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Scott Weiland on the Brink: Rolling Stone's 1997 Cover Story

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Weiland should know. He's sampled a lot of others, including the surges of pride and achievement with Stone Temple Pilots. Friends and band mates in various combinations since the mid-'8os, Weiland, Kretz and the DeLeos finally landed a major record deal with Atlantic, in the spring of 1992. A year later, Core was in the Billboard Top 5. In June 1994, STP's second album, Purple, debuted at No. 1 and went on to sell more than 6 million copies, defying the rain of brickbats from critics who dismissed the band's radio-savvy mix of hook craft, punk complaint and '70s riffola as fourth-rate Pearl Jam.

Then there were the darker thrills, the crazy games Weiland played with hard drugs, beginning with his introduction to heroin on STP's late-'93 tour with the Butthole Surfers. "It got to the point," he concedes, "where I didn't feel like I got a good enough rush unless I had one hand on the needle and one hand dialing 911."

Weiland has come a long way from that. "It's amazing to see Scott in the morning now," declares Robert DeLeo, 31, at one point on the tour. "He's on time. He's got a smile on his face. He looks good. That's something I haven't seen in years."

But Weiland's late-December relapse shows how far he still has to go — and how much faith and patience his band mates will need to help him along the way.

"I've never known life to be so easy and yet so hard," Dean confesses. "With Scott's problem, it's a hard route."

Does Dean think Weiland can beat his problem?

"He may get it," Dean says after a long pause. "He may never."

No single point in Scott Weiland's battle with addiction captures the mess of competing impulses — dope need, rock-star privilege, selfishness, crippling remorse — that drove him perilously close to self-destruction more than the 48-hour sequence of events that began on May 15, 1995. Shortly after midnight, he was arrested in Pasadena following an alleged drug transaction. Weiland was charged with possession of heroin and cocaine after the police found two pieces of crack in his car and some heroin in his wallet. If convicted, he faced a maximum of three years and eight months in prison.

Weiland was freed later that day after his wife, Jannina, posted a $10,000 bond. Then, while she was driving him home, things turned really grim.

"I was dope sick," he says. "I said, 'I need you to drive me to my dealer's house.' She said, 'No, I won't.' So I jumped out of the car. It was only moving 20 miles an hour. I went to my dealer's house and scored." When Jannina would not let Weiland come home, he checked into the Chateau Marmont, in Los Angeles — where Courtney Love was staying in the next room.

The following evening, May 16, Weiland and Love called L.A.'s KROQ and, on the air, Love read an open letter that Weiland had written to his wife, band mates and fans. "I have a disease," Weiland said in the letter. "I want to say I'm sorry to my friends, my band, my wife and family, and the social ideals to which I have become a hypocrite. I ache to get well, to feel and to make more music."

"It was a major low point," Weiland says of that night. "I wanted to just say, 'I'm sorry, I'm not what you expect me to be.'"Why didn't he read the letter himself? "I was embarrassed," he says softly. "It was hard enough to write it."

This is the first time that Weiland has talked at length and on the record about his season in hell. He's concerned about reliving his mistakes at the expense of the music he makes with STP — "Have we talked enough about music?" he asks periodically during our interviews. But he doesn't gloss over details or play the victim card.

The other members of Stone Temple Pilots are more reluctant to walk through the minefield. Kretz and the DeLeo brothers are still smarting from the press gibes and vicious Pearl Jam and Nirvana comparisons that have dogged STP since 1993, when "Plush," a slow-march angst hymn from Core, went ballistic on radio and MTV. "I enjoy being a musician," says Robert DeLeo. "I always just wanted to be respected as a musician. People assume we're a cover band." To Robert and the rest of STP, being grilled about their singer's problems and their own feelings of hurt and frustration is like grinding gravel into an open wound.

"We were so deep on the inside of it," says Kretz, 30, "that I don't remember how I used to think of dealing with it. We were so completely affected by it. We found out everything that was happening to him. The phone calls kept getting worse and worse."

After Weiland's bust, the calls should have gotten better. His lawyer, Steven Cron, explains that according to California law, defendants charged with certain types of nonsales, nonviolent drug offenses can go into "diversion" — an outpatient rehabilitation and education program. If the defendant completes the program, the case can be dismissed and the arrest stricken from the record. In August 1995, three months after his arrest, Weiland was ordered to start diversion. But, Cron says, "Scott really didn't do much with that. A few months later, I talked to him, asked him how the program was going, and he said, 'I haven't started.' So I went back in and got the judge to give him another chance."

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