Friday, September 7, 2012

Belinda Carlisle's Lips Are Unsealed

Most people remember Belinda Carlisle as the cute, bubbly lead singer in the Go-Go’s. Not so many know about her punk roots, eating disorders, years of self-doubt, and three decades of substance abuse.

Within Lips Unsealed: A Memoir, Carlisle tells it all. She shares her story from her poor and humble beginnings to an unexpected meteoric rise to stardom, and her subsequent free fall.

Lips Unsealed: A Memoir.

In 1958, Carlisle was born in Hollywood to parents who had a 20-year age difference. At the age of five, her family moved to Thousand Oaks, Calif. Her dad operated a carpet cleaning business and was always on the road.

When he was home, her parents would fight and money was tight. She recalls how she and her siblings sometimes ate "oatmeal and Bac-O-Bit sandwiches for dinner." When he wasn't home, Belinda’s mother sought out the companionship of their neighbor Water Kurczeski.

Although he was described as her mom’s “special friend,” Kurczewski was a constant presence in their lives. Even when the family moved to Simi Valley, Reseda and then to Burbank, Kurczewski moved too. Nobody came out and told Carlisle the truth. Her parents had split.

When she did finally learn it, it was nearly impossible to get over the pain of abandonment. Her mother found herself on meds and her stepfather preferred spending his paychecks on booze.

Carlisle also remembers the physical and mental abuse. And at school it wasn't much better. She was teased for having only one outfit and for being slightly overweight. Some kids called her Belimpa.

As she grew into her teens, Carlisle was slowly drawn to the burgeoning Los Angeles punk music scene. While working as a beautician and secretary, her first stage stint was as the drummer for The Germs.

The Go-Gos set Carlisle straight to stardom.

It wasn't long after she would found the Go-Go’s with guitarist Jane Wiedlin. Despite continuing to struggle with weight and drug experimentation, she easily recalls the band’s earliest days as their sound evolved from punk to pop rock.

Eventually, after the lineup included Kathy Valentine, Charlotte Caffey and Gina Schock, the band discovered what worked for them. People wanted catchy songs and fun personalities — a formula that help them become the first all-female band to ever have a #1 album while writing their own songs and playing their own instruments.

MTV certainly helped too. They became music video darlings for songs like Vacation and Head Over Heels. But what these videos didn't show was anything behind the scenes. Carlisle became a bonafide party girl and hardcore cocaine addict. The Go-Go's were nearly over.

It was after the split that Carlisle met and married producer Morgan Mason (son of actor James Mason) and began a promising solo career. Her first album, Belinda, turned gold. Her follow up earned super stardom with Heaven Is A Place On Earth, I Get Weak, and Circle In the Sand.

While Carlisle continued on her rapid rise, she was also working toward her demise, alternating between addiction, depression, and her eating disorder. She got clean while pregnant with their son, James Duke Mason, but then spiraled back into substance abuse immediately, even after she and Mason moved to the south of France.

She hid her addiction from Mason for the most part, and it was easy to indulge since she was always on tour. It took a near cocaine overdose, alone in a hotel room, to seek out help.

Lips Unsealed By Belinda Carlisle Rolls In With 6.3 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

Amazingly, Carlisle does eventually come to terms with many of her personal demons and Mason has managed to stick by her (even when she posed for Playboy at the age of 42). While the book finishes on this hopeful note, the more engaging moments are all early on — her childhood and early punk days (with no fear in naming names).

Lips Unsealed: A Memoir by Belinda Carlisle is available on Amazon. You can also download the book from iBooks or (as I did) listen to the very precise (almost too precise) diction as Carlisle reads the audiobook herself. Barnes & Noble also carries Lips Unsealed: A Memoir. Last night, I saw her perform live in Henderson, Nev. She looked healthy and happy, and her voice never sounded better.
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