In Book Stores Now
Around the time that The Strokes were first being hyped-up-the-ass in the press as the Saviors of Rock – while simultaneously confounding my senses with their hopelessly derivative, shitty music – I found myself in the NYC office of that band’s publicist. This particular guy, who I’ll call Ken, because that is his name, had formerly worked as a publicist at the once mighty Atlantic Records and, in addition to working with upstarts like The Strokes, had maintained his relationships with some of that label’s artists. While being given a tour of the office, I ended up at Ken’s desk, where he had on display one of those Family Photo Holiday cards; this one depicting a couple, with the woman holding a small infant. I couldn’t help but notice that the man and woman in the picture, who looked to be in their late twenties to early thirties, appeared to be very gaunt and almost sickly. Honestly, they both looked like shit.
“I wonder who this could be?” I thought to myself. And then, because I am nosy, I picked up the card and read the inscription. A pre-printed message directly under the photo read “Merry Christmas from Scott, Mary and Noah Weiland” – Scott Weiland, of course, being Stone Temple Pilots’ sobriety-challenged lead vocalist. I remember being absolutely shocked at how completely wrecked Weiland looked; there was no way I would have recognized him had his name not been printed on the card. And, I thought, if his wife Mary was really a model (as I’d heard), I couldn’t imagine she was getting many jobs, looking as downtrodden as she appeared in the photo on their holiday card. Of course, I was already familiar with Scott Weiland’s ongoing drug problems. What I couldn’t have known at the time was that Mary Weiland was also battling assorted demons of her own.
I forgot all about that photo until a few weeks ago, when a copy of Mary Forsberg Weiland’s autobiography, Fall To Pieces, arrived in the mail. I finished the book in a few days and then lent it to Geoffrey to read. And we concur; we both love this book. Fall to Pieces – the title lifted from the name of a Velvet Revolver song penned by her husband – is Mary’s intriguing, brave and deeply personal tale of her own life that’s easily as complex and interesting as anything her husband could throw down, which is rare in the “rock wife tells all” genre of memoirs. But before Mary and Scott were ever a couple, Mary struggled through what might be called a “character building” childhood of parental divorce and financial destitution, ostracism by her peers, an innate predilection towards substance abuse, and undiagnosed mental illness. It seems the deck was stacked against her from a young age, but that makes her journey to hell and back all the more fascinating.
Mary and Scott in Happier Times (Image Source)
Through her own drive to make a better life for herself, Mary began a career as a highly paid print model while still in her teens. Through her modeling career, she met struggling musician Scott Weiland, whose job it was to pick up teenage models and drive them to their daily assignments. Mary fell in love with Scott at first sight and readily admits she knew in her gut as soon as she met him that the two would one day get married. Perhaps that’s a bit of a cautionary tale to be careful what you wish for, lest your wish be granted. Most of us who pay attention to the music press and gossip media know how the fairytale turned out.
Tales of celebrity drug addiction, more often than not, fail to render much sympathy from the public, and I include myself in that demographic. They don’t take their programs for chronic relapse seriously at all, it’s more of a get oput of jail free card for them. I can never understand the motives of, let alone sympathize with, people who have seemingly everything going for them – talent, great careers, ass loads of money, fame, good looks, tons of friends, devoted significant others, every conceivable material luxury – but willingly throw it all in the toilet to be a loser junkie with a laundry list of “poor me” excuses that make me want punch him or her in the face. Please, spare me. The most refreshing aspect of Fall To Pieces is that Mary never lays the blame for her mental, physical and financial descent anywhere but at her own feet. Personal responsibility! I’ve read tons of biographies of famous junkies and this is the first one I’ve found that was not only wildly entertaining, but actually allowed me to feel significant empathy and compassion for its subject. Although few of us have lived the life of a gorgeous, jet-setting model married to a successful Rock Star, Mary Forsberg Weiland’s story ultimately presents a universal truth about struggle, failure, rebirth and triumph that anyone can relate to.
The Worley Gig gives Fall to Pieces Four out of Four Stars.