by Gary Aker

“He’s a single electric cord plugged into some primal surge screaming up through a wall latex pink...pumping rhythm red... in echo.”– Two Louies Magazine, 1982.

I wrote that about Rozz Rezabek-Wright after seeing his Theatre of Sheep at the old Luis’ LaBamba Club. Little did I know that sixteen years later I’d be watching Rozz at Portland’s Cobalt Lounge. The original Theatre of Sheep was all there: Rozz, Jimmy Haskett, Jim Wallace and Brian Wassman... all except sweet Leslie– the beautiful, anorexic looking redhead who shined from the stage like Rozz’s reflection; who wanted to marry Rozz and live happily ever after with her hero who was, “poised to the be the rock-n-roll kingpin of the Northwest.” Or so said the music press of the day. And then came Courtney. Suddenly, Rozz’s life was a living hell.

Back at the Cobalt in ‘98, Rozz is repeating in mantra from the stage, “Ebert loves me... Ebert loves me.” He’s referring to Roger Ebert of Siskel and Ebert who reviewed the Nick Broomfield documentary, “Kurt and Courtney,” on their latest show. Ebert said Courtney was “merely a hypocrite and a control freak,” not a murderer, after showing clips that gave Rozz about ten seconds of network screen time. Rozz is featured prominently in the film as Courtney’s ex-boyfriend. According to Rozz, he was offered $500, but demanded and received $1,000 counted out in hundreds into his hand before he would say a word to Broomfield.

Later, Rozz would take me down into the “bomb shelter” of his SE Portland bungalow to dig out the Courtney archives and cut loose.

“She’s elevated herself to being a former girlfriend and I’ve gone along with it, but basically, she just put her hole in my face,” Rozz said down in the dusky basement as his wife and son padded around above us making tacos. “I was real nice to her in the Nick Broomfield movie because I don’t want to sound like sour grapes... like she made it; I didn’t.” But now, after seeing Courtney’s new biography, “The Real Story,” the gloves are off. Rozz pulled out pages from the authorized Courtney biography (not the unofficial “Queen of Noise” biography, written by Melissa Rossi with a huge assist from Rozz and his Courtney memorabilia.) He began reading from the manuscript, “The Real Story”:

“In the morning he asked her (Courtney) to make him (Rozz) oatmeal. She took special care to add currants... and whole cream. He took one look at it and threw it across the kitchen at her, ‘You stupid bitch! Don’t you know singers don’t eat dairy!’”

Rozz joked that Courtney couldn’t make instant oatmeal, that she could burn tea. But he’s not amused. In fact, he’s hired an attorney in New York. Maybe he’ll sue.

“Courtney pays twenty-five thousand a month of Kurt’s money to Pat Kingsley to keep her in those little blurbs in “In Style” magazine... and keep her in this circle... that’s one-hundred fifty thousand a year,” he said, missing the math by half. “I don’t see how you can give yourself a name like Courtney Love when you are so full of hate,” Rozz said, digging through the boxes in the basement that make-up this huge chapter in his life, closed, but now opened by the Broomfield movie and the new Courtney biography.

“The traditional music mouthpieces have black listed Courtney’s biography (“The Real Story”)... “Variety” called it a hit list, a vendetta.” And Rozz has clearly been hit hard by it. Blind sided. Hell hath no fury like a former punk rocker scorned.

Back in ‘78, before Courtney, Rozz was the lead singer for Negative Trend-- a California hardcore punk band. “We were the first punk band to tour the West Coast,” Rozz said.

“Negative Trend was a very seminal band,” Rozz prided. He was only eighteen and standing on the brink of stardom. “Malcolm McClaren offered to manage Negative Trend and we said, ‘ No rules, no rules. We’re anarchists.’ Told him to fuck off. So he went off and did Bow Wow Wow, Boy George... I wasn’t the one who said, ‘We’re anarchists.’ It was the bass player who’s very anarchistically dead.”

Twenty years later, Rozz just signed a nostalgia record deal with White Noise to re-release Negative Trend on CD. As the only surviving member of the band, Rozz will receive 33% royalties.

“There’s a lot of things more important than Courtney,” Rozz said. “Do you know how monumental it was for me at age eighteen to have Dan Rather, Peter Jennings, Barbara Walters, Britt Ekland, Rod Stewart backstage (for The Sex Pistols/Negative Trend at Winterland) and we got the hook; we couldn’t play... The Sex Pistols had hired us to disrupt the show... to start a riot. After 12 days in America, the Sex Pistols had become Kiss-- they’re a caricature of themselves because of the media attention and there’s nothing they can do to shock people. So they hired us because they heard we were anarchists: we blew up Safeway executive’s cars. Which was true. We got involved with a group called Upshot that grew out of the Weathermen...

“Bill Graham’s security took us outside and beat us up and took our gear. Bill Graham pretends it’s all a mistake and says you go ahead and play... but we don’t have any gear... There were sixty garbage cans full of ice and 6 oz. Olympia Beer and free food and all these celebrities. When we’d realized he’d fucked us, I knocked over all the cans full of beer... picked up a hot dog and hit Britt Ekland in the face; that made the “Rolling Stone.”

Today Rozz and family divide their time between his apartment in San Francisco and his bungalow in SE Portland.

“I’m really still treated like royalty down there (SF). I’m doing an interview with “Exotic Magazine” up in Portland, but in San Francisco I get the cover of the A&E. (He shows me the Sept., ‘97 cover commemorating twenty years since punk-- picture of Rozz at eighteen, flailing around on the Negative Trend floor.) I can’t even get on guest lists up here.”

Rozz took up residence in San Francisco because he had to-- on the lam from two women vying for his attention. Back in August of ‘85,

“I can’t even put up a poster anymore without someone driving by saying, ‘Theatre of Shit.’ And I’m this piece of moldy cherry pie that’s not even edible anymore and I’ve got these two girls fighting over me... So I moved down to San Francisco and then Courtney and Leslie moved down there... I just wanted to drink myself to death and forget Theatre of Sheep; my thing was I was in love with alcohol. Still am. Lot more consistent. You know how much will make you sick. Where as with girls, you don’t think you’re sick till you’re as nauseous as you’ve ever been in your life and you’re so revolted at your penis you want to cut it off. So they called me up on Valentine’s Day (after they finally realized he wasn’t interested in either one) and Courtney shot Leslie up with heroin and they’re going down on each other and describing it...

These girls who want to make your life a bitter hell, they’re not worth it.”

Back at the Cobalt in ‘98, Rozz said he put Theatre of Sheep together again because, “basically, I needed the money.” Rozz kept up a relentless banter with the trendy, young cocktail crowd:

“Guys would screw a Cocker Spaniel if it had a good looking’ hair-do and some lingerie on.”

“Thank you. And remember, it’s not just a gig, it’s rent money.”

“Did you ever walk in on your parents fucking? I did. I called 911. I said, ‘Daddy’s hurting Mommy.’ They said, ‘no, that’s an expression of love.’”

Back down in the basement, digging through the Courtney archives, Rozz throws a handful of prescription bottles at me. The labels read: Courtney Menely; Valium 10 mg.; 3-16-’83; Fred Meyer Prescriptions. And he says,

“How did she seduce me?!”

“All she did was steal from me,” the bitter bile coming up from his gut-- the place where all those bad relationships seem to live on for eternity. “She got a rock-n-roll pedigree from me through osmosis. She went back (Portland, S.F.) and fucked all those guys I was in punk bands with, all those guys that are dead now-- Sleepers, Negative Trend.”

Somehow the subject shifted to pot. I mentioned I’m sensitive to the smoke, can’t be around it and that took Rozz back into a bizarre Courtney story.

“She’s real afraid of pot smoke because she has flashbacks... She was left at some groupie commune by her father when he was managing the Grateful Dead, and they would give her acid with her cereal like when she was three to five years old...

She’s psychotic. She’s mentally ill. And she’s got eleven million of Kurt’s money to feed the American public what a great lady she is...She’s a hideous monster. Nick Broomfield’s movie is right on. I’ll bet she has a harder time than anyone I know getting laid. I’ll bet she’s very lonely.”

Rozz went on to tell his anecdotes about the real Courtney he knows versus the one that is groomed for twenty-five thousand a month for mass consumption.

“I faxed a bunch of lyrics over to her when she was in Hawaii getting a tan and getting in shape for the Barbara Walters interview. .. She fell off the bed while I was talking to her because she was on seconal and gashed about seventeen stitches into her heel.”

“Courtney is really psychotically good at picking the people that can help her and sucking up to them. She called me and was bragging about how she totally bamboozled Barbara Walters.”

“She bragged to me once that she was up in Redding, or somewhere, speaking at this thing for D.A.R.E., and she was joking that she snorted some heroin and meth before she spoke.”

On the other hand, in Melissa Rossi’s “Queen of Noise,“ Rossi points out that Courtney is the Queen of the sick joke, the totally bizarre remark designed to throw you for a loop and see just how gullible you are. (Surf to; click on X Magazine #6 and click on “Hole Lotta Love,” the Melissa Rossi interview by Gary Aker)

Fact or fiction, we’ll never know. The truth is, Courtney weaves a tapestry of deceit and Rozz will be a part of that, no matter what, as Courtney becomes larger than life.

“It really makes me sad on one level that people put her up on this pedestal and then knock her down... Courtney can’t help being Courtney,” Rozz showed his soft side beneath the bitterness over Courtney’s new biography, “The Real Story.”

“All these people want to see her ultimate fuck-up, and it’s gonna happen whether it’s a Francis Farmer kinda thing or a Judy Garland kinda thing. But everyone wants to see her fall,” he said.

“Everyone's building her up to see her fall from a higher place,” I had to interject, actually sharing in his sympathy for the devil.

“Everyone’s just interested in her in a voyeuristic kind of way,” Rozz summed up the loneliness of her existence.

And which is worse: to be the celebrity icon manufactured by a publicity agent for twenty-five grand a month, or to be the public and the media who can’t take their eyes off her. We love to watch her. We’d love to watch her fall.

Down in the basement, Rozz handed me a postcard Courtney had never mailed to some musician in England. Courtney had signed it with,

“Love from your friend, forced upon you till you are so dead.”

For Rozz Rezabek-Wright, it’s always going to be that way. There’s no escaping Courtney till you’re dead.

Rozz Rezabek and Theater of Sheep will play Portland’s Cobalt Lounge May 7, 14 & 20; and Theatre of Sheep will play La Luna on May 22nd.

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