Longform

Shooting Star

Page 4 of 11

But always, the pall settles back over him like a shroud.
"I hope the record company gets my ass busy, soon," he says. "I don't want to sit around, thinking about all this awful shit every day anymore."

No, Curt says, he doesn't want to talk about his brother's late wife.
"I'll just spit vitriol. I'll say this much: She was a groupie. Also, I always thought she'd kill my brother first. Beyond that, I don't believe she deserves any coverage, to be quite honest. If she's out there in ghost land right now, and she knows you're doing this article, she's laughing. She's going, 'Fuck, this is so perfect.'"

Michelle Tardif was born in the province of Quebec in March 1962. She was 36 when she died, two years younger than Cris. Curt says he and his brother first met her after a Meat Puppets concert in Toronto, sometime in 1985. "She used to come to all our shows up there and just try and hang out with the band."

When Tardif moved to Tempe in 1988, Curt says, "It was like she just descended from the clear blue." Tardif spoke with a French-Canadian accent and was physically attractive, before drugs turned her into a scarecrow. She was tall, 5-foot-9, with the eyes to match her long brown hair.

Tardif's father was a surgeon, and she traveled throughout Europe with her mother as a child and young teen. After she graduated from high school in Montreal, she enrolled at Concordia University, also in Montreal, to study literature. Her mother, Simone, says Michelle met an older Greek filmmaker who was teaching at Concordia's film school, and followed him back to Europe when she was 18. She modeled in Paris for about three years, then returned to Montreal and finished her degree.

Simone Tardif says her daughter told her a few months before she died that she began doing heroin in Montreal following her return from France, but didn't let heroin start doing her until she moved to Arizona, where cocaine and heroin come cheap and easy, one stop from Mexico.

(During her residence in Arizona, Michelle freelanced several articles for New Times' music section.)

Among the Kirkwoods' close friends in Tempe and Phoenix, Michelle Tardif is not remembered with fondness. They say she was combative, in your face, and behaved as if she were on camera most of the time. Curt still calls her "queenie," and remembers her pulling a chair from beneath a 10-year-old girl at a party "just because she could."

"I don't think anyone ever figured out exactly what Michelle's deal was. She always just seemed really out of place, and trying way too hard to compensate. She was just heinous with that mouth. Her whole deal was, 'Here I am. Now, deal with me.' She was just so, so punk rock all the time.

". . . she set her sights on my bro, who's always been weak where women in his life are concerned."

Cris had had a junkie girlfriend once before. Curt says his brother saved her life when she overdosed on heroin in a Tempe home the brothers shared. The three of them had been doing heroin together, and Curt was in the living room when his brother yelled from the bedroom that his girlfriend was dying.

Curt took one look at her, dialed 911, then went into his room, closed the door, plugged in his guitar, turned the amp way up, and started to wail.

"This was back when I had long, blue hair and did dope," Curt says. "I didn't know how it all turned out until this lady cop walked into my room. My brother had given her CPR and kept her alive until the paramedics got there, and she made it. I think it was about then me and my bro decided it was time to edit drugs out of our lives. The truth is, Cris and me, our lives were always rife with drug abuse--our own and others'--so it's no wonder one of us wound up fucked, really. Still, my bro and I conscientiously stopped shooting up dope more than 10 years ago. I thought we'd come out the other side unscathed.

"The ironic thing about Cris being all wiped out is, I was always the crazy one. I was the one who got all fucked up on drugs in high school. My mom used to have to send him to come get me, because I'd get too dusted and not know where I was. That was 20 years ago. Same locales, though. Same fuckin' places. He had to come scrape me off the floor one time from a place in Tempe just around the corner from the house where he lived with Michelle, and that was back when Tempe was a long way from Sunnyslope. He was pissed that time. He was like, 'Mom made me drive all the way down here, you stupid motherfucker. I hope she kills you.'"

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David Holthouse
Contact: David Holthouse