Scott Weiland's Harrowing Final Months: Those Close to Him Reveal His Mental Health and Family Illness Struggles
The last time Jamie Weiland saw her husband, Scott, alive, the couple spent a romantic Thanksgiving Day dining at Italian restaurant Maialino in New York. The night before, Nov. 25, 2015, the former Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver frontman headlined the nearby Gramercy Theatre with his backing band, The Wildabouts. "I think maybe I knew I was never going to see him again," Jamie, 37, says. "We couldn't get enough of each other. It was very powerful."
One week later, Scott Richard Weiland, 48, was found dead on his tour bus from a toxic mix of drugs. His death was ruled accidental.
The '90s-rock icon's history of heroin addiction was well-documented, but the multiplatinum-selling artist hadn't used the opioid in 13 years. What was less known were the last 10 months of Weiland's life, a series of turbulent episodes that included a close friend's death, the cancer diagnoses of his mother and father, severe financial troubles, estrangement from his children, self-medication and mental illness.
It had been five years since Weiland's once-wildly-popular grunge band Stone Temple Pilots reunited to release a 2010 self-titled LP, which hit No. 2 on the Billboard 200, and two since STP fired him for announcing a solo tour of its greatest hits without the band's blessing. But in March 2015, Weiland was back with a new studio album, Blaster, and a band he believed in, The Wildabouts, when guitarist Jeremy Brown -- whom Weiland considered one of his best friends -- failed to show up for rehearsal. The 34-year-old had died at his home in Venice, Calif., caused by what the Los Angeles coroner would later determine involved accidental multiple-drug intoxication.
At the same time, Weiland was experiencing episodes of paranoia and mania caused by his bipolar disorder. After a March show at Boston's Brighton Music Hall, Weiland hosted a disastrous VIP meet-and-greet session, heckling one fan with "Let's suck a dick!" and insulting others who had paid $150 for the interaction. "Some girl hit on Scott and he goes, 'You know what? You can go f-- yourself. Do you have any idea how much I love sucking my wife's pussy?' " recalls Jamie. Weiland later apologized publicly on Facebook for acting like "a total asshole."
That same month, he threatened to twist the nipple of a reporter. "I've never felt more disrespected in an interview and am honestly shaken by the experience," said the journalist in an e-mail to Weiland's publicist.
Jamie had confronted Weiland's bipolar episodes before, after they first had become inseparable in December 2011. "He would be on the couch with a drink, smoking and watching whatever mindless television," she remembers. "I started to see he had paranoia and some of the bipolar stuff started to come out." He kept his curtains closed all the time. "At one point, it was so bad I had to move out because he was unstable." They found one medication that worked, but Weiland gained 40 pounds, so he stopped taking it. Eventually they found a medication that leveled him out. "For the last couple of years, he was doing pretty great."
Then, on The Wildabouts' 2015 spring tour, Weiland's behavior became scarily unrecognizable. In April, a video of Weiland failing at a painfully stilted, off-key rendition of STP's Mainstream Rock Tracks chart No. 1 "Vasoline" went viral. The suspicion: One of music's most notorious junkies was back on smack. But it turned out that his prescribed dosage of the antipsychotic drug Geodon was too high. "I thought that he had some rapid-onset version of Parkinson's or something," says Jamie, who toured intermittently with her husband. After an adjustment, the change, she says, "was like night and day."
But then, on Father's Day, his biological father, Kent Kline, 72, called to say he had prostate cancer. And soon Weiland learned that his mother, Sharon, 71, with whom he was very close, had progressive cancer. This was especially devastating since he already had lost his only brother, Michael, in 2007. "He was sad about his mom," says guitarist Nick Maybury, 33, who replaced Brown in The Wildabouts. At a tour stop in San Diego, Weiland broke down crying on the street before soundcheck. "We were just holding him like, 'It's all right, brother.' "
Making it all worse: Weiland was estranged from his own children -- Noah, 15, and Lucy, 13 -- who lived with their mother, Weiland's second wife and former model Mary Forsberg. A court had granted her full custody of them. (Forsberg did not respond to Billboard's request for an interview.) He talked about missing his kids in November, when the singer met up with his mother, his brother's widow and his two nieces at The 101 Coffee Shop in Hollywood. "Mary made it so difficult for him to see his kids," says Michael Weiland (nee Keenen), who shared first names with her husband. "He was upset about that."
Celebrity Rehab drug counselor Bob Forrest, a former sponsor to Weiland's brother, also saw him at the restaurant that day. "I was just like, 'Are you OK?' He didn't look so good; he looked gray," he remembers. "He definitely shouldn't have been touring."
But Weiland needed the income, which was another major source of anxiety. With a Grammy-winning catalog that spanned more than two decades, he had sold 16.2 million albums in the United States, according to Nielsen Music, but many trips to rehab, child-support payments, the expenses of addiction and two divorces had left the entertainer in dire financial straits.
Nor was he physically healthy. In addition to six prescription drugs he took regularly, he was drinking heavily, which concerned his wife -- Weiland had hepatitis C, a liver condition likely acquired from years of intravenous drug use. "His body had suffered an enormous amount of abuse; that's no secret. But he was not done," says Jamie. "The notion that we're not supposed to 'glamorize him' [because he did drugs]? F-- that. He's an icon." He also was human. "He f--ed up. We all f-- up. You know?"
The first time Weiland tried heroin was in August 1993, two months after Stone Temple Pilots' debut LP Core went platinum.
He was 25 and staying at the Royalton Hotel in New York when he smoked dope on the last stop of his grunge band's co-headlining tour with Butthole Surfers. "It made me feel safe. It was like the womb," Weiland told Esquire in 2005 about his early experiences with the drug. "I felt completely sure of myself. It took away all the fears."
As STP's success ballooned, so did Weiland's heroin use. Core became a smash thanks in part to MTV's heavy rotation of a lumbering alt-rock single, "Plush" (which critics dismissed as Lollapalooza karaoke), and on Nov. 20, 1993, STP made its musical-guest debut on Saturday Night Live. Five days later, Weiland injected smack for the first time. In March 1994, the band won a Grammy for best hard rock performance with vocal. That April, Weiland checked himself into a detox center in Pasadena, Calif. -- in less than six months, his habit already had metastasized into what he would later characterize as "a big black monster."
In May 1995 -- after STP's sophomore LP Purple debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and sold more than 3 million domestic copies -- Weiland was arrested in Pasadena for drug possession. He already was dope sick when his first wife, Jannina Castaneda, paid his $10,000 bail. He begged her to drive to his dealer. When she refused, he jumped out of the moving car's window, caught the bus to buy smack and then holed up at the Chateau Marmont, where he shot drugs with Courtney Love for days.
There were spells of sobriety, including a six-month stint in 1996, but they were all outnumbered by relapses. In the late '90s, STP's manager for 10 years, Steve Stewart, remembers one time Weiland was in bad shape at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. "He was doing things that were very risky and dangerous, and I realized this was a chance to say goodbye to him," says Stewart. "I told him, 'I may not ever see you again. If I don't, I'll tell you that I love you, we've had a great run together, and I'm always here for you.' " Weiland kicked him and told him to "f-- off."
Addiction ran in the family. Born Scott Richard Kline on Oct. 27, 1967, in Santa Clara, Calif., Weiland was only 2 when parents Kent and Sharon divorced after four years of marriage. According to his 2011 memoir Not Dead & Not for Sale, his mother was an alcoholic, which she admitted when Weiland was young. "Yeah, she did," confirms Kent. "That was a long time ago. [The alcoholism] also probably had to do with us splitting up."
At age 5, Scott took the last name of his stepfather, Dave Weiland, an aeronautics engineer who raised him and younger half-brother Michael and relocated the family to Ohio for a job promotion. "Scott always was a creative person since the time he was tiny, and he was a sweet, wonderful child," says Sharon, who was sober for 25 years until she found out both of her sons were heroin users, which prompted a slip. "He had lots of friends growing up."
He also experienced trauma at a young age. In Not Dead & Not for Sale, Weiland recalls a high-school senior raping him at age 12, around the same time he chugged his first beers. "It was quick, not pleasant," he wrote. "I was too scared to tell anyone." He suppressed the memory for years.
The Weilands eventually moved back West, to Huntington Beach, Calif., where Scott attended Edison High School and became a standout athlete -- football quarterback, wrestler, volleyball and soccer player. He also sang in a robed choir and formed his first band, Soi-Disant, during junior year.
High school also marked his first trouble with drugs: Weiland spent three months in a psychiatric-care unit after his stepdad found marijuana, cocaine, a razor blade and a mirror in a drawer. "[Scott] was devastated," recalls Cory Hickok, guitarist for Soi-Disant and a close friend. "He thought his parents overreacted. They had an ambulance come to our school and take Scott out of class. It was really traumatic for him because the whole school was starting rumors. He felt like it was completely unnecessary."
In his memoir, Weiland also recalls a teenage girlfriend's abortion, which left him "heartbroken." For the next two decades, his love affairs would be an ongoing source of anguish. His marriage to Castaneda fell apart in the late '90s. Before the divorce was finalized, he began dating Forsberg, whom he would marry after a jail stint in May 2000 and then have Noah and Lucy. But after several domestic-violence incidents involving police -- both were arrested at different times; Forsberg once torched $80,000 of his clothes in their driveway, which she documented later in a memoir -- the couple divorced in 2007.
That same year, his brother Michael died from cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle often stemming from drug use. When Weiland got the call, the first thing he did was chug a glass of whiskey. Before long, he was smoking cocaine. "Scott loved his brother. It was a huge devastation," says Michael's widow. "I don't think Scott ever fully recovered."
Weiland never thought his drinking was a problem.
"I don't see it as suicidal," he offered in Not Dead & Not for Sale, where he describes himself as "a regular garden-variety boozer." But in the spring of 2015, the newest Wildabout, guitarist and recent teetotaler Maybury, worried about his bandmate's drinking. He tried talking with Weiland, but that was useless, so he took refuge in Al-Anon, a recovery program for family and friends of alcoholics. "It's a heavy thing. I realized it wasn't going to make a difference -- that's how he was." On past tours, Weiland brought along a sobriety coach for support, but he hadn't used one in years.
On the road, Weiland and bassist Tommy Black were drinking buddies. The two had been out late on Wednesday, Dec. 2, in Chicago, where The Wildabouts' bus stopped after a show in Toronto. The next morning, according to a crew member on the bus, Weiland woke up at nine, used the bathroom and then returned to bed. Sometime later, after they had arrived in Bloomington, Minn., Black knocked on the singer's door to invite him to breakfast, but Weiland didn't answer. This wasn't unusual. He slept late.
That was one custom everyone observed: If Scott's asleep, we leave him. So when the band and crew headed out to the Mall of America to shop for Christmas presents, they left him behind like always.
In Los Angeles that day, Jamie woke up to a text that read, "I'm so in love with my beautiful wife." She called and texted Weiland's phone but got no response. It wasn't like him not to get back to her, especially on a day off. "I just started getting this weird, agitated feeling," says Jamie. At 7 p.m. in Minnesota, she called Aaron Mohler, the band's tour manager and a former Marine, who promised to rouse the singer.
Around 8 p.m., Mohler entered the tour bus, which was parked behind a Marriott Courtyard Inn. Weiland was lying on his left side in a fetal position. His hands were by his head, and his eyes were half closed. "I shook his leg and thought, 'Oh, my God, he's not moving.' I went to his shoulders and realized he was stiff."
Mohler called drummer Joey Castillo, who sprinted there from the lobby. He looked for a pulse along Weiland's neck but couldn't find one. Meanwhile, Mohler dialed 911. "I think he's dead," he said to the dispatcher. "He's not breathing."
Jamie still hadn't heard anything, so she kept redialing Mohler's cell, which went straight to voicemail. Then a crew member called to break the terrible news: Honey, he's dead. He's not coming back. "I just fell to the floor," Jamie remembers.
Police arrived within minutes. "I was in tears," says Maybury. "It was like -- it's all over. Scott's gone, the band's finished, there's no more music, and we are going home. It was the worst."
When Black learned what happened, he fled to the nearest bar, a TGI Friday's. "I had a bunch of shots," he admits. He drank so much so quickly, he soon had to be carried out. "I was just bewildered and really upset. I lost my best friend."
Around 8:45 p.m., about 15 cops were on the scene. Meanwhile, a K-9 unit sniffed out a bag of cocaine in Weiland's room and another under the mattress of Black's bunk. (Black denies the stash was his.) After finding the drugs, the police stripped the bus. They flipped every mattress, went through every article of clothing and dumped every backpack. "It looked like a hurricane had hit after they went through it," says Mohler.
The Bloomington Police Department took Black into custody, legally unable to take a statement from an inebriated witness. After 17 hours in a cinder-block jail cell, he was released. The police declined to file charges against Black, saying it was difficult to prove the narcotics belonged to him.
STP guitarist Dean DeLeo hadn't spoken to Weiland in years but was distraught to hear of his former bandmate's death. "It was a feeling I had never experienced," he says. "My heart dropped. It felt like a part of me fell out."
"I adored Scott," says his mother. "He struggled as an adult, as everybody knows, but he had a heart of gold."
The Hennepin County Medical Examiner's Office released a statement on Dec. 18 finding that Weiland died accidentally of mixed-drug toxicity: cocaine, ethanol and methylenedioxyamphetamine (an analog of MDMA). Other significant conditions noted were atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease, asthma and multiple-substance dependence. Plus, he was on prescription medications Lunesta, Klonopin, Viagra, Dalmane, Buprenex and Geodon.
"People think the difficult part of being an addict is that you must crave the drugs all the time," says Dr. Drew Pinsky, who counseled Weiland in his early addiction days. "The more difficult part is what operates under your consciousness that keeps sending you back to the environments, the people and the using. Even when you don't intend it, that's where you end up."
"A lot of times I've seen Scott do coke so he could drink more," says Mohler. "If I had known he was going to die, I would have taken every bottle away from him and thrown it. Just broke it right there."
Four days after Weiland's death, Forsberg published a letter in Rolling Stone alleging her ex-husband was an absentee father who made little effort to maintain a relationship with his children. "The truth is," she wrote, "They lost their father years ago." On Dec. 30, Forsberg filed court documents asking to be named executor of Weiland's will, alleging that he had $2 million in assets and a trust with an undisclosed amount of funds. (A hearing is set for Feb. 5.)
"I don't know under what mattress she thinks she's going to find $2 million, because it sure as shit isn't here," says Jamie. Public records show more than $147,000 in state tax liens on Weiland's property. "He was broke."
A funeral was held at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, a place where Jamie and Scott used to watch movies frequently. STP's three surviving members were there, but Forsberg and Weiland's two children were not.
"Sometimes I think he's going to walk through the front door," Jamie says through tears, sitting inside the Laurel Canyon home they shared. The pajamas that Weiland died in are still in a bag. "I just can't bring myself to do anything with them," she confides.
"I didn't think it could physically hurt to miss someone, but it does," says Jamie. "I miss him. We all do."
This story originally appeared in the Feb. 6 issue of Billboard.