Lou Reed’s Ex-Wife Looks Back on Their Relationship
Lou Reed never seemed all that fond of talking about himself in interviews — or of giving interviews in general — so fans may find a refreshing glimpse of candor in the memories shared by his ex-wife Bettye Kronstad, who recently opened up to the Independent about the couple's five-year relationship.
As Kronstad points out early on, the two were very young when they met in 1968 — she was 19, and a student at Columbia University in New York — so their time together might have been fairly turbulent even if Reed hadn't been bound for rock stardom. "Little did I know of the intensity that lay ahead of us as we launched his solo career," she recalled. "Our relationship would last five years. We were engaged for several of those years, although we were officially married for less than one."
Although she initially wasn't even aware he was a member of the Velvet Underground, finding out only just prior to the band's breakup, Kronstad says she was an instrumental part of Reed's first solo ventures, which started after a detour back to his parents' home in Long Island. "These years have been called his 'lost' years. Hardly," she scoffed. "Lou came from a marvelous, supportive family, and going home gave him the safety and security to find himself again. He was writing and typing some of it up, as he worked as a typist in his father’s firm. He published several poems in Harvard’s literary magazine."
The two moved in together in 1970 and were married in 1973, a span that saw the release of 1972's Lou Reed and Transformer as well as 1973's Berlin. "The goal of our relationship was to launch his career. I promised I would help him to make it, and put my everything behind him. I was an idealistic kid and in love. I believed in him, his talent and work," Kronstad said. "Anyone who knew Lou will tell you he trusted very few people, personally or professionally. But he trusted me."
With that trust came a responsibility that ultimately threatened to overwhelm Kronstad, especially as Reed's stardom grew and he found it difficult, in her view, to cope with the demands of his label and expanding audience. "Things began to spiral out of control during the recording of Berlin and supporting tours. I’d already been flown in by helicopter, because it was clear he couldn’t work without me. That’s what women were taught and expected to do then – support your man," she recalled. "It was presented to me as part of my job, but it put enormous strain on our relationship."
Those pressures, along with a multitude of factors that included Reed's growing substance dependence, drove the couple apart, but Kronstad says she was still devastated by the news of his death — and is now sharing her story as a way of healing. "When I heard about Lewis’ death in 2013, I was blindsided by grief, and completely caught off guard. I had no idea Lou’s passing would affect me so deeply. It had all been so long ago," she explained. "But it got me thinking about stories from the past. I’m beginning the process of addressing some of these stories about Lou and I in the book I’m writing."
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