She's Got the Beat

By Jeremy Kinser

Originally published on Advocate.com March 16 2009 12:00 AM ET

In her number 1 pop hit
"Heaven Is a Place on Earth," Belinda Carlisle sang about
"spinning with the stars above…" Yet as anyone who watched
the season premiere of ABC's
Dancing With the Stars

could attest, spinning is not Carlisle's strong suit. In fact,
circular rotation makes her so dizzy and nauseated she
suggested dance partner Jonathan Roberts should keep a bucket
nearby.

While Carlisle is no
stranger to performing in front of audiences -- as vocalist of
her groundbreaking band the Go-Go's she was frequently a
whirling dervish in stilettos -- choreography is new to the
50-year-old songstress.

But reinvention is
hardly alien territory for Carlisle. In 1985 she disbanded the
group, stopped using drugs, and made herself over into a sleek,
chart-topping solo star. The veteran singer, who's
had a lifelong battle with weight issues and is the
new spokeswoman for diet-meals company NutriSystem, now resides
in France with her husband, Morgan Mason, a film
producer (and former U.S. chief of protocol under President
Reagan), and their 16-year-old son James Duke.

Advocate.com chatted
with Carlisle about her appearance on
DWTS,

looking good at 50, and the new generation of party girls.

Advocate.com:Congratulations. The stars are already falling and you've
outlasted both Jewel and Nancy O'Dell [both were sidelined
before the first taping due to injuries]. How are you feeling
now that the first performance in front of the television
cameras is out of the way?
Belinda Carlisle:

I'm relieved. I was comfortable in rehearsals with Jonathan,
but it's a completely different experience in front of the
audience and cameras. I now know what to expect and I'm less
nervous. I just have to remember to have a good time. I can
only do my best. Last night was the first night I've slept
without taking herbal sleep aids.

The waltz is a notoriously difficult dance to master, but I
still thought Bruno [Tonioli, one of the show's three judges]
was unnecessarily harsh. The audience even booed him.

The waltz is a difficult dance. And we might have been a bit
awkward -- I could have done without the Cloris Leachman
comparison, though.

BELINDA CARLISLE JONATHAN ROBERTS X390 (ABC) | ADVOCATE.COM

He also compared you to Julie Andrews in the same
breath.

Yeah, he said I was regal. Overall, I think he was fair. The
waltz is both mentally and physically challenging.

Do you think you'll feel more at ease with contemporary
dances like the hustle or salsa?

Definitely. I'm more of a salsa girl. I think the other dances
will be much easier for me.

How did you come to appear on the show?

I'd met with the producers months ago. Then I was packing my
bags to go to a yoga festival in India and received a phone
call saying I had minutes to decide if I wanted to be on the
show. They don't give you a chance to over-think it and change
your mind. That's their strategy.

You're following in Marie Osmond's footsteps both with her
partner on the show and as a NutriSystem spokeswoman. How
strange is that since your personas were at one time polar
opposites?

Yeah, it's funny, isn't it? She's someone I've admired. She's
become a role model of mine. I hope I don't faint, though.

You turned 50 last year and you look amazing. What have you
done to get into shape for the show?

I think it's due to practicing restorative yoga, mostly. I'm
actually in the best physical shape of my life. I have my
NutriSystem meals. I'm completely clean and sober too. I'm also
a Buddhist, so chanting has kept me from freaking out.

Obviously as a pop singer you're no stranger to dancing. You
created -- or at least popularized -- some signature '80s
dance moves. What's the experience been like to learn more
choreographed dance moves?

It's very different and strenuous. The most difficult part was
the mental aspect -- concentrating too hard and burning myself
out physically with that. I couldn't sleep. I'd wake up in the
middle of the night and be doing rehearsals in my head.

Gay fans show up in big numbers at both
your Go-Go's and solo concerts. What do you see as your
appeal for gay audiences?

We do have a huge gay following and it's very flattering. I
think it's because we didn't play by the rules and we're all
very strong women and we're survivors.

BELINDA CARLISLE AND THE GOGOS XLARGE (GETTY) | ADVOCATE.COM

You were quite a party girl during the first incarnation of
the Go-Go's, then you became a poster girl for how getting
clean can have a positive effect on one's career. What advice
do you have for the Lindsay Lohans and Amy Winehouses of the
world?

It's simple: Don't do drugs. I know that sounds corny and easy
to say. When I was in high school the antidrug films they
showed actually had the opposite effect on me. They made me
want to try drugs. I've been there and done that and drugs are
not the answer. I feel bad for those girls.

How would the Go-Go's have survived the scrutiny of
websites like TMZ and Perez Hilton?

Not very well. We didn't have all those cameras everywhere we
went... I hate the paparazzi. What they do isn't right. They
follow me around everywhere now and I'm not even
high-profile. TMZ got a photo of me in a bathing suit when I
was in Hawaii. I was not happy about that.

You, Madonna, Michael Jackson, and Prince were all born
within a few weeks of each other in the same year. What do you
think was so special about the summer of 1958 to create the
soundtrack of the '80s?

Wow, that's right. Madonna is one day older than me. There must
have been something special about that summer for all of us to
have been born so close together.

Your son James Duke has grown into an intelligent and
handsome young man. Last year he posted a series of political
vlogs on YouTube. Does he have show business aspirations or is
he more likely to follow in his father's footsteps and become
involved in politics?

Can you believe he was only 15 when he made those videos? He's
definitely interested in a political career. He was a
congressional page last year. He's also a big proponent of gay
rights.

Do you think moving to France and not raising him in Los
Angeles made the difference?

Probably. He has a purity and innocence lacking in kids in L.A.
He also has a global perspective on things. He's probably going
to go to Georgetown University. My little baby! [
Laughs

]

What are your plans after the show wraps?

I'll finally go on my trip to India, although it's monsoon
season now so I'll probably wait till September or October. I'm
also working on an Indian music project and writing my
memoirs.

Terrific. I remember an article you contributed to
Details

magazine about the summer of '69 [Carlisle confessed to being
"deflowered" by the banana seat of her bicycle]. You're a
very candid raconteur.

Oh right, I remember that
Details

article. [
Laughs

] Well, my memoirs will be published next February by Crown
Books. I'm not going to trot out all the old war stories, but
there will be some dirty laundry and I hope it will be
inspirational.