Belinda Carlisle Tells All: The BlogHer Interview, Part I
"In 1982, the Go-Go's were nominated for a Grammy as Best New Artist," Belinda Carlisle writes in her explosive new tell-all autobiography. "My mom made my dress, a fabulous, princess-style gown with big gold lame puffed sleeves, a matching skirt and a hot pink bodice. I looked like Cinderella at the ball.
But unlike Cinderella, I started doing coke in the morning and was out of my head by the time [then-boyfriend] Buster and I hit the red carpet."
It's no secret that in the early '80s, Belinda Carlisle was the lead singer of the rock band The Go-Go's, at the top of the charts and the covers of innumerable glossies. She had it all, including a wicked penchant for drugs and alcohol. But after she left the band, she got into a 12-step program and became clean and sober -- and never looked back. She kick-started her solo career looking fabulous on the "Mad About You" video in 1986, and her smart lifestyle choices have kept her drop-dead gorgeous at 51.
Get ready to be shocked: In a new autobiography out today, Lips Unsealed, Carlisle shatters the myth about her much-lauded 25 years of sobriety as she recounts her journey from a very dysfunctional home in Southern California to stadium concerts around the world -- a wild adventure plagued with an almost fatal decades-long affair with drugs and alcohol.
She hid her drug use for decades, lying to her family and friends. She did drugs as a parent. But her fear of getting caught -- even the threat of blackmail from her coke dealer -- didn’t halt her excesses.
Carlisle spills about her affairs with INXS’s Michael Hutchence, Madness singer Graham "Suggs" McPherson and L.A. Dodger Mike Marshall -- but her description of her moment of clarity after a 2005 trip to India, and starts her on a path towards sobriety is equally riveting.
I got a chance to talk to Carlisle about her drug addiction; successfully fooling her family and fans; the difficulties of maintaining her sobriety; and much, much more.
As a major pop star for the past 30 years, I always imagined that you had at least a few wild stories to share. What prompted you to finally write your autobiography?
I always knew my life was really extraordinary and I thought it would make for good reading, and that after 50 years, I finally have something to say.
But also, with the last five years of me being sober -- and I mean really sober -- my eyes have really opened up about my past and my journey to get where I am now. I thought it could be an inspirational book for people struggling with addiction, overcoming obstacles and also for women my age who might think, "I really shouldn’t be taking chances, maybe I should just settle into what I’m supposed to be doing as a 50-year-old."
You were always known as "clean and sober" Belinda. How did it make you feel when you’d read in the press about your sobriety, knowing you weren’t sober at all?
Horrible. It was horrible. See, what happened was that I really never took the time to understand what the 12-step program was the first time around. In retrospect, I look back and it’s a joke. I definitely didn’t do the program any justice. I mean, come on -- I sponsored myself!
At first, I felt bad for saying I was sober, because I knew it wasn’t true. But at the same time I was fooling myself and thinking that the occasional glass of wine was still being sober. You know: "I’m not doing coke, so I’m sober."
But at that point, if someone flat-out asked me about being sober, I would always make it a point to say, "I use the 12-step as a guide to living." So I never said I was sober, because I couldn’t blatantly lie. And then after a certain point, when I got back on cocaine, it was just totally embarrassing and horrible and humiliating trying to present this sort of façade. And when pills and stuff started creeping into the picture, it actually made me feel like shit when I would be referred to as sober.
What kinds of pills were you using?
I did everything. I liked downers. I liked Halcion and Rohypnol -- those were my favorites. I had a mixed, big baggie of stuff. And I had no idea at that time how bad prescription drugs really are. My husband found my stash once and confronted me about it, and he was horrified.
It was especially hard to read the pregnancy part, where after you gave birth, you were accused of doing cocaine during your pregnancy. Was that difficult to keep in?
Being accused by doctors of doing cocaine during my pregnancy was definitely one of the more hideous moments of my life, but no -- it wasn’t a difficult decision to include it. [My husband] Morgan didn’t have a problem with my including that part either, and as a matter of fact, he was more shocked to learn the extent of my drug use in the later years. I don’t know how I got away with it, calling home and pretending to be sober and all that. God.
You did get away with it, and you also got caught using on so many different occasions. In the book you described in heartbreaking detail the shame you’d feel after getting caught, which made it even more painful to read that you’d turn right around and use again.
Yeah, I did get caught a lot. When you’re a drug addict or an alcoholic, you make promises and you really want to keep those promises, but you know you can't because there’s ... a really big problem going on.
Yeah, one of your coke dealers ended up trying to blackmail you, threatening to go to the press and reveal everything, but even that didn’t stop you. By the way, have you heard from him since you wrote the book?
No, I had one Facebook attempt from him to get in touch last year, but I didn’t respond. And that was really, really scary, his attempt to blackmail me. I have never, ever been in that much fear that so much was going to be revealed about me in the press. That was absolutely terrifying.
Because you managed to fool so many people for so many years about your addictions, do some people remain suspicious of your sobriety?
I’m sure some people may be suspicious and after all the years of not coming clean, it would be understandable for them to think that. But you can just look at me, and look at my life now and it’s pretty obvious I’m sober. My life is so different so now; it’s really a reflection of what sobriety is. I wake up early to do my meditation, and then I have my yoga. I’m never, ever at parties anymore, even on the road. When I was still pretending, you’d still see me at clubs till two or three in the morning, and I wouldn’t be out during the day like I am now.
Come back tomorrow for Part II of my interview with Belinda Carlisle -- where she opens up about her son James' coming out, hearing "Our Lips Are Sealed" in the nail salon, and how Lindsay Lohan freaked her out. And stay tuned all this week for interviews with the other band members about their time together and their farewell tour, which kicks off this July.
Jenny Stewart has been named one of Curve Magazine's 10 most Powerful Women in Music, as well as one of POWER UP's 10 Amazing Gay Women in Hollywood, an honor shared with Ellen DeGeneres, Jane Lynch and numerous others. Read her interviews, including more from Belinda Carlisle, Tina Fey, Kathy Griffin, Linda Ronstadt, The Bangles' Susanna Hoffs, and Susan Sarandon, at jennystewart.net.