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Lips Unsealed

Lips Unsealed

3.2 31
by Belinda Carlisle

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The women of the iconic eighties band the Go-Go’s will always be remembered as they appeared on the back of their debut record: sunny, smiling, each soaking in her own private bubble bath with chocolates and champagne. The photo is a perfect tribute to the fun, irreverent brand of pop music that the Go-Go’s created, but it also conceals the trials and


The women of the iconic eighties band the Go-Go’s will always be remembered as they appeared on the back of their debut record: sunny, smiling, each soaking in her own private bubble bath with chocolates and champagne. The photo is a perfect tribute to the fun, irreverent brand of pop music that the Go-Go’s created, but it also conceals the trials and secret demons that the members of the group—and, in particular, its lead singer, Belinda Carlisle—struggled with on their rise to stardom.

Leaving her unstable childhood home at the age of eighteen, Belinda battled serious weight issues, having been teased for her pudginess throughout grade school, and grappled with her confusion about being deserted by her biological father as a child. This talented but misguided teen found solace in the punk rock world that so openly welcomed misfits—even though acceptance had its price.

Not long after forming, the Go-Go’s became queens of the L.A. punk scene—they sold out venues, attracted a fiercely loyal fan base, and outpartied almost every male band they toured with—and in the process kicked down the doors to the all-boys’ club of eighties rock and roll. With a chart-topping debut album, Belinda found herself launched to international superstardom—and with that fame came more access to A-list parties, and even more alcohol
and drugs to fuel Go-Go’s mania. Inevitably, Belinda began to self-destruct.

Lips Unsealed is filled with the wild stories that Belinda Carlisle fans are dying to hear—stories about the band’s crazy days on tour with acts like the Police and Madness and the fabulous parties and people to whom the Go-Go’s had exclusive access. But more than that, this candid memoir reveals the gritty flip side to the glitz, as Belinda shares her private struggles with abusive relationships, weight, and self-esteem, and a thirty-year battle with drug and alcohol addiction.

This spellbinding and shocking look at her rise, fall, and eventual rebirth as a wife, mother, and sober artist will leave you wistfully fantasizing about the eighties decadence she epitomized, but also cringing at the dark despair hidden behind her charming smile. One of the rare adventures through rock stardom told by a woman, Lips Unsealed is ultimately a love letter to music—to the members of the Go-Go’s, who’ve maintained lifelong friendships, and to the beloved husband and son who led Belinda to sobriety—and the story of a life that, though deeply flawed, was, and is still, fully lived.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The Go-Go’s lead singer who went on to a solo career recounts a remarkable early Cinderella story that morphs into a frank, though at times self-indulgent, story of drug abuse and failure. Hailing from a working-class section of Los Angeles, the eldest daughter of divorced parents, Carlisle struggled early on with shame over her mother’s depression and her step-father’s drinking problem; teased for her chubbiness, she sought escape from a difficult home and found it in the mid-’70s’ burgeoning L.A. punk scene. Steeped in the brash music of Iggy Pop and Queen, crazy about the iconoclastic new look, she and her friends haunted Hollywood clubs while she worked as a hairdresser and secretary. In 1978 she, Jane Wiedlin, and Margot Olaverra came up with the idea of starting their own band, eventually adding Charlotte Caffey and Gina Shock, and within a short time the all-girl Go-Go’s had moved from being a novelty to a super-cool pop band with their dance hit, “We Got the Beat.” Alongside dizzying stardom came the requisite drug-and-alcohol frenzy, and much of this memoir is a chronicle of one party after another and a list of celebrity who’s who. Carlisle writes candidly, and her chronic fear of being exposed as a “fake” is heartfelt and winning. (June)
From the Publisher
Generously confessional enough to give a compelling edge to her battle with substance abuse and her quest for spiritual balance...a harrowing cautionary tale.”—Kirkus Reviews
“A remarkable early Cinderella story...Carlisle writes candidly…heartfelt and winning.”—Publishers Weekly

Kirkus Reviews
Go-Go's singer and popular solo songstress reflects on her struggles with identity, drugs and the pitfalls of pop stardom. The author was raised by her mother in the Southern California suburbs, where she became the beneficiary of right-place-at-the-right-time serendipity while experimenting with the burgeoning late-'70s L.A. punk scene. She almost inadvertently became the cherubic lead singer for all-girl pop-punk group the Go-Go's. Their rise to superstardom in the '80s seemed as unexpected as it was inevitable. One minute Carlisle and her girlfriends were sitting on a curb in Hollywood talking about playing music, and the next they were the first all-female band to hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts with songs they wrote and played themselves. The author's recollections of the years through her late-'80s period of solo success are awhirl with drug binges, drunken escapades, celebrity boyfriends, band infighting and nonstop touring. Despite the transience of her pop-star lifestyle, two constants in her life prevailed: cocaine and insecurity. The book's familiar double-edged-sword success story takes shape early on. Once large amounts of money were at stake, suddenly egos damaged more easily and personality conflicts flared up among the Go-Go's, leading to the group's initial breakup in 1985. Even with her mega-successful solo career, which included hits like "Mad About You," Carlisle was still short on self-knowledge and spiritual fulfillment. She eventually found herself in a semi-functional marriage to Morgan Mason, the wealthy scion of actor James Mason. Although readers may find it difficult to sympathize with the author's combination of discontent and moneyed privilege, her memoir is generously confessional enough to give a compelling edge to her battle with substance abuse and her quest for spiritual balance. Despite its psychologically thin veneer, the book is a harrowing cautionary tale of the perilous freedoms that rock stardom brings. Agent: Dan Strone/Trident Media Group

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Read an Excerpt

I Think It's Me

At eighteen, I worked at the Hilton Hotels Corporation, photocopying papers for eight hours a day. When I wasn't doing that, I was ordering toilet paper for hundreds of hotels. I was bored out of my mind. Making matters worse, I had the world's most hideous boss. He looked for reasons to call me into his office and chew me out. Most -people would've quit, but I didn't care. Besides needing the money, I knew I wasn't going to be there long. I was going to be a rock star.

I was absolutely certain of it.

I had always been like that: someone who dreamed big and believed those dreams could come true if I kept at them.

I probably inherited that from my mom. Raised in Hollywood, Joanne Thompson was the eldest of two children of Roy, a plant manager at the General Motors facility in Van Nuys, and Ruth, a homemaker whose head-turning beauty and dramatic flair had inspired her as a younger woman to pursue movie stardom. When those dreams didn't pan out, she turned into an obsessive fan who read all the gossip magazines and took her daughter to movie premieres where they ogled the stars walking the red carpet.

Like my grandmother, my mother was drop-dead gorgeous. Photos of her as a senior at Hollywood High show a redhead with a great figure and big, lively eyes. She was a knockout. I think she could have had a shot at a career in front of the camera if she'd had ambition in that direction. By her own admission, though, she was too naive and shortsighted. She didn't have a plan.

"I didn't think about what I wanted to do," my mother once told me when I asked how she had envisioned her life going after high school, adding that she saw herself as Debbie Reynolds and "thought everything would be, or should be, happy, happy, happy.

"Then I got married," she continued, "and I found reality."

Actually, she found Harold Carlisle, a James Dean look-alike whom she met while still a high school student. He was her dose of reality. He worked at a gas station near the school. Though he was twenty years older than her, she fell in love with him.

"I was so stupid," she told me. "He was a bum."

They married right after she graduated and on August 17, 1958, less than nine months after she accepted her diploma, she gave birth to a baby girl, whom she named Belinda. C'est moi! I arrived in the world via special delivery, otherwise known as a C-section. According to my mom, I was too large for her to push out naturally. Apparently size was an issue for me from day one.

Two years later, my mom gave birth to a boy, Butch; and two years after him, she had my sister Hope.

Even now she doesn't talk much about those early years. From the little she has revealed, she was in over her head as both a wife and a new mother. She's described it as a time when she learned "the tricks of the trade." Translation: Barely out of her teens, she was juggling three small children in a cramped Hollywood apartment, making do without much money, and trying to figure out life with a much older man.

According to her, my father wasn't happy about having children. I can sort of understand his position as he was an older man who impregnated a high school girl, married her, and then found himself in a situation he may not have envisioned for himself. Why did two more children follow if he was against having a family? Good question. To this day, my mom is reluctant to speak about those early years. She has too many wounds that are still tender and raw.

When I was five and a half, we moved to Thousand Oaks, a fifty-mile drive northwest over the hills from our Hollywood apartment. It got us out of the city and into a fairly rural area with dairy farms and post-Korean War housing developments. Our neighborhood was the low end of working-class and we were among the poorest of the poor, though at my age I didn't know rich from poor.

We moved into a small, pink and brown 1950s tract home at the end of a cul-de-sac. The street was lined with trees; I thought it was beautiful. The backyard was a hardscrabble mix of grass and dirt with a cheap metal swing set lodged in the middle that was like an island of fun. The problem was getting to it. My dad had an extremely territorial pet rooster that roamed the yard with an ogre-like temper and threatened us kids whenever we went back there.

My dad had a similar temperament. He didn't threaten us, but he left no doubt that he ruled the roost. Even on good days, there was always an undercurrent of tension. I know my parents could barely afford the house, but that was only one of their problems. My mom didn't trust my dad, or his explosive temper. Sadly, I felt the same way after I was literally caught in the middle of one of their more physical arguments, with one of them pulling my legs and the other my arms until it seemed I might split into two pieces.

Our move into the Valley coincided with my dad working at the GM plant in Van Nuys, though he didn't last there long before he started a -carpet--cleaning business. I don't know whether he left or was laid off. I remember my mom hand-painting a logo on the side of his van. It was like the christening of an ocean liner because after that he spent most of the time on the road.

As part of the change, my mom sought comfort and companionship with the handsome carpenter who lived across the street, Walt Kurczeski. It turned out Walt had his own demons, but I didn't know about them then. At that point, he was my mother's special friend. Many years later, when I asked how their friendship had started, she said, "He was there when I needed him--with marriage or without."

All I knew was Walt was at our house whenever my dad wasn't there, which was more often than not. I didn't question the arrangement until one afternoon when I was waiting in front of my house to ride bikes with Eddie, a little Mexican boy who was one of my best friends. He walked up to me looking uncomfortable and announced that he couldn't ride bikes with me that day or any other day. When I asked why, he said his parents didn't want him to play with me anymore.

I didn't understand. We played together almost every day.

"Why?" I asked.

"Because my mom says your mother is bad."

My mother was bad? I didn't understand what he meant or why he said such a hurtful thing, and his words left me bleeding from a hundred little wounds. I held back tears as I raced home. I ran into the garage, sat on my bike, and cried while trying to figure out why my friend's mother would've said such a mean thing about my mom.

It didn't make sense. My mom was a sweet, shy, young woman. She wasn't bad, and she didn't have the capability of being mean. She fought with my father when he called from the road, but she sounded defensive and usually hung up feeling scared.

After a few minutes, I went inside and looked for my mom. She was in the kitchen, preparing dinner. I stared at her through a film of tears in my red eyes. I lied and pretended nothing was wrong when she asked if I had been crying. I felt like I would hurt her if I told her that someone thought she was bad, and my instinct was to protect her.

She was twenty-five years old. Her hair was in a ponytail and she was wearing a cute dress that she had made herself, as she had most of her clothes, as well as my school outfits. None of that was bad. She liked to watch movies. She also sang around the house, played piano, and clapped when I danced for her. None of that was bad either.

At worst, she was troubled. But bad?

I could think of only one possibility for Eddie's words--Walt. He was at our house for dinner and often still there in the morning. He was more of a companion to my mom than my father was. I grew used to him being around without really thinking about why he was there. Of course, in retrospect I know why. My mom and dad had split. I don't know if they had officially separated or divorced, but they weren't together anymore.

My mom never mentioned it. Walt's presence was assumed. He continued to show up after we moved to Simi Valley, and then to a rental in Reseda, and yet again to an even smaller home in Burbank that was so close to the freeway that I went to sleep and woke up to the sound of cars speeding past. Even after the final move to Burbank, my mother, sister, and I continued to shuttle back and forth between my grandparents' home in Saugus and those of various friends of my mother.

Just as we were never given an explanation of Walt's presence, my brother, sister, and I were never told why we were constantly moved around. To this day, if I shut my eyes and think back to that time, I can feel the sense I had of being unsettled and uncertain and of wondering why we couldn't stay at home. It was confusing and chaotic. Maybe this moving around was why, years later, I took to the road so easily--it reminded me of this time in my life.

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

BELINDA CARLISLE is known not only as the lead singer of the Go-Go's, but also as one of the late-eighties most glamorous adult-pop soloists.  Since then, Belinda has released five more albums and continues to tour internationally with botht he Go-Go's and as a solo artist.  She divides her time between America and the South of France.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Lips Unsealed 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 31 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm knocking it down a star as no photos were included in the Nook edition, which really sucks!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Was hoping for more GoGo stories. I was a hard read. Struggled to finish it. Disappointed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
i had to buy this as soon as it came out because i grew up loving her music. there were some interesting parts about how the go-gos came about but ultimately it's a rather boring read. you get the sense that even through her "recovery" she is still completely self-absorbed and frankly a b*tch. if you were a fan i would suggest it, otherwise skip.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved it
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grumpydan More than 1 year ago
Belinda Carlisle writes of her upbringing, life in school, life in the clubs of LA, the formation of the Go-Go's and the life of a rock star. But what she constantly writes about is the heavy alcohol and drug abuse and her dependence on drugs throughout her life. Although, it was know that she did drugs while with band, I didn't know that was still doing it up until five years ago. This book is a swift look into her life and her struggles and loses while doing drugs. She writes honestly and I learned a little about the life she led.
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Scott67SB More than 1 year ago
Belinda tell all from childhood til present. She hold back nothing. This book tells every thing that you want to know about Belinda. How the Go-Go's were formed and how she started her solo career. Not only that she tells about her battle with drugs, and how she came clean. Belinda wanted to show that anyone can take control over there life, but it has to start by you.
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