Born in Hollywood, California, in 1958, Belinda Carlisle immersed herself in the L.A. punk scene in the late 1970s. She became the lead vocalist of the all-girls group the Go-Go's, which enjoyed a chart-topping debut in 1981 with Beauty and the Beat. Carlisle later established herself as a successful solo artist with the albums Belinda and Heaven on Earth. After struggling with drug abuse for years, she released a best-selling memoir in 2010.
Belinda Jo Carlisle was born on August 17, 1958, in Hollywood, California, to Harold and Joanne Carlisle. Her parents separated when she was young, and after her mom remarried, to Walt Kurczeski, Belinda took on the last name of her stepdad for several years.
The family frequently moved as they searched for stability, and Belinda was often tasked with babysitting her three younger brothers and three younger sisters. She soon rebelled against her strict upbringing and the responsibility of her childhood. "By the time I hit 14, I'd gone really wild," Carlisle later said. "I ran away from home, smoked pot, dropped acid ... you name it, I'd try it."
Carlisle fell in love with the 1970s punk scene in Los Angeles, passing up college for life as a musician. She adopted the stage name Dottie Danger and became the drummer for an early version of the punk band the Germs. In 1978, she formed an all-female band with Jane Wiedlin (guitar, vocals), Margot Olavarria (bass) and Elissa Bello (drums), named the Misfits. They soon added Charlotte Caffey (guitar, keyboards), and by the time they replaced Bello with Gina Schock in 1979, they were known as the Go-Go's.
After another change to their lineup, with Kathy Valentine taking over for Olavarria, the Go-Go's released their debut album, Beauty and the Beat, in 1981. The record surged to the top spot on the Billboard album chart and stayed there for six weeks, eventually going triple platinum. The first all-female band ever to hit No. 1 on the charts by writing and playing their own songs, the Go-Go's were nominated for a Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 1982. Over the next few years, the Go-Go's remained one of the most popular bands in America, with hit songs like "We Got the Beat," "Our Lips Are Sealed" and "Vacation" dominating radio airwaves and MTV video play.
The Go-Go's were eager to prove that they could do anything their male counterparts could do, and that applied to the hard-living side of the rock star scene as well. "I remember thinking to myself: OK, I'm young and I'm a musician," Carlisle later recalled. "People are going to have certain expectations of me. They're going to think I'm a flake, they're going to think I'm a drug addict and they're going to think I'm irresponsible—so I might as well become all those things." She settled on cocaine as her drug of choice—a substance, she said, that "always made me feel better no matter what else was bothering me." Carlisle wasn't the only member of the Go-Go's to succumb to addiction, as other members of the band would send drugs via FedEx to their locations when they went on tour.
Personality conflicts and spiraling drug use took a toll on the band, and the Go-Go's broke up in 1985. A year later, Carlisle married Morgan Mason, a former aide to President Ronald Reagan, and reinvented herself as a solo pop star. Her first solo album, Belinda (1986), went gold. Her second album, Heaven on Earth (1987), was even more successful, and she earned a Grammy nomination for the hit single "Heaven is a Place on Earth."
Carlisle experienced a new feeling of accomplishment when she gave birth to son James in 1992. Two years later, the family moved to France, where Carlisle continued to record solo albums. However, all was not perfect for the pop star, who continued to struggle with a cocaine addiction.
At the age of 42, Carlisle posed naked for Playboy magazine in an attempt to revitalize her career, but her drug abuse continued to hold her back professionally. Finally, in 2005, Carlisle embarked on kicking her drug habit through a combination of yoga and Alcoholics Anonymous.
In 2007, Carlisle released the French-language album Voila, her first solo album in 10 years. She competed on Dancing with the Stars in 2009, and was scheduled to take part in a Go-Go's reunion tour in 2010, before it was canceled when Jane Wiedlin hurt her leg. That same year, Carlisle released her tell-all memoir, Lips Unsealed, which became a best seller.
Carlisle has managed to stay sober, despite the many reminders of her days as an addict. "God, smells are so weird! Every so often, I'll come across a smell that smells exactly like the hallway of my coke dealer in Marina Del Rey, which is odd," she told an interviewer. "But you know what? Those kinds of triggers can also serve as a good thing, because it reminds you of how painful it all was and it kind of keeps you from wanting to go back there."
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