Old Wives' Tales

Courtney Love and Sharon Osbourne have a lot in common. They are both outspoken, headstrong women who married men who later became monstrously famous musicians. They both had plastic surgery. They are both known for throwing things — Love for hurling makeup at Madonna, Osbourne for pelting Iron Maiden with eggs. And now, they've both written books about themselves. But the tomes of the two most (in)famous rock wives since Yoko Ono take us on vastly different, but equally sensational, trips. Here we roll out the high (and drunk) points of each.

Sharon Osbourne, Extreme: My Autobiography (Springboard Press)
Format: Chronological memoir, with a modern-day narrative thread piece at the beginning of each chapter that has the reader following Sha-ron around Beverly Hills for a day — April 20, 2005, to be exact.
Synopsis: Sharon Arden grows up in England. She works for her music mogul father, Don Arden. He rips her off financially and treats her like crap. She marries Ozzy Osbourne, becomes his manager, and severs ties with her father. Ozzy gets drunk and abusive for 11 of the next 12 chapters, but the Epilogue is serene.
Surprising scene: Ozzy Osbourne, "obsessed with Phil Collins" and playing Collins' first solo album, Face Value, over and over at full volume, until his bandmates throw the cassette out the window.
Interesting quote: Sharon Osbourne referring to Smashing Pumpkins founder Billy Corgan as "a lightbulb in trousers, Yul Brynner's mutant brother."
The point: Survival. Survival and sarcasm, and also knowing where to find a fabulous pair of custom Heidi Klum Birkenstocks, dahling. Osbourne tells her tale with candor and humor, and it makes for an entertaining (and alternately horrifying and touching) read.

Courtney Love, Dirty Blonde: The Diaries of Courtney Love (Faber and Faber, Inc.)
Format: Schizophrenic scrapbook, with postcards, letters, journal entries, handwritten lyrics, and Polaroid snapshots arranged in chaotic, semi-chronological collages, not accounting for blackout periods.
Synopsis: Courtney Menely grows up in Oregon, is a problem child, travels to England, then later L.A., then later Seattle, with various stops in between. Changes her last name, starts the band Hole, marries Kurt Cobain, and gives birth to their daughter, Frances Bean. Becomes the "grunge widow" after Cobain's death. Admittedly still recovering.
Surprising scene: Love penning a letter to Cobain some 10 years after his death, asking him to put a hex on Frances Bean's teacher.
Interesting quote: From an early letter from Cobain to Love: "Let's be mountain junkies and breed Satanic mall rats."
The point: Many people — especially Courtney Love — are morbidly fascinated with Courtney Love. Part of that is her drug-induced duality — she can be an amazingly intelligent, talented woman as Sober Courtney, or a plane wreck hitting a train wreck as Stoned Courtney. Dirty Blonde shows bits of both, but leaves plenty of demons unexorcised.


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