Belinda Carlisle booking
Belinda Carlisle’s story is well known to some. That is the story of the ex-punk rocker, ex-cocaine addict, ex-lesbian lust icon and the ex-target of no fewer than 32 stalkers. For others, Belinda’s story is much simpler, that being the story of the cute, bubbly and effervescent Belinda.
Belinda Carlisle was born on the 17 August 1958 in Burbank, California, to Harold Carlisle, a contractor, and Joanne, a housewife. She lived in a lower-middle-class neighbourhood and wore hand-me-down clothes. Belinda, the eldest of seven children, was a total tomboy with her Stingray bicycle and hung out with boys getting into fistfights and beating them at Basketball games. Belinda was a Girl Scout Troop who got expelled after three days for placing cicadas in people’s sleeping bags and was a onetime cheerleader at Newbury Park High School in Ventura County, just north of Los Angeles.
Behind this childhood innocence were more pressing issues. Belinda’s father was an alcoholic and her mother was a struggling mother. Belinda blocked out many of her childhood memories, creating her own secret private world and had a very vivid imagination to help her cope. She had a tendency to stretch the truth and now cannot remember if some things really happened or not. Harold and Joanne Carlisle eventually divorced, with Joanne remarrying a man named Duke Kurczeski. Belinda struggled to live under the rule of Duke. They both clashed heads constantly, “his head being hard and Belinda’s head being harder”. On weekends Belinda used to drive to Hollywood to watch punk-style bands at the Starwood Club, dressed in clothes made out of trash bags and with platinum blonde hair. Duke, embarrassed by his ‘crazy’ step daughter, used to get Belinda’s younger siblings to hide in the car while driving so people wouldn’t see them. It was not until Belinda turned 19, argued with Duke and Duke throwing all her clothes outside that Belinda left home, claiming that one day she would be a star.
It began in the streets of 1978, where Belinda and Jane Wiedlin were sitting on a curb at a party getting drunk. Wiedlin, while going to Taft High School in the San Fernando Valley community of Woodland Hills, became interested in rock because of hearing the Beatles records played by older siblings in her family.
Belinda and Jane lived at the Canterbury, a punk dormitory that was right next to a porno theatre. Down in the basement of that porno theatre was the Masque, a legendary hangout that gave people the chance to play in a band and be as bad or pathetic as they wanted to be. Here, Belinda and Jane began what was going to be the roller coaster ride of their lifetime; The Misfits (now known as The Go-Go’s). At first, they were a joke. They couldn’t play nor could they sing.
The original band, besides Carlisle and Wiedlin, included Margot Olaverra on bass and Elisso Bello on drums. In 1978, Charlotte Caffey was asked to join. Caffey, who attended Immaculate Heart High School in Los Angeles, had played guitar with several groups starting with Manuel and the Gardeners when she was 17. With replacement of Bello on drums in 1979 by Gina Schock, the band was starting to develop its own unique sound, attracting growing numbers of fans to local performances.
Schock, a Led Zeppelin aficionado, had worked with some groups in her hometown of Baltimore before moving to L.A. for greater recording opportunities. She told the Los Angeles Times, “When I first saw the band I didn’t think they could play very well, but I thought they had a lot of potential.” So did Ginger Canzoneri, an album cover graphics designer at CBS Records, who became their manager.
She lined up bookings that started to win plaudits from rock reviewers as well as fans. In 1979, this helped bring an invitation from British ska groups Madness and the Specials for the Go-Go’s to join them on a U.K. tour. While there, the group made a single, “We Got the Beat,” on a one-disc deal with England’s Stiff Records.
Back in Los Angeles, the group was spotlighted in a promotional concert at the Starwood set up by Canzoneri for U.S. record executives. No contract offers resulted, however, and, despite growing evidence that the band was a major local concert attraction, none were made that year or during 1980. In early 1981, while Margot Olaverra was out ill, her place was taken by bass guitarist Kathy Valentine. Born in Texas, Valentine had worked with many bands at home and in Los Angeles. Her previous alignment before the Go-Go’s was with the Textones. The group members soon decided Valentine fitted in better with Go-Go’s style than Olaverra, and Kathy became a permanent member.
Not long after, the reorganized quintet was signed by I.R.S. Records, a label associated with A&M Records. Their label debut LP, Beauty and the Beat, came out in the summer of 1981 and soon was high on Billboard charts, where it stayed into 1982, passing platinum award levels. A series of chart singles were culled from it, including the title song, “Our Lips Are Sealed,” and “We Got the Beat.” The LP was in the Billboard top 10 in early 1982, a position attained by their second album later in the year, Vacation (I.R.S.). The Go-Go’s were the first self-contained female unit to ever score a number one album on the charts.
Outwardly everything looked wonderful for the band, but storm clouds were gathering. In early 1982, manager Canzoneri said she was getting tired of business matters and eventually quit. Later Irving Azoff, who had joined her as co-manager shortly before she departed, left his management firm to become president of MCA Records. Then emotional and health problems began to affect band members. In late 1982, Caffey found her left hand had developed a numbness she couldn’t shake. After months of aggravation, it finally was diagnosed as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, and a regimen of Vitamin B-6 tablets was prescribed as a cure.
Meanwhile, financial disagreements had surfaced with I.R.S. Wranglings over what the Go-Go’s stated were $1 million in unpaid royalties led to a lengthy legal dispute that finally was settled out of court, but not without leaving bitter feelings among the participants.
In mid-1983 the band assembled in London, England, to begin plans for a new album, Talk Show. While there, Schock found her health deteriorating. She felt worse after completing work on Talk Show in London during the winter of 1983-84. Back in Los Angeles, she went to her doctor for a check-up. While rehearsing for an upcoming tour in support of the new LP, she was informed the doctor urgently wanted to see her. She told Robert Hilburn “I started crying right away because I knew there was something wrong. We all went over to his office together. He told me and I almost passed out. I couldn’t even think. The rest of the girls got hysterical. It was a horrifying thing. I had a hole about the size of a golf ball in the vertical wall of the two top chambers of my heart.” By the following Monday she was in the hospital awaiting surgery. Fortunately, it was successful and the Go-Go’s were back together and touring by mid-1984.
What seemed to be the pinnacle of success for five young girls was actually becoming a collision course between the Go-Go’s public image and their private lives. Unable to cope with the success, they began to indulge a strange sense of humour. They would meet some businessman, get him drunk, take pictures of his and their private parts, and secretly place them in his pocket, ’So much the better if he was married,’ they would say. Other silly pranks and jokes took place, but it was not until the band experimented with drugs that the band started to fall apart. Belinda Carlisle, plus other band members started to take cocaine. They had become totally addicted to the extent that they would steal to get their hands on some. In late 1984, Jane Wiedlin decided to leave for a solo career. Belinda Carlisle shortly after, had also resigned, leading to the official disbandment of the Go-Go’s in May 1985. As Kathy puts it, “It was a case of too young and too much too soon. Throw in egos and issues with royalties for song writing mixed with substance abuse and non-stop touring and you have a recipe for disaster. We simply imploded. I don’t think people realise how much the music business takes out of you. It is so much more than being up there on stage. It is constant promotions, appearances and signings. When we broke-up, I was devastated, profoundly lost. My identity was wrapped up in being a Go-Go.”
Carlisle told Hilburn she also had thought about departing during 1984. “We were getting ready for a concert in Rio and it just didn’t feel right. I remember it real clearly because I started to cry. It wasn’t fun anymore. We were just sort of going through the motions, pretending to have all the fun on stage that we really did have in the beginning. I was so unhappy that I hated seeing new artists because I knew I couldn’t be one of them. I couldn’t share their freshness or excitement. I was sort of envious.”
Belinda went her own way with her future husband-to-be, Morgan Mason. Belinda and Morgan met at a party in 1984. He was a renowned and respected son of James and Pamela Mason. He was also the presidential aid to Ronald Reagan and worked at the White House. After their first date, Belinda moved into his home. Morgan eventually became aware of Belinda’s drug problem. It wasn’t until Belinda opened her eyes and saw the life that she would miss out on if she didn’t change. Belinda decided to make important life-style changes, including going to a nutritionist for a healthier diet, joining Alcoholics Anonymous and ending her drug abuse. She was encouraged to do that by Caffey’s earlier success in overcoming a substance abuse problem. A few months down the track, Belinda was ‘sober’ and married to Morgan Mason. She started a new life with Morgan, lost all the excess pounds that polluted her body and began a new successful solo career with her first single, Mad About You and another that placed her up for a Grammy nomination with her number one hit, Heaven Is A Place On Earth. Belinda seemed back on track, but her marriage renewed media interest that brought a whole new stack of problems. Belinda was blamed for the Go-Go’s break up and was constantly speculated about the state of her marriage and her previous weight problems. Carlisle was able to cope with the constant criticism. It wasn’t until complete strangers wanted to kill her that made her fear for her life. Belinda had 32 stalkers, at once, after her and her husband that were considered dangerous. She began to feel like her private life was being invaded.
Belinda continued with a successful career with hits such as ‘Summer Rain’, “Leave A Light On’ and ‘Live Your Life Be Free.’ In 1992, Belinda gave birth to her first child, James Duke Mason during the LA riots. James Duke was named after Morgan’s father and after Belinda’s step father. The birth almost killed both mother and child. James was born two weeks early and was severely under weight. He was placed in intensive care and Belinda remembers being unable to go near her new baby born. She was only able to watch him through a glass box. The riots outside the hospital did not help Belinda and Morgan feel at ease. After weeks in intensive care, baby Duke was allowed to come home. California seemed not to be the place Belinda wanted her son to grow up in. California was falling victim to numerous earthquakes and Belinda feared for the life of her son and herself. The longer she stayed in her hometown, the more depressed she got. At times she felt she was going to go insane. Morgan began to believe that his wife was going crazy when she chopped off all her hair and began locking herself up in the house. After numerous earthquakes, Morgan and Belinda decided it was time to leave California. The California Belinda remembered was no longer the California that existed. So they decided to move to Europe.
They moved to France and every now and then live in London. It was much safer than California. The people were good and the children grew up in a safe environment. Belinda was still depressed though. Her career had gone down in America and her albums decreased in sales. Then her three-story mansion was burned to bits. They were able to save the important things like photos.
Previously, while staying at a hotel, Belinda bumped into one of her old band members. It was the first time they had seen each other since the break-up. They began to cry and they put their differences aside. Then suddenly the Go-Go’s reformed, released an album and then broke up again. At least this time they remained friends. Belinda’s involvement with the Go-Go’s has been a roller coaster ride. “Divorced and re-married” so to speak. 1999 saw the Go-Go’s back together with sold out tours. It seems so natural for them when they are altogether.
The Go-Go’s redefined themselves and returned to the music scene after a 15 year break. Their album, “God Bless the Go-Go’s”, continued on where the Go-Go’s left off and was a cool mix of all their best bits. The first single, Unforgiven, saw Greenday lead singer as a special guest and contributor. The album, although a critically acclaimed success, failed to mimic the success The Go-Go’s had in the 1980′s, mainly to do with a lack of radio airplay.
Belinda Carlisle, now more accepting of her body image posed for Playboy in 2001. She was paid a large sum of money for posing in the magazine that exposed all her best bits. Why did she do it? As she says, “I’m really fed up with whole media thing where you have to be 20 years old, a size 0, and blond with plastic tits.”
In 2007, Belinda released her seventh album Voilà, which was her first full-length, solo studio album in more than ten years. The album was produced by John Reynolds. Consisting of a mix of French pop tunes and chanson standards, including covers of Françoise Hardy and Édith Piaf classics. Carlisle was originally approached to make another pop rock album, but she declined immediately, in favour of recording this collection of songs, the style of which, she’d “absolutely fallen in love with” since moving to France in the early 1990s.
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