25 Years Ago: Frances Bean Cobain Born to Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love
Frances Bean Cobain was famous before she was even born. That’s what happens when you’re the progeny of two of the most famous rock stars in the world: Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love.
But unlike the arrival of many celebrity babies, Frances’s birth wasn’t anticipated with just excitement and fascination, but also concern and dismay. That’s because Kurt and Courtney’s relationship had been plagued with rumors, even admissions, of bad behavior. Many of the couple’s friends and fans worried that Cobain and Love’s heroin use would result in pregnancy complications or, worse, a drug-addicted baby.
The pair’s drug use had already caused friction among their friends and bandmates. Cobain and Love became a couple in the fall of 1991, just as Nirvana and the band’s Nevermind was beginning to explode. Some of those close to Kurt suspected Courtney was hitching her star to his, while accusing her of getting Cobain hooked on heroin. Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic even refused to attend the couple’s wedding in February 1992, reportedly because he was disturbed by their drug intake.
Many more friends and acquaintances became upset about the newlyweds’ heroin habit when they learned that Love had gotten pregnant in January – the same month that she later described going on a heroin binge with Kurt in New York City when Nirvana played Saturday Night Live.
“We did a lot of drugs,” Love told Vanity Fair in an article that she later tried to dismiss. “We got pills and then we went down to Alphabet City and Kurt wore a hat, I wore a hat, and we copped some dope. Then we got high and went to SNL. After that, I did heroin for a couple of months.”
Although Love was known to be prone to exaggeration, those around her took these claims seriously (and others came forward to lend credence to her claims). Some friends encouraged her to have an abortion to prevent any drug-related pregnancy issues, but Courtney and Kurt were adamant about keeping the baby. Supposedly, Love underwent rounds of testing to make sure that the fetus hadn’t been harmed.
“Kurt’s the right person to have a baby with,” Love said. “We have money. I can have a nanny. The whole feminine experience of pregnancy and birth – I’m not into it on that level. But it was a bad time to get pregnant and that appealed to me. Besides, we need new friends.”
But it was the couple’s old friends that stepped in to keep Love and her unborn child healthy. When the couple entered, and quickly ditched, rehab facilities, industry pals like Jimmy Boyle (then working for Def American) tried to keep Courtney and Kurt clean. Some of them complained about how difficult that task was, describing their apartment as a “sick scene.” Even Love took a swipe at her new husband in the press for tempting her with drugs.
“She wanted to get off drugs,” Boyle said. “I brought her herbs to ease the kick, so she wouldn’t freak out so badly. I was bringing stuff over to her house every day because it’s a whacked-out thing to do to a kid.”
Amidst the chaos, the couple remained excited about the forthcoming addition to their family. After learning the baby would be a girl, Kurt named her Frances after Frances McKee of the Vaselines. Her middle name became Bean after the Nirvana singer decided that she looked like a kidney bean in a sonogram. He also made paintings of those ultrasound images in anticipation of Frances Bean’s arrival.
Although she wasn’t due until September, Frances Bean Cobain was born with little incident on Aug. 18, 1992 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. To the relief of fans and friends alike, the baby was healthy. R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe and actress Drew Barrymore were chosen as her godparents.
That initial sense of security would be short-lived. Within weeks of the birth, Frances was taken away from Love and Cobain by child services based on media reports of an inappropriate home life for a newborn. The case was eventually dropped, with the little girl returned to her parents. And then, when Frances was only a year and a half, Kurt took his own life. In his suicide note, he pleaded, “Please keep going Courtney for Frances. For her life will be so much happier without me.”
Frances’s childhood struggles didn’t end there, speckled with incidents that placed her in the care of her grandmother (Kurt’s mom, Wendy O’Connor) when Love was seen as an unfit parent. They were later reunited and, reportedly, mother and daughter have maintained a close relationship as the latter became an adult. Mostly raised out of the spotlight, Frances has slowly entered the public eye in recent years, working as a model, an artist and an executive producer of a 2015 documentary about her dad, Montage of Heck.
But to many Nirvana fans, she’ll always be Kurt’s baby girl, who somehow arrived healthy into a situation that was anything but.
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