A Year After Her Band's Breakup, Belinda Carlisle Has Gotten Over the Go-Go's and Gone-Gone Solo
It had to happen. Belinda Carlisle, former lead singer of the forever youthful Go-Go's, may be growing up. In the year since the demise of America's most successful all-female rock 'n' roll band, Carlisle, 27, has settled into marriage (with former Reagan aide Morgan Mason, of all people), struggled with alcoholism and battled that scourge of the no longer young, a weight problem. Not the sort of activities one would expect of a Go-Go. But then, Carlisle observes that life with the girls of summer was not all good times and sunshine. "The Go-Go's was pretty much me when I was younger," she says. "But as I got older, I got kind of tired of being cute, bubbly and effervescent all day. I just didn't feel like being bouncy anymore."
Which isn't to say that Carlisle has taken up lawn bowling. The ex-Go-Go has gone solo, and as one fan at her recent L.A. concert put it, Carlisle is still "doing what every girl who drives around L.A. imagining herself singing on the radio dreams about." A year after her former band's official breakup date (May 10, 1985), she already has a new single, Mad About You, and a new LP, Belinda, on the charts and is now on a two-month tour as the opening act for Robert Palmer. How does her mostly male band—ex-Go-Go Charlotte Caffey is the only other female on board—stack up against the Go-Go's? "I don't mean to be derogatory," Carlisle says, "but these guys are really good musicians."
Though born in Hollywood, Carlisle grew up a San Fernando Valley girl. The eldest of seven children, she joined the cheerleading squad in high school and the New Wave fashion trend after graduation in 1976. Dying her hair purple and making clothes from plastic trash bags, she began hanging out at Hollywood punk clubs. There she met the future Go-Go's Caffey, Jane Wiedlin, Gina Schock and Kathy Valentine. "We formed a band for laughs and it turned into this huge thing," Carlisle says. "I had never been in any other band. That was my first time singing. So it was all just a fluke."
A double-platinum fluke, to be specific: The Go-Go's first album, Beauty and the Beat, sold more than 2 million copies and spent six weeks at No. 1. "God, there was so much fun," Carlisle says. "We were sort of cocky and felt on top of the world." But the giddy times didn't last. "There was real awful pressure to live up to our initial success," she says. Along the way Carlisle became involved in a much-publicized romance with L.A. Dodger Mike Marshall. The relationship reportedly inspired Neil Simon's The Slugger's Wife, a movie that, like the romance, bombed. "It was rough," Carlisle says. "There was just no privacy at all, which was definitely a strain."
By the spring of 1985, not long after Wiedlin had quit to pursue a solo career, the Go-Go's were gone-gone. "I cried about it a lot of nights," says Carlisle. "We never thought it would end, but guess what? It did."
To cope, Carlisle set goals for herself. One was to follow Caffey's lead in giving up nightlife, which was proving toxic. "After we got back from a concert in Rio, I decided I didn't have to party and carry on and do what rock stars are supposed to do anymore," says Caffey. Carlisle followed her friend's lead. "It became obvious to me that I needed to do that," says Carlisle, who, alarmed at her dependence on drink, joined Alcoholics Anonymous. "This last year has been slow and hard. But it's worth it because I feel better than ever." She also worked with a nutritionist to lose 20 pounds. "I think it's gone for good—knock wood," she says. "It was awful to be in a band and hear people say, 'Uh oh, she's been hitting too many deli trays.' I don't drink anymore or do anything except eat healthy, take vitamins and work out. Basically I'm boring."
Maybe not terminally boring. She met Mason, a former special aide to President Reagan and the son of actors James and Pamela Mason, at a restaurant opening and decided "right off that we were going to be married and live happily ever after." So far they're halfway there: The pair eloped to Lake Tahoe, hired a minister and witness and were married last April 12. "We just wanted it to be very private," says Carlisle. "Afterward we gambled for four days." Nowadays Morgan runs his own public relations firm for a living. Do they have political differences? "I prefer not to talk about politics," says Carlisle discreetly. "There's just one President of the United States and we support him," says Morgan, who endorses his wife's attempt to start a solo career. "She went through an arc of emotions. At the end of the Go-Go's, things were neither pleasant nor constructive, and I wanted her to be happy. Now she has the normal fear of wondering if people are going to accept her on her own."
"I have a feeling of starting out again," says Carlisle. "I don't know what's going to happen. But the Go-Go's went No. 1 on their first album, so anything's possible."
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