobain after he left a substance abuse treatment center in Los Angeles on March 30, 1994. During the period between the musician’s disappearance and the April 8 discovery of his body, Grant recorded many of the conversations he had with Love. Those recordings, paired with re-enactments, make up much of the film, though documentary footage as well as interviews with people close to the matter also are used.
The wide dissemination of the Courtney-killed-Kurt rumor can be traced back to early, freaky message boards and newsgroups (“alt.courtney.killed.kurt,” anyone?), but primarily the 1998 Nick Broomfield documentary Kurt & Courtney, in which several people who tangentially knew the couple in their pre-fame days are given ample screen time to provide vague and possibly drug-addled character assassination. That film, too, served as a platform for the findings of Tom Grant, and whose accusations are the basis for most of the vitriol against Courtney Love. (The Seattle PD reopened the investigation into Cobain’s death in 2014; it was, again, ruled a suicide.)
In a statement to Deadline, the producers of Soaked in Bleach called Love’s attempt to stop theaters from showing the film “a cowardly attack on the rights of free speech, free expression and free choice”:
Most of the opinions and theories presented in the film come directly from facts gathered by Tom Grant, the private investigator Courtney Love hired the week before Kurt’s body was discovered. Tom quickly became suspicious and tape recorded all his conversations with Courtney and others in the days leading up to and after Kurt’s death. The film uses those recordings to reenact Tom’s encounters with Courtney Love and others in Kurt’s inner circle. It also presents the views of Norm Stamper, Seattle’s Police Chief at the time, and Dr. Cyril Wecht, a leading forensic pathologist, who both question whether Kurt could have committed suicide.
Regardless of the recordings, it’s useful to remember that in the days and years following Cobain’s death, Love was an admitted drug addict, and any information that seems unclear enough to point to her lying should also be taken with a grain of salt (junkies are not exactly known for their capacity for the truth). And while I’m interested in watching this film, just like I’ve watched every other documentary and work of fiction surrounding these two compelling figures’ tumultuous lives together, it’s very instructive to think of the Courtney-killed-Kurt rumor as parallel to the Yoko-broke-up-The-Beatles rumor: they function for grieving fans to take the onus and blame off a male hero and lay it all on his woman counterpart, playing nicely into the sexist archetype of the scheming, evil woman out here trying to trap precious young man-geniuses into giving up their careers (or, more archetypically, castrating them).
Again, Courtney Love is no saint; she may even be a very bad person. But I have yet to see enough compelling, fact-checkable evidence to sway me from thinking that Kurt Cobain took his own life. (9/11 was an inside job, though.)
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