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She's Got the

She's Got the


Eighties pop queen and gay icon Belinda Carlisle is moving to a new beat on this season of Dancing With the Stars -- and proving right out of the gate that she's a survivor.

In her number 1 pop hit "Heaven Is a Place on Earth," Belinda Carlisle sang about "spinning with the stars aboveaEUR|" 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. chatted with Carlisle about her appearance on DWTS, looking good at 50, and the new generation of party girls. 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.

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.

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.

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