Musician. Born August 17, 1958, as Belinda Jo Kurczeski to Walt and Joanne Kurczeski in Hollywood, California. Belinda’s father abandoned the family when she was 5 years old. Her mother remarried, and the family’s lower middle-class household eventually expanded to include seven children. As a youth, 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 first adopted the stage name Donna Rhea, singing backup vocals for a string of local punk bands. She then went by Dotti Danger, playing the drums for an early version of the punk band the Germs. When she left the Germs, she changed her name once and for all to Belinda Carlisle and formed a new all-female band, the Go-Go’s, with girlfriends Jane Weidlin, Margot Olaverra and Elissa Bello (Charlotte Caffey joined later).
The Go-Go’s released their debut album, Beauty and the Beat, in 1982. The record reached the top spot on the Billboard album chart, staying there for six weeks before going double platinum. The Go-Go’s became the first all-female band ever to hit No. 1 on the charts by writing and playing their own songs. Throughout the early 1980s, the Go-Go’s remained one of the most popular bands in America, with hit songs like “We Got the Beat” and “Our Lips Are Sealed” 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; three of the band’s five members developed serious drug problems, sending drugs by FedEx to their locations when they went on tour.
Carlisle’s romantic life was equally chaotic. By the time she turned 25 years old, she had been engaged five different times (but never married) and had high-profile flings that included INXS frontman Michael Hutchence.
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, went gold. Her second album, Heaven on Earth, topped the charts and boasted hit singles like “Heaven is a Place on Earth,” “I Get Weak,” and “Circle in the Sand.”
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. But all was not perfect for the pop star. Her cocaine use never stopped and, two days after her 40th birthday in 1998, Carlisle’s record company informed her that they were dropping her from the label. This didn’t stop Carlisle from her pattern of drug abuse. At the age of 42, she posed naked for Playboy magazine in an attempt to vitalize her career, but her drug abuse continued to hold her back professionally. Finally, in 2005 Carlisle kicked 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 was scheduled to take part in a Go-Go’s reunion tour in 2010, but the tour had to be canceled after guitarist Jane Weidlin hurt her leg. That same year, Carlisle released her tell-all memoir, Lips Unsealed, which became a bestseller. She has also 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.”