Courtney Love | Vanity Fair | Tom Cruise

Courtney Love Fights for Career, Daughter

Courtney Love is fighting for her life right now, and it's a damned hard fight.

Her new album, ironically titled "America's Sweetheart," has sold a paltry 65,000 copies since its release a month ago. She's temporarily lost custody of her 11-year-old daughter, Frances, to — of all people — her ex-stepfather.

To make matters worse, no one in Love's extended and extremely dysfunctional family is talking to her. Why should they? She actually struck her former mother-in-law during a court appearance last October.

You'd think she'd be better equipped for life. Her mother, Linda Carroll, is a well-known psychologist in Corvallis, Ore. But her mother's past has affected Courtney, too.

Carroll was adopted when she was a baby. A couple of years ago, Carroll found her birth mother, who turned out to be famous New York novelist Paula Fox.

But Love wasn't satisfied with that much of the story, so she invented one for herself, claiming Marlon Brando was Carroll's father. How Courtney came up with Brando is anyone's guess.

What's interesting, though, are the repeated episodes in these three women's lives. For example, when Love was questioned about being raised by Carroll, she told writer Holly Millea that her mother had been "horrible" to her when she was a child.

Two generations earlier, Fox — who reportedly has not associated herself with her newly found granddaughter — had similar problems.

She wrote in her highly regarded memoir, "Borrowed Finery," that her own mother put her in a foundling home because she didn't want children — even though she was married to Fox's father at the time. Fox wrote that after her first visit with her mother, at age 5, "I sensed that if she could have hidden the act she would have killed me."

And we thought Hemingway had a tough childhood!

Fox never lived with her parents. Years later her father told her, "[Your mother] gave me an ultimatum. ... She said, 'Either she goes or I go.'"

When she was 20, Fox became pregnant with Carroll, and was forced to give her up for adoption. They were reunited a short time ago, when Fox learned her granddaughter was the punk-rock queen whose famous husband had died under mysterious circumstances.

Now Love is in jeopardy of losing her own child for good. Two days ago, Love was two hours late for family court. She's being accused of possession of illegal pharmaceuticals. When she arrived, she fired and re-hired her lawyer. The case was postponed. That was in Beverly Hills.

According to my sources, Carroll wants nothing to do with her daughter or granddaughter, leaving Frances in a precarious situation. For some reason, the judge in the case did not place her with the Cobains, even though for a long time after Kurt's death, Courtney remained on good terms with them. Instead, Frances is now living with Carroll's ex-husband, Frank Rodriguez, who is not a blood relation.

After the court debacle, Love flew to New York for an appearance on David Letterman's show where she repeatedly lifted her shirt up while her back was to the audience. Later in the evening, she went to a New York club and was arrested after allegedly throwing a microphone stand into the crowd. She's also scheduled to perform tonight at the Bowery Ballroom.

In the balance hangs her career. But by all accounts, she drove the folks at Letterman crazy all day before her appearance.

"You can't believe what's going on here," one staffer said yesterday.

Vanity Fair Snubbed by Magazine Awards

For the first time since 1986, Vanity Fair — the bible of the rich, idle and rude — has failed to score even one nomination at the National Magazine Awards.

The nominations, announced yesterday afternoon, must have come as a shock to Editor-in-Chief Graydon Carter, on whose watch the 17-year streak was broken. By contrast, other Condé Nast magazines Details and Vogue got nominations. The New Yorker, another sister publication, got 11.

At last night's charity dinner honoring Atlantic Monthly editor Michael Kelly — who died in a vehicle accident during last year's Iraq war — much was made of Carter's defeat.

"It's because Graydon's so obsessed with Hollywood," said one insider, referring to Carter's sometimes embarrassing preference for celebrity profiles over actual journalism.

Beth Kseniak, director of public relations for Vanity Fair, said, "I can't remember when we didn't have a nomination. But we've been very fortunate in previous years and we congratulate the nominees."

One aspect of criticism about Vanity Fair is its obliviousness to cultures other than its own. In the March "Hollywood" issue, 13 famous actresses graced the cover, not one of them African-American. As well, Vanity Fair has not featured an individual black person on the cover in several years.

Kseniak responded, "We were supposed to have Halle Berry, but she backed out at the last minute."

Berry, who won the Oscar for Best Actress two years ago, still hasn't appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair. Her publicist, Karen Samfilippo, told me: "We didn't back out. It was supposed to be Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman, Gwyneth Paltrow and Halle — Oscar's best actresses. But Julia and Nicole backed out, the concept changed, and the picture didn't happen."

Berry is not scheduled to appear to support her next film, "Catwoman," either.

"Of course we want to be on the cover of Vanity Fair," Samfilippo said. "I guess the schedules just haven't worked out."

Tom Cruise, Minus One Publicist

You may have read in Liz Smith's column or in other venues that Tom Cruise has lost his publicist of 14 years.

Pat Kingsley, the brilliant architect with Lois Smith and Leslee Dart of PMK, now PMK-HBH, gave up the ghost this week. She'd had enough, I am told, of fielding wild questions about Cruise's involvement with Scientology.

Last fall when I called to ask this usually taciturn woman whether Cruise had signed the new Scientology oath, she actually deflected the question to the church spokesman.

Since then she's had to deal with stories about Cruise "cleansing" New York City firemen, and his thoughts on why psychiatry should be banned. Hey: Enough is enough, right?

But that wasn't all. PMK has had a tough situation for some time, representing both Cruise and his ex-wife Kidman, who is a popular client at the company. It's hard to believe this wasn't an issue also, juggling the needs of two people who are working hard to keep on a happy public face.

So now Tom Cruise has turned over his publicity to his sister, who will handle the job from his production-company offices. Will it work? No, but who asked us, anyway?

Cruise and PMK had the mutual advantage of leverage: You couldn't be mean to one and get away with it. Without an agency full of other clients, Cruise is just another Hollywood star. But he may not care about that now. My guess is he'll back with PMK by the time his next movie opens.