Unusually hot day up here in the Pacific NW. Hope you are doing well. To put it bluntly, Christopher House has led a very colorful (and drama-filled) life. Many of you know about his rocky relationship with Janine (which we will explore later) but there’s more to his love life. Let’s not forget Pip Gethers who came into the picture years before that pretty nurse…
Christopher met Pip Gethers, a maitre’d, a massage-therapist and hostess at the Joy Motel listening party on October 10, 2004 at the Top Down Club. “Pip was a classic first ‘real’ girlfriend,” says House’s sister Beth, a marriage counselor now living in Towanda, Kansas. “And what was strange was, she had this English-sounding name, but was actually very serious and not at all English.”
Within six weeks, Pip and Christopher were living in a wooden mountainside cabin they’d found on a two-day binge of house hunting. It was a whirlwind romance, and had barely begun when the band embarked on their bruising nine- month tour in support of Joy Motel.
Though the album was only a marginal success upon release, the band’s relentless touring schedule took them to markets that many other bands had avoided. It provided the band with endless time on the road, driving two vans, on many a twisting highway. “The Joy tour had pluses and minuses,” says Tom, who had a history of stomach problems in his youth. “First, I would get car-sick constantly, and did not want to get sick in the car – that was a rule, anybody could say ‘pull over’ and get a pull-over. So we were pulling over a lot!” House agrees. “I felt like most of that tour, I was either puking, or writing love songs about Pip for the next album.”
Pip would join the Joy tour twice a month, which meant making an extra seat in the band van. For those legs of the tour, straws were pulled for who would land in the equipment van. Often it was Staton. “I felt that he had animosity about me, because of that,” Pip told a reporter from Upbeat, the Colorado Springs weekly, in fall of 2009. “I was the chick who made him sit in the other van. But at the same time, he’d come back with all these amazing lyrics. And I know it pushed Christopher harder. We’d drive 9 hours to some shithole outback, like – and this is an actual city – Mexico, Missouri. And Tom would emerge with some great song like ‘Song for the Forgotten.’ And Christopher would kind of sulk. That night we made love and I felt that very special zing. I told him, Tom might have written a really great song, but I think we made a baby in Mexico.”
Denny House was born June 21, 2005. Almost immediately the band began sessions for the next album, the self-titled Staton-House Band. Details are a bit murky as to what happened next. Manager Oseary had moved the sessions to Village Recorders in Los Angeles. “Pip didn’t want to raise the child in Los Angeles, not even for two months, so she took Denny back to Boulder while Christopher stayed behind to work on the album,” Oseary told Charles Peer in a somewhat controversial interview. “And I think the loneliness brought out some of her worst habits.”
Pip was arrested in August of 2005 for driving under the influence of painkillers she’d been given for a dancing injury. Informed of the arrest, House raced to the airport, flew to Colorado, and bailed her out of jail. Luckily, he’d been able to contact V to stay with the child. “I don’t know that things were ever really the same after that incident,” said Rick Bayless. “I’ll just say it, I think Pip was bad luck for Christopher, and bad luck for the band. There was always some crisis to deal with, raising the kid. Chris said to me, ‘I feel like I have to be two parents and one songwriter, and the two parents aren’t interested in my songs.’”
Even more telling are the words Christopher House wrote in the aching (unreleased) song from this period, “Looking at the Sky Through Glass.” In it he addresses the surprise problem that he’d discovered in his whirlwind relationship with Pip. Both were alcoholics.
It was clear to me
It was clear to her The thing we thought Would clear the air Clearly
Brought the dark
Three months after writing the song, House had a wake-up call. Literally. He woke up on a flight to New York not knowing how he got there, or why he was flying to New York. “My fucking Sid and Nancy period was over at that exact moment,” he told Howard Stern in 2012. House returned to Colorado, entered rehab at the Yonder House facility in La Junta, Colorado, and not long afterwards, divorce proceedings began with Pip. After months of negotiations, House received the agonizing news that the court had ordered their young daughter Denny to stay with Pip. Unsealed documents show a steady spiral and a cycle of angry outbursts.
House’s sobriety lasted a total of three hours after the court’s decision.
His ’68 forest green Mustang, a well-known sight around Boulder, would ironically soon be wrapped around the Survivor tree near downtown. The 2AM single-car accident was indeed miraculous for the fact that both its occupants, House and long- time friend and Tour manager Bill Hanson, emerged unscathed. In the emergency room, a volunteer from the UCB caught his bruised and damaged eye. Tending to his wounds, he asked her name.
“Janine,” she said.