Jill Smolowe
April 05, 2004 12:00 PM

She bared her breasts during a March 17 appearance on Letterman, but Courtney Love may have revealed more a few days earlier at a Hollywood studio. While rehearsing with her new band, Love ranted about tabloid pictures of herself, chewed out her manager, blathered about having had $40 million stolen and fired her security guard. She cried about missing her daughter Frances Bean, 11, who was removed from her custody last October. “There’s so much s—going on in my life, I only have one way out,” Love said. “I need to marry Ben Affleck.”

Attempts at humor fail to disguise the singer’s alarming downward spiral, highlighted by her meltdown and arrest in New York City last week. After her Late Show antics, Love, 39, wandered the winter streets barefoot, flashed her breasts at strangers in Wendy’s, then landed in jail after a club date at Plaid, where she threw a microphone, injuring a man. “She was distraught and had a sense of remorse,” says a club employee. The following night, during a whiskey-fueled train wreck of a performance, Love dove from another stage—and injured another spectator. “Get the priest, start the exorcism,” says a source who recently worked with her. Says a friend: “I think she’s going to die. I am really worried.”

April 5 will mark the 10th anniversary of the shotgun suicide of her husband, Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain. “She is feeling the anniversary of Kurt’s death more than she’s willing to admit,” says a close friend. Says Love’s ex-boyfriend James Barber: “There’s another reality here. Society can’t deal with such an extreme act, so they look for someone else to blame. In this case, that’s Courtney.”

Still dealing with felony drug-possession charges from October, Love must also prove to a family court judge that she is fit to be a parent. On visits with Frances, who lives with Love’s stepfather, Frank Rodriguez, the pair read, draw and play with their dogs. “They love each other,” says a friend. But even Love can see that things aren’t all right. “I think she’s sick of her mother crying all the time,” Love says of Frances. “This whole ordeal is making her a little too mature for my taste.”

Jill Smolowe. Todd Gold in Los Angeles and Diane Herbst and Liza Hamm in New York City

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