I went to see the documentary Hit So Hard at the British Film Institute tonight which told the story of Hole drummer Patty Schemel. I laughed at the blurb which said something like 'while egomaniac front woman Courtney drew the attention the more interesting story was happening elsewhere with Patty'. Even the person who wrote that must have giggled a bit. Are drummers ever interesting? Well maybe not, but her story is. The stuff about her sexuality was interesting and her mum was amazing! She was hilarious. They didn't dwell too much on her back story though, the lifeblood of the documentary was the Hole story.
I didn't realise Patty was such good friends with Kurt and lived with Kurt and Courtney in this strange tree-house place! All that footage was really interesting, and was very intimate and personal. It seems quite relevant I watched this today because I had a teeny Kurt vs Courtney spat with a friend of mine on Facebook this week and he said 'Kurt was my hero'. Well, Kurt was my hero, too, once. And some of the footage in this documentary would truly break your heart. There were so many interesting parts. I loved old 'ugly' Courtney with Kurt and baby Frances; I love seeing her how she was, her real beauty. But it's so weird when you see a baby in that environment when people are obviously on drugs and it's frightening and incongruous, and then you think of how it all turned out and it's just wholly depressing. I loved Kurt too, he was truly beautiful, and it's just another heartbreak on my list, which is why I make fun of him a bit now, because he hurt me when he killed himself (I know it wasn't a personal attack on me, but it was a tough time of my life and it felt like it then!) I do wonder what Frances thinks of it all. It must be hell for her.
I wasn't expecting the documentary to be so heartbreaking either: the death or Kurt and Hole bassist Kristen Pfaff was really harrowing (I liked Courtney being indignant that all the 'death attention' was on Kurt like it was some competition). Sounds like Kristen died from the Amy Winehouse treatment; she was trying to get off drugs, and then when she went back to them, her body couldn't cope.
And then there's the crossover with your own life: I was at that Reading in 1994 after Kurt died: I saw Courtney self-destruct and she was my idol because I'd watched my life self-destruct two years before. And my friends weren't on heroin or crack but one of us could easily have died on one of our Fisher Price versions of drugs when I was a teenager. It just takes a bit of bad luck or one one night that goes on too long.
And that's why you never get over the music of your teens because it is intrinsically linked to every vital adult emotion you'll ever feel: love, heartbreak, ecstasy and death. And that's when you feel all of them for the first time and it stays with you.
I always have this dismissive attitude to 'band members': it's like the way I am with Johnny Marr- without Morrissey there's no Johnny Marr, therefore who gives a fuck about Johnny Marr? Johnny Marr and Mike Mogis are just window dressing, and they're part writers. A drummer? They're less than that. But I have to backtrack on this a little now, because I understood watching this documentary that a band is a band of brothers (or sisters) and aren't interchangeable like the Sugababes with replaceable heads. The bit where Courtney ditched Patty from Celebrity Skin and put a LOOKALIKE in the video was truly jaw-dropping. And the way Eric and Melissa sat on the fence was shameful: it was like Jade Goody vs Shilpa Shetty all over again.
A word on the other band members then: Melissa still looks beautiful. Eric Erlandson looks like he's died of AIDS and just looked in the mirror at his own ghost. Honestly, he looks seriously ill. And Patty? Well, she looks pretty much the same as ever. But she's off the crack, so thank god for that. When she basically admitted she sold herself to get crack when she was homeless it was truly shocking. She was extremely brave and honest to admit that. I love the fact she called Courtney for help: that must have been hard. Especially as it was partly Courtney's fault. But I liked Courtney trying to get Patty off drugs in Hawaii and clearly being off her face herself.
I thought this might be one of those documentaries where Courtney would have banned Patty from playing any Hole tunes (let's face it, she bans every fucking thing) but actually Courtney featured quite prominently and amusingly (she was either high or pissed out of her face and appeared to be eating some sort of biscuits throughout - my boyfriend would have gone mad if he'd been there as she was talking with her mouth full at one point).
I liked the bits where Patty and Mellisa were almost in code talking about Courtney going off on one and how they took refuge in each other. And I liked Courtney's indignation at her dress getting ripped off in the crowd, like what did she expect from those animals? A cuddle?
Anyway the really cool part was that Patty came on at the end for a Q&A. Me and my friend John didn't dare ask our respective questions (mine was: what do you think of the current incarnation of Hole?) but the questions asked were all really interesting and she was very gracious and funny about Courtney and said she saw Dave Grohl at a 5-year-old's birthday party recently and he was moaning about getting old and having a bad back.
It's funny seeing everyone there of a 'certain age' ie. my age, all clinging to the past. You just feel part of something. And I left the house and saw the bright lights of the South Bank. Excitements.
Patty came across as thoroughly decent, honest, wise and forgiving. She seems to have found her happiness at last and it wasnt on 'heroin island'. You cant really say fairer than that. It's not easy to get off hard drugs and that must be respected. And it can't be easy to work with Courtney and come out the other side. So good on her. I wrote this blog on my phone on the tube, which is very unlike me, but I wanted to get my thoughts in some sort of order about it. I didn't expect it to affect me so personally, but it did. I thoroughly recommend this doc if you're a Hole fan and there's one more showing at the BFI on Tues, so get down there.
I also saw some of my old kittyradio crew down there, but that's another story. PS: I'm not dead!