It’s funny how comparing ages with someone at two different points in your life are so different.
I just finishing “Lips Unsealed” by former Go-Go’s Belinda Carlisle.
This fall, Belinda will turn 56-years-old and I’ll hit the big 5-0!
Back in 1981, I remember dancing around my bedroom to the Go-Go’s first hit, “Our Lips Are Sealed”, as a 17-year-old beginning my senior year in high school. At that age, I had no real sense of age and time. I thought people who were in their 20s were so mature and people who were 30-years-old were over-the-hill and ready for the grave.
I’d watch that video and think that the band was so much fun and so worldly.
What I definitely didn’t know then and I didn’t know until reading “Lips Unsealed” was that Belinda, the self-assured looking young lady in that video that was only six years older than me. But, she was a scared, insecure singer and performer that didn’t really think she had what it takes to be a real star. And, that she and the Go-G0s were wasted on drugs and alcohol more often than not.
While helping to usher in “new wave” music in the United States, “Beauty and the Beat”, the Go-Go’s 1981 debut album, spent six weeks at #1 and sold more two million copies here at home. At the time, it became the most successful debut of all time.
In addition to the #20 hit, “Our Lips Are Sealed”, which reached the Top 5 in Canada and Australia and in 2000 was named one of the greatest pop songs of all time by “Rolling Stone” magazine, the album produced the biggest hit of the Go-Go’s career, the #2 smash, “We Got The Beat”.
It’s so interesting to watch these videos now thirty years later and know from reading Belinda’s book how she and the Go-Go’s partied so hard at night and just went through the motions for some promotional events and concerts.
When I started reading the book about Belinda’s childhood and her being weight-conscious and being called fat, her parents’ divorce, and her abusive and alcoholic stepfather, I thought about my own struggles with eating disorders and how, no matter how much weight you lost, you still thought you could lose more.
I also thought about the abuse that my father brought upon my mother, my sister, and myself and how he was an okay person on the days he wasn’t drinking.
And, while I’ve never done a recreational drug in my life, as I was reading the book, it took me back to the 1970s when Belinda was deep into the growing Hollywood punk rock scene and I thought about how much fun hanging out in that seedy environment would have been.
To hang out the parking lots of the clubs and see the pop, rock, and punk music stars walk by would have been incredible. With all the people musicians have working for them these days, that could never happen now.
While reading “Lips Unsealed”, at times, I felt she was boasting about how much cocaine and other drugs she did, along with the alcohol. However, without that honesty, how could one really know how detrimental she was to herself, the band, and those that she cared most about, including her husband, Morgan Mason, that she married in 1986.
After their successful breakthrough with their first album, the Go-Go’s follow-up, “Vacation” in 1982 reached the Top Ten and moved 500,000+ copies. The title track was the only hit from the album reaching #8.
Their third album, in 1984, produced two hits that reached #11 and #32 on the Billboard Hot 100, and it was time for a change for the band. Between drugs, alcohol, less success at radio, and infighting, the band called it quits, except for concerts here and there to make money and just to play music.
Belinda was ready to become a solo star.
Her first solo album, Belinda, went gold, in 1986 and produced her first hit without the Go-Go’s, “Mad About You”.
While the song reached #3 in the U.S. and #1 in Canada, it would be the only hit from the album. Belinda did score a Top 30 dance hit with the remake of Freda Payne smash, “Band of Gold”. I used to play it all the time when I was a disc jockey at the gay bar in Paducah, Kentucky.
Belinda’s solo career would sky-rocket with the release of her second album, “Heaven On Earth” in 1987.
It would produce three Top Ten hits, including the #1 smash, “Heaven Is A Place on Earth”, “I Get Weak”, which peaked at #2, and “Circle In The Sand”, which reached #7.
While she was on top of the world as a solo singer, her personal life was in shambles. Her drug use and insecurities about her weight, her singing, and her performances were out of control. She was also hiding her drug and alcohol addiction from her husband, who appeared in her “Mad About You” and “Heaven” videoes.
That was made easier since he was busy with his movie production career and she was touring.
Belinda’s third album, “Runaway Horses” produced only two modest hits in the U.S. with the biggest, “Leave A Light On”, reaching only #11.
While her career cooled because of the changing music scene in the early 1990s, Belinda was still a drug addict that would not admit that she had a problem. In 1991, she found out she was pregnant and in April 1992 gave birth to her son, James Duke Mason.
In a very touching story, Belinda talks about how one of her doctors spread lies about her alleged drug use during her pregnancy and how the trash tabloids picked up on it.
Sadly, Belinda struggled to be a good mother and a good wife. She spent the rest of the 1990s and the early part of the 2000s as a drug addict and alcoholic fearing that every talk or intervention with her husband would lead to him saying that was leaving her.
In March 2005, Belinda was in London rehearsing for some tour dates and having talks about a new venture for her, an album of French pop songs.
In heartbreaking detail in the book, she went on a cocaine frenzy in her hotel room and envisioned herself dead of an overdose. It gave her the strength to do something she had never been able to do. She was going to finish the last of the cocaine sitting on the table and quit cold turkey.
That was March 14, 2005. Nine years later, she is still drug free.
Weeks later, she was ready to give up her other addiction — alcohol. She bought her favorite wine, Corbiere, and went home and drank it and passed out on April 3, 2005. She is still on the wagon.
In the past nine years of living healthy, Belinda starred in “Hairspray” in London’s East End, released her French album, “Viola”, in 2007, performs occasionally, and is getting ready to release her latest collection of songs, “The Anthology” and “The Collection” later this month.
Last year, Belinda released the incredible song, “Sun”. She still looks and sounds amazing.
Belinda and her husband, Morgan, call Los Angeles and France home, while her son, Duke, soon to be 22-years-old, is an actor and LGBT activist and he was named as one of the “100 most influential LGBT people in the world” in 2011 for “Out” magazine.
Belinda, Morgan, and Duke, I wish you all happiness and love. And, my friends, you have to check out Belinda’s memoir, “Lips Unsealed”.
P.S. It’s time to make plans now. Belinda will be kicking off this year’s Northalsted Market Days in Chicago on August 9th at 1 p.m. with a special performance!
I’m going to move heaven and earth to be there and relive those days when I was 17-year-old and dancing around my bedroom to “Our Lips Are Sealed”.