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Belinda talks

Belinda talks


Belinda Carlisle is now living happily in France with her husband and 15-year-old son. She still tours with the Go-Go's, but her new album, Voila--her first solo effort in over 10 years--is a polished, sexy reworking of all-French pop classics. And it's actually pretty great.

When Belinda Carlisle described the effects of quaaludes and made fun of Janis Ian during our recent interview, I felt like an innocent freshman in the girls bathroom in high school, listening to a cool senior talking about her crazy weekend. (Why was she talking to me?)

We all know how that ended: After a decade-long crazy weekend, Belinda cleaned up her act, had a successful solo career, and is now living happily in France with her husband and 15-year-old son. She still tours with the Go-Go's, but her new album, Voila--her first solo effort in over 10 years--is a polished, sexy reworking of all-French pop classics. And it's actually pretty great.

By the end of the interview, I felt like I had run into the same dangerously cool senior in the supermarket 25 years later--glad to learn she had become a well-adjusted mom, but slightly disappointed she wasn't still dangerous. She's amazingly frank with her sex, drugs, and rock and roll stories; her Valley Girl lilt remains unchanged, and she's even more beautiful than she was in her heyday.

What did Carlisle say about lesbian groupies, fellow France-dweller Johnny Depp, and the possibility of replacing Paula on American Idol? Read the full interview now.

You just released a CD of all French songs, sung in French. How did that come to be? I pretty much have been living in France for 14 years, and I've become really familiar with the French chansons and the French pop and French artists. I could never see myself making another pop album. And then I was approached at a music conference about two years ago about making another album, and I said, "I'm not interested," but that if I was ever going to be doing another album I'd like to do an album of French chansons. They thought it was a great idea, but I didn't even know whether or I could do it or not, to be honest.

It took me about two years to complete it, and it was great because there was a lot of researching, a lot of listening, and a lot of buying, and I had a blast. It was like discovering a whole new genre of music, and it was great.

How are the French people reacting to it? The French are pretty nationalistic about their music, but from what I hear, there is a big groundswell happening around it, so go figure. It would be wonderful in some ways for it to have an impact there, but at the same time, that would mean I can't walk around in the streets like a slob with no makeup on.

OK, now I'm going onto the lesbian questions: Are you ready? Oka-a-ay!

Why do you think lesbians were so into you and the Go-Go's? I think maybe because the Go-Go's were such a girls club. That's when it all got started, and I think that's empowering to a lot of different people and in a lot of different ways, and not just to gays and lesbians. But I also think, of course, that there's that idea of five women working together and playing together and growing up together. Maybe it was also the success--we had that factored in. And, of course, I think the music was really good too.

Over the years there have always been stories about lesbian groupies around the Go-Go's, but I've yet to read one concrete story that goes into detail. Can you tell me about the lesbian groupies? And frankly, I'm curious to know how they would act--how they would hit on you guys. The idea of groupies always appealed to us. We never had any boy groupies; they were all lesbians. [Laughs] It was all girls, all these girls, all the time. And if you want to know the truth, for the most part, it's always girls and lesbians, even now. I remember being in New Orleans just a few years ago and being taken aback by the aggressiveness of some of the women there.

I've had quite a few pretty strong come-ons. See, in my own personality, I've never been aggressive like that, so it's always one of those things where, because it's so opposite of how you are, you find the behavior fascinating.

Was there ever a supergorgeous lesbian groupie or even just a fan that made you think, Wow? Oh, well, yeah--that's happened quite a few times through the years, and not just to me, but to all the girls in the Go-Go's. And come on, it's always flattering. I'd rather have it from someone attractive than from someone ugly.

Can you go into more detail? I'd love to know the process of how a lesbian would try to pick up Belinda Carlisle after a show. Is there a pickup line that sticks out in your head? [Thinks] Hmm. It's hard to remember one specific pickup line right now--oh, I remember this one time I was at a gig watching a show, and all of a sudden I felt this woman rubbing herself against me. [Laughing] I was like, "Oh, my God!" And whether it's male or female, that's still strange.

Have you ever had a nonsexual crush on a woman? Oh, yeah, well, Debbie Harry was my first big crush.

Really? Oh, definitely. You know something? Believe me--I've been there, and I've done it all. Let's just put it that way.

Wait a minute. What do you mean by that? Well, without going into too much detail...I think all of us in the band, we've all had...we've all seen the experience you are probably wondering about. And, yeah, like I said, without going into too much detail, we've all been there and done that.

Jeez, Belinda. Well, it's true. And you know, my son is always online and stuff like that, so without going into too much detail...yeah.

Back in your punk rock days in L.A., you created different personae, like "Dottie Danger" and "Donna Rhea," before going back to being Belinda Carlisle. That's an interesting identity trait. Was there ever an element in the personae you took on that was nonstraight or bisexual? Back then the whole idea of bisexuality was cool, but that had nothing to do with my names. My names were more of an angry persona. That was more about being punk rock and didn't really have to do with identity. But the bisexuality thing, that was something totally different.

I have one last gay question. If you were lesbian for one weekend, which celebrity would you want to go on a date with? [Quickly] Scarlett Johansson. Oh, I think she's gorgeous. I think she's complete eye candy, and I think she's smart and cool too.

Actually, she'd be really good to play you in the movie. From what I hear, that's one of the people they're talking to for the movie, actually. But I really don't know that much about it.

As I was doing the research for this interview, I read so many stories about your partying days back in the '80s. There were so many stories, but what was your rock-bottom moment? Oh, my God, there were so many times. I had so many rock-bottom moments. I think the one that really did change my life was the one time where I had been on a bender for about three days, and I heard this voice. Whether it was a real voice, or not a voice, or just a voice in my head, or whatever--the voice said, "Um, you're going to be found dead in a hotel room." And that was hard. That was it, and that is when it changed.

That was really my rock bottom, but you know what else? I had found myself in so many shameful situations over the years. It was just...enough. But I do feel like it takes one really scary moment to bring it all home, and the voice in the hotel room was it for me.

I hate to follow that answer with this question, but when you look back, do you ever have any really good cocaine memories? [Laughs] Oh, I have lots of fun drug memories in general. I've had some really funny acid memories. I've had lots of really great parties and lots of really bad parties, so let's just put it that way.

You referred to what was maybe a bad party once as a result of "too much cocaine, quaaludes, and boredom." Totally random question: Do you remember the number that was on a quaalude pill? Yup--714.

Yes! [Laughs] That's scary, huh? But I used to love them.

What happened to them? Why did they stop making quaaludes? Because they were too good, that's why. [Laughs] They were just too good. I used to love the whole thing where you'd get them, and then you'd take one. And then you'd wait for your fingers to get numb, and then your mouth would go numb, and then everything would get all pear-shaped, basically.

I read recently that you were all working on a Go-Go's tell-all book. Is that still in the works? No. I would never tell all. There is just no way. There might be a book, but if people were expecting trash, they would never get it from me. I just don't like airing dirty laundry. And you know what? I'm not even so sure I like reading about other people's dirty laundry any more. I think some things really are better left unsaid, and I think I like keeping things to myself. I have a lot of really, really good stories, but I'm keeping them to myself! [Laughs]

I also read that they were doing a Go-Go's movie and that you suggested Jessica Alba to play you. Is that true? No. I don't even know where that Jessica Alba rumor came from, but it was everywhere. I first heard about it because it was a rumor at my son's school in France, and I was like, "What?" Because at the time, I didn't even know who Jessica Alba was. Now I do, and she's a beautiful girl, but no--there is no truth to that rumor at all.

So what about the movie? Yeah, there could possibly be one, absolutely. We get approached all the time.

Some people have suggested Reese Witherspoon to play you. Yeah, I've gotten that before too. I think she's an amazing actress, but from what I'm hearing now, they are thinking of someone even younger than her.

Which Go-Go do you get along with the best? I get the feeling it's Gina. Yup, Gina. She's funny. She's actually one of the funniest people I know. We have a lot in common and she's great. I love her.

What do you think would have happened to the Go-Go's if you all had been able to control the partying? Hmm. Well, it wasn't all just the partying, although that was a big factor. There was the whole thing about the lead singer, which is not the case now. There was also the publishing issue... There were a whole lot of other things that would have broken up the band besides the partying. We probably would have had a few more years left in us and then would have broken up over these other things.

You have a 15-year-old son. Do you remember his reaction when he first learned his mom was a rock star? Like when he saw you for the first time in a video? [Thinks] Hmm. Gosh, I don't really remember the very first time he saw me. But I know it took him awhile to put two and two together--what I do for a living and me being Mom--and I know that he was really proud of me.

So he pretty much now knows everything about your career. What about the music? I think he actually prefers me with the Go-Go's to the solo thing, but I'm just so happy that he has so much pride in his mom.

And speaking of your son, I hear he's obsessed with Nancy Pelosi. What's the story on that? [Laughs] Yeah, he is. My son is obsessed with politics. He's super, super smart. He's been obsessed with politics for years, and trust me, he's going to be somebody. A fan of mine who works for a congressman arranged a tour one day, and as we were walking, all of a sudden these two big doors open, and Nancy Pelosi burst through them. And my son was like, "Oh, my God! It's Nancy Pelosi!" [Laughs] All he did the rest of the day was talk about Nancy Pelosi and how great she was.

What was Nancy Pelosi's reaction when she met you? We didn't even meet her; we just saw her. His reaction came from just seeing her, that's how much he likes her. And actually, I didn't even know who Nancy Pelosi was at the time. Of course, I do now and would love to meet her.

In your opinion, who is the hottest rock star of all time? In my opinion, the hottest rock star of all time was Elvis. I was Elvis-damaged from a young age, and I always like boys with quaffs and slicked-back hair--I still do. Even though I'm too old for this, I saw two little hot-rod guys at a Go-Go's show, and I was like, "Oh, my God. Those boys are so-o-o cute." I've always liked that look.

You were a big part of the late 1970s L.A. punk scene and hung out with bands like X, the Germs, and Black Flag. But were you a secret fan of the mega-California '70s bands like Journey or REO Speedwagon? No, never. I really didn't like that kind of music. But, if anything, I have always been a huge Bee Gees fan. They were always my guilty pleasure back then and even now. I always was a Bee Gees fan and always will be a Bee Gees fan. Huge.

You've been on reality TV. You were on Celebrity Duets, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, and [the U.K. version of the cooking show] Hell's Kitchen. Would you ever be a guest judge on American Idol?Millionaire. That was fun but really scary, and oh, God, I would never do Hell's Kitchen again. I love [host] Gordon Ramsay, but let's just say I don't do well under 24-hour surveillance. As far as American Idol goes, I was actually approached a couple of years ago about possibly replacing Paula Abdul. [Laughs] But to answer your question, I really don't know. To be perfectly honest, it's just not my thing. I'd rather listen to music that comes from a more organic place. But you know, I don't know if I would or not.

Would you be willing to play "Who would you rather sleep with?" I chose some female rock stars from the '80s, and you tell me which one you'd rather sleep with. I'll play; it sounds funny.

OK. Debbie Harry or Pat Benatar? Oh, and you have to give a reason. Debbie Harry. From what I said before, and also because I wanted to be Debbie Harry when I was 17.

Joan Jett or Stevie Nicks? [Thinks] Um...hmm. Oh, Joan Jett. 'Cause she's cute.

Susanna Hoffs or Chrissie Hynde? Chrissie Hynde, definitely, because she has a very cool voice, and I always thought she was totally cool. I love Susanna, but she's a friend of mine, and that would be bizarre.

OK. I just had to--Joan Baez or Janis Ian? [Laughing] Janis Ian? Oh, my God, that's so scary. I'd say Joan Baez.

[Laughing] But why? [Still laughing] Well, because she's more attractive.

Exene from the punk band X or Phranc the lesbian folksinger? [Laughing] Oh, my God, that's slim pickings right there. Hmmm. Well, I think I'd have to go with Phranc the lesbian folksinger.

Well, good for Phranc. OK, Johnny Depp or Viggo-- [Quickly] Johnny Depp, hands down. I love Johnny Depp. I have always loved Johnny Depp.

I know this is a stupid American question, but do you ever see him in France? Actually, I do. Well, wait, actually, no--I never see him in France. But I have seen him around on occasion, and we've worked together, and he comes to my shows, actually. He's always very, very nice. I love him.

OK, last one. Madonna or Cyndi Lauper? Oh, I'd definitely go with Madonna. Just so I could say, "I've been with Madonna."

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