In her upcoming book Falling Love Notes: Memories of a Rock Star Wife, Samantha Bennington reflects upon her emotional journey before, during and after her marriage to Chester Bennington, the Linkin Park leader who passed away in 2017. The book, due out Nov. 24 through Around The Way Publishing and available for order here, is both raw and uplifting, as Bennington — who married Chester in 1996, and shared a son, Draven, with the frontman prior to their divorce in 2005 — looks back upon their relationship, among many others, and how it has helped her grow as a mother and person.
“I began this project of my Memories around eight to nine years ago,” Bennington tells Billboard. “I had planned for Falling Love Notes to be released in the fall of 2017. Unfortunately, our lives changed dramatically that June. I could not give my project the attention it would take to launch or deserved, as our son, family, and I needed to grieve and work on major healing. Honestly, my project took a major back seat to my life at that time. Now that my ending has changed and I continue to heal. I found a huge amount of purpose and needed to finish what I had started.”
In an excerpt of Falling Love Notes below, Bennington recounts her first interaction with Chester — after one of his shows with the band Grey Daze at Club Rio in Tempe, Ariz. in January 1996, with her new friend Penny and her ex-husband Anthony in tow.
Penny and I went backstage. Right away we ran into two members of the band that had just played: the guitar player and the drummer. They offered me a CD, and asked if I liked their show. I told everyone I was with to buy a CD. Even then I knew it was important to support our local bands and music scene. All of us bought their CD that night, including Anthony. They both also invited me to see them play at their next gig. They went on to say they were just about to sign a record deal.
As we were talking, I saw the singer sitting down on a barstool in the back, so I went up to him to introduce myself. This is when Samantha Olit and Chester Bennington first met. We started talking and were getting along extremely well. Turned out the poor guy was super sick with a temperature of 103 degrees. He also wore glasses that he did not wear when he was performing. I guessed it would be pretty hard to wear glasses while he was jumping all over the stage. His voice was completely captivating, and his energy level was insane. You would never have known that he was sick.
Soon, we started to get into a deep conversation. He told me he was twenty-one and I told him I was twenty-two, actually, twenty-three in December. He said he would be twenty-two in March, so I was a bit older. Right away, we started to share our life stories.
Penny came over, drunk now, and started to hang all over the lead singer. She was annoying, but I was sure he dealt with that all the time. After all, his band, Grey Daze, was the number one local band in Phoenix and had a very strong following. Just before the singer and I could exchange phone numbers, a bouncer walked up to him and for reasons I didn’t understand then, the bouncer chased him out. I then became distracted by Anthony and his friends, who 70 falling love notes found me. Anthony started hanging on me, drunk, and I was trying to keep the peace.
After we got home, I stayed up all night thinking about the spiritual connection I had developed with the stranger I had met, the one who sang to me and stared into my eyes for a good forty-five minutes. I couldn’t explain it. While I was listening to the CD I was looking at it and never noticed that, on the back, was their manager’s phone number in plain view so anyone could contact them. I was mesmerized by the encounter and laid there wondering if I would ever meet the man again.
The next morning all I could think about was the cute guy I had met at the concert. I was a little bouncier than usual, which was saying a lot. I’m always pretty bouncy, but today was different. I felt for the first time that someone saw my soul, and that I had seen his. I didn’t realize that not only did I feel differently, but my feelings showed to everyone who interacted with me.
My co-workers started to ask questions about Super Bowl weekend and the concert at Club Rio. How did I like the club? How was Anthony’s behavior? What bands played? They kept pushing for info, and gave me a hard time in a fun and caring way. My co-workers pushed and teased me all morning; they didn’t even care if I did my job that day. Of course I had to work, but everyone was enjoying meddling in my love life.
Funny thing, at the beginning of my divorce, love was the part of my life that I had sworn off for eternity. I said things such as, “I’m never going to get married again, just get me through this damn divorce and I will stay single forever.” Or, “I’m going to be single and play the field. I never want a boyfriend ever again.” I meant every word I said.
After all my swearing off relationships for life, I was more serious than I have ever been. Who was I kidding? The universe had to throw a wrench into my plans and have a tall, skinny, dreadlocked, bad dressing, broke ass musician sing to me and capture my attention. Now I couldn’t even focus on my work! That morning my entire staff surrounded my desk wanting to know the details of every moment. Most of my co-workers were married, so they were living vicariously through me.
I told the amazing story of how I had a spiritual, but difficult to explain, experience. After I had answered every question, one co worker said, “Why don’t you look him up, as if you were looking for a “for sale by owner?” That was a real estate term for trying to get new listings and future business.
“Are you insane?” I asked.
As if I would do any of that. No way! But, the entire office teamed up on me. They pushed all day until I looked up every Bennington in the phone book and had called every one, trying to reach the stranger I had met the night before.
Everyone in the office stood around my desk, sat on the corner of my desk, or paced back and forth waiting with anticipation to see if the tactic would work. I was trembling with fear. I was so afraid I wouldn’t find him, but on the other hand I thought, “what if I did?” I also didn’t want him to think I was a stalker.
It’s funny, because I didn’t want to be in a relationship. I wanted a divorce and was in the middle of one. The possibility of starting something new went against everything I thought I wanted. I was more afraid of not trying, though, because it was clear that the universe and God were playing a huge roll in this, and they had gi-normous plans for Chester and me.
In reality, I was more afraid of not seeing him again than I was to call around to try to find him. Thank goodness for my loving and pushy co-workers. Honestly, I wouldn’t have done it without all of them pushing me in the right direction.
It was around three o’clock in the afternoon, or maybe three-thirty, when a woman answered my call. Her voice sounded young and sweet, and she gave me an opportunity to share my story, tell her why I was calling.
“My name is Samantha,” I said, “and I know this is going to sound weird. However, last night at a show I met a guy who might be your brother. He probably meets tons of people all the time, but I want you to know I’m not a crazy stalker chick. So in the event he remembers me, can you please give him my name and number? I promise I will not contact you again. But, if he wants to contact me, the ball is now in his court.”
Turned out the woman’s name was Renee and she was his older sister. She said the man I was searching for was indeed her brother. She continued to explain that while usually she did not reveal any info about her brother, for some odd reason she decided to tell me. If that’s not the universe or God intervening, then I don’t know what is!
I thanked his sister for her understanding, and for passing on my information. It was nice to speak with her and I was at peace because at least I tried. I took action with pure intention and in recognition of the life opportunity that was presented to me. I really just followed my heart, but was, in fact, manifesting the life I wanted.
I wanted a divorce, but my desire to be in a marriage full of passion, and live with true love, must have been stronger. My will to love is a pure emotion that drives all my decision making.
The next morning, I woke up late for work. I had slept incredibly well, probably because I had so many things off my mind. Anthony had moved into the guest room and I had found a new roommate. Gabi and I had met in real estate school and as soon as Anthony moved out, Gabi would take over the guest room. As of now, she was sharing the master bedroom with me because I wasn’t comfortable living alone with Anthony anymore. Unfortunately, Anthony had become an angry young man.
I rushed into work and had much catching up to do from not working much the day before. Pissing off my boss was not an option, nor was losing my job. I adored and respected my boss and was grateful to him for many things.
When I got there the office was in high vibration, and everyone was in catch-up mode. There was some radical energy going on, and everyone closed deals that day. We were so busy that I forgot all about the day before and trying to find the man of my dreams. But in the middle of all the business and hustle the phone rang . . . and I answered it.
“Hello,” a man said. “Is Samantha there?”
My whole world stopped. It was him!
“This is she,” I said.
The office got quiet and I couldn’t hear anything but his voice. He said how excited he was to hear from me and had been so surprised when his sister called the night before. He worked late nights at Burger King at the drive through window, which helped pay his bills between shows with his band. This job also gave him flexibility, with days off to play gigs.
I had left my work number with his sister thinking it was safer than a home number. After all, he was still a stranger and this was all very new. Chester again said how happy he was to hear from me, and from that day on I received a phone call from him every morning, noon, and night for two weeks until I finally agreed to meet him. We could have met earlier, but I was trying to bring my relationship with Anthony to a clean end before jumping into something new. During our evening calls, Chester and I stayed on the phone for hours.