Belinda Carlisle Gets Real
BY Jeremy Kinser
June 04 2010 1:40 AM ET
Singer Belinda Carlisle, 51, has seen life from both sides now — from reckless princess of punk on the Sunset Strip to a jet-setting solo pop siren with hits like "Heaven Is a Place on Earth." Though the media attributed her transformation to sobriety, Carlisle was harboring a painful secret. While singing party anthems like "We Got the Beat" with her pioneering girl group the Go-Go’s, Carlisle had developed an uncontrollable addition to cocaine that, despite reports to the contrary, she hadn’t managed to kick when she disbanded the group in 1985. Even by standards of the most decadent rock star tell-all, Carlisle’s just-published memoir, Lips Unsealed, is a shocker.
The singer, who now lives in France with husband Morgan Mason and son James Duke Mason, candidly and honestly reveals her harrowing drug dependency, abusive relationships, epic partying that intimidated even male rock stars, searching the dangerous back streets of Rio for cheap coke, drinking alcohol while pregnant, and ultimately her struggle to survive and start over. Now really sober since 2005 and weeks before embarking on the reunited Go-Go’s farewell tour, Carlisle speaks with The Advocate to share her remembrance of bisexual punks, lesbian groupies, and the personal reason she’s an outspoken advocate for gay marriage.
The Advocate: Why did you decide now is the time to write your memoir?
Belinda Carlisle: I finally had the lucidity to do a good job and some time in sobriety and distance to look back and really see what it was all about. I’ve had an extraordinary life, and I’ve always felt I had a book in me. I just didn’t know what the angle would be. Little did I know that it would be about making changes later in life. My book is about being able to start over again at an age when most people write you off.
When you began your solo career, a lot of stories in the press attributed your success to being drug-free and sober. How did you feel when you read these stories, knowing they weren’t true?
I was very careful not to say I was sober in the beginning. I let the press say it. I said I wasn’t doing cocaine anymore. At a certain point, I couldn’t bear to hear the word "sober." I was too embarrassed to correct them. I would say that I was using the 12 steps to live my life by, which was a complete joke because I wasn’t. It was really shameful and horrible to carry that around, and it was hard work.
How do you think your career would have fared without the cocaine binges?
I don’t know if I’d have been more productive. The drugs definitely affected the Go-Go’s. The band might have been around longer if it wasn’t for the drugs. I think that even with all the drugs, I did pretty good. I was just blessed and protected, I think.
You credit Buddhism with your spiritual awakening. How did it change your life?
I grew up forced to go to Sunday school, but I never bought into those Bible stories. Even when I was 7 or 8 years old I would roll my eyes when I heard them. But all through my life I was pretty sure that something was out there. The Buddhist philosophy always made sense to me, and chanting made me more introspective. It made me realize what a mess I was. I was trying to connect myself to whatever was bigger than me. Once I got sober I was able to make that divine connection, which is a big part of my life now. My 12-step program and my chanting all go hand in hand. It’s all the same thing at the end of the day.
You began your career during L.A.’s punk heyday in the mid 1970s. How prevalent were gay and lesbian people in that scene?
I think it was more about being bisexual than gay or straight. There were no boundaries, and anything was acceptable.