All hail Frances Bean Cobain
How one celebrity offspring has managed to avoid the trap of trading off her parents' fame.
Looking back, what will the Noughties be remembered for, pop-culture wise? Social networking, YouTube, The X-Factor and reality television (which meant everyone spent most of the decade under the bright lights of fame, if only thanks to the beam of their own webcam), or really high-profile celebrity deaths, of which this decade has seen many?
This year, as you crossed your fingers and hoped Pete Doherty would die (if only to prove that Mr Pork Pie hat was a real rocker) bigger stars copped it instead, including – in no particular order – Heath Ledger, Michael Jackson and Jade Goody. Last week even Peaches Geldof (never one to miss a trend) had a near-death experience, Twittering en route to Disneyland: ‘Just actually experienced a full on car carsh [sic] with the IDGAF [I Don’t Give A Fuck] crew. Wow, I guess we really don’t GAF… Honestly can’t believe were [sic] alive after that. And that the front of the car is totally fucked up and yet were [sic] still carrying on to Disney!?’
You know what, Peaches, I can’t either. Was the Grim Reaper having an off-day?
St Bob’s daughter, along with her celebutante sisters Pixie, Paplova, Pistachio and Heavenly Piranha Tiger-Lily, are part of the trend that rides tandem with death as a defining trend in this celebrity decade – that of the children of famous people becoming famous purely because they’re spawned by someone famous. In a way this is inevitable: as we’re all destined to be famous sooner or later, it makes sense that those birthed in fame get chased by the paparazzi from the cradle. And so we have an endless parade of models, actresses and popstrels all cut off a platinum-selling umbilical cord. Every Rolling Stone daughter has a contract with a modelling agency, while Lily Allen makes records, Jaime Winstone turns out to her brother Alfie’s film premieres, and Kelly and Jack Osbourne and Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie and Otis Ferry and Amber Le Bon attend the opening of so many envelopes…
So it’s all the more remarkable that the decade ends with a story about one celebrity offspring you’ve most likely never heard of: Frances Bean Cobain, born in 1992, only child of the late, great Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love. To date we know that she’s named after the guitarist in The Vaselines rather than Frances Farmer; that her unusual middle name is a homage to the fact that Kurt thought she looked like a kidney bean when in Courtney’s womb; that Drew Barrymore is her godmother; that she weighed 7lb 1oz when born in Los Angeles; that she has interned at Rolling Stone (where she dressed funny); that she has given only four interviews and celebrated her Sweet 16th with a ‘Suicide’ party where a competition was held to find the partygoer that looked ‘the most dead’.
As a woman and mother Courtney Love has always been unconventional. As John Peel recalled of one of her concerts after the death of Kurt, ‘Swaying wildly and with lipstick smeared on her face, hands and, I think, her back, as well as on the collar of her dress, the singer would have drawn whistles of astonishment in Bedlam. After a brief word with supporters at the foot of the stage, she reeled away, knocking over a wastebin, and disappeared. Minutes later she was onstage giving a performance which verged on the heroic… Love steered her band through a set which dared you to pity either her recent history or that of the band… The band teetered on the edge of chaos, generating a tension which I cannot remember having felt before from any stage.’
Hole’s 1994 album, Live Through This, is brilliant. And for Kurt, who described her as ‘a goddess who sweats ambition and empathy’ in his suicide note, she was (and I quote from The Intimate Sex Lives of Famous People) ‘the one’: ‘Seattle Police Department reports from the couple’s many domestic disturbance calls reek of animalistic rage – Courtney throws a glass at Kurt’s face; Kurt chokes her on the floor and slashes her arms with the broken glass; both parties refuse any medical treatment.’ ‘Somebody asked me recently about our celebrity lifestyle’, Courtney said in interview with The Sunday Times. ‘Did they think we were going to Eden Rock and driving around in an Aston Martin? We did not even have a Lexus and we lived in a shithole.’
As a parent, however, she’s fared pretty well. Frances isn’t much interested in the fame game. ‘I get [why people are interested in me]’, she told Harper’s Bazaar. ‘I really do but at the same time it’s creepy… I haven’t done anything. If you’re a big Nirvana fan, a big Hole fan, then I understand why you would want to get to know me, but I’m not my parents.’ She has already turned down a host of opportunities offered to her on the basis of her genetic inheritance and so it seems rather sad that she’s now a news story: Courtney has lost custody of Frances, and Frances has moved in with her grandparents.
With a bit of luck Courtney will get herself back on track once again and this will be the last time Frances is troubled by the press. As an anguished Courtney wrote on Facebook, ‘She should go be a writer or an a…rtist which I support 100% but this is a circus and it pains me cos I know she hates it.’ And as Frances has said, ‘You want to be famous? Work your ass off and make decisions that could potentially catapult your career into a lasting one.’ I’d toast to that in the coming decade.
Emily Hill is a reporter on the Londoner’s Diary at the Evening Standard. Visit her personal website here.