Photo courtesy of Bruce Glikas
VIDEOS APPEAR AT THE END!I had so much fun attending the event for Belinda Carlisle's Lips Unsealed at Barnes & Noble's 86th Street and Lexington location last night! Part of the fun factor was the Q&A format headed up by the hilarious Sandra Bernhard, part of it was Carlisle's eventual willingness to indulge her (certifiable) fans and part of it was seeing so many familiar faces in such a familiar "fandemonium" setting.
I'm a fan of fandom, devoted to the devoted, and the "café Carlisle" served up a simmering brew of idolizers, from diehard Go-Go's followers to Belinda maniacs (instead of Deadheads, maybe Redheads?) to quite a few people who seemed like they'd have attended whether it was Belinda Carlisle or FILL IN THE BLANK making a personal appearance.
I found out about the event from Carlisle's book publicist Penny, then stumbled across info suggesting that only those attendees with wristbands would be guaranteed entry...and wristbands were going on sale at 9 a.m. day-of. Deciding to go all-in, I showed up at 8, finding myself fifth in line behind four people whom I know are bigger fans than I. (And who were not the lunatics who showed up in alarming numbers later.)
'Don't even get me started on my Belinda Carlisle obsession...'
I chatted with a cute guy about how all fans like to think we're as fanatical as socially acceptable without being "too much," and then met this very funny guy from Vermont named Tom (pictured) who I think straddles that gray zone perfectly—he's a fan with flawless credentials (he met the band in 1984 and again in 1994 and knows enough to reference House of Schock and urine popsicles) and yet would never, for example, get in a fist fight over who got to an event first (more on that later).
About 17 people, mostly gay guys (he assumed) but with two gay girls (he assumed) leading the way, bought books when the store opened, and I parted with Tom to earn a living during the day before meeting back up again at 4:30 p.m.
It's a bit much to stand around for two and a half hours before an event, but doing so put us within the first dozen to enter the rather cool, enclosed conference room where this was held and Tom has the gift of welcome gab so I wasn't complaining. Plus, it was a great venue for (crazy) people-watching. (Disclaimer: There were sooo many cool fans there. I promise you, if you were there and are offended, don't be, because the people to whom I'm referring wouldn't even be reading this blog!) I'm talking...it was like they decided to semi-paper the audience with the residents of a home for the deranged. It was like a zombie reunion in patches.
A vision of now-ness AND then-ness!
The good news was that the event was legit packed. The room held 120 and there was some overflow. For a book event, that is terrific.
The worst thing that happened was there were two much older men toward the front—this was my vision of what I'd look like in 25 years at a Lady GaGa signing—one of whom threatened physical violence against a guy who joined his friend in the line at the last minute. It really escalated, and when the alleged cutter said, "You're embarrassing yourself!" and the lunatic replied, "I don't care," I wanted to say, "He means it," and gesture to his attire, which looked like he'd grabbed it off a clothes line while escaping from a mid-century sanitarium. Instead, the man went on, "I don't like you. I will see you after this outside." It was only defused because the doors to the room in which Carlisle would appear were thrown open and everyone dashed in to claim a spot.
We'd been told that the right side would get their books signed first once the Q&A ended, but I'd still hoped for central seating. Instead, we wound up on the right, but in seats that were staggered so that we had a great, unobstructed view. (Unfortch, Belinda sat in the chair closer to us, so it was a profile in profile.) The violent man turned to us and informed us he was first, his friend was second and we were third and fourth—got it? Got it.
Kenneth (dapper as always) in his PSA for the book!
Finally seated, I was happy to see my old book editor Michael, a longtime Madonna fanatic who's so nice and whose name I never remember (I truly don't know why, I see him EVERYwhere), my partnered pals, Kenneth in the 212 and California boy Dan "Dan-o-Rama" Rucks (pictured), who is tight with Belinda (he went with her to India, a journey she describes in her book) and who was filming the whole thing. Despite the few kooks, it felt like the '80s, when you could be a fan and still be cool and not just a sucker.
Carlisle and Bernhard entered from the corner opposite us, posing for photos ("Oh, I didn't know I was doing pictures...I didn't know..." Carlisle said) before taking the stage after an intro by the store's superadorable manager, who referred to Carlisle's "solo" albums with The Go-Go's and Bernhard's stint on the "hitcom" sitcom Roseanne.
Well, hello, pretty lady!
The Q&A was truly funny; I think Bernhard's improvisational ease (and her obvious affection for her friend of 20 or more years—who knew???) made Carlisle chattier than she sometimes is. On leaving the U.S. to live in France, she said, "I tell you, it's one of the best things I've ever done." She also regaled us with a story of Elizabeth Taylor not liking her, a reminiscence of the time Sammy Davis Jr. called her "a vision of now-ness" and a list of current artists she actually likes (Florence and The Machine, Beyoncé, Rihanna and "of course" Lady GaGa).
She also says she wants The Go-Go's over with, at least live, because she doesn't want to be singing "We Got the Beat" on stage at 60. The book, as I told you before, is well worth a read.
When this part ended, we were herded toward the podium after being told the dreaded "no posed pictures with Belinda." I was fuming about this, but Tom and I did our best, videoing each other as we passed by the authoress. I asked her why she thinks The Go-Go's aren't in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame and if she would appreciate that honor, and she said a bit angrily (not at me), "I have no idea. They should be. We should be."
Thanking me for saying I'd read and liked her book
I noted her use of "they" for a band of which she is a part—at least until their current farewell tour ends. Maybe this is more evidence that she means it when she says this tour is their last. After the Q&A but before the signing, she was asked if she'd ever tour with them again and she said no, that after this last series of dates, "It's done!"
As a pleasant surprise, we spotted Bernhard posing with fans in the corner and pounced. I introduced myself, saying I wanted to do so before putting my arm around her for a picture. "You're sweet!" she said, indulging the fandom. I complimented her on her 20th anniversary tour of Without You I'm Nothing and she thanked me. Then, all hell broke loose!
Over 20 years after I fell in love with the movie version of her show!
Not really, but I realized fans were now getting photos with Carlisle! WTF? This did not go-go down well with me. Sure, I have my pic with Belinda already, but fair is fair. So I marched over to the manager and puppy-eyed it (it's hard to do when you're 41, but he didn't seem impervious, so I went for it), pointing out how we'd waited hours and really should get pictures with her, too. He agreed, saying she'd changed the rules, and said we could have our photo op if we waited for everyone else. I told him he was too nice to be a bookstore manager and as it turned out, we only had to wait a few minutes before our savior, Bruce, snapped some shots of us with our quarry. I think Belinda looks pretty damn good for 51—and without much makeup to boot. She seems sooo unshowbizzy.
Somehow, this = "Belinda Carlisle"
Sated, some of us fans who fancy ourselves to be normal took off to stuff our faces and comb through our photographic goodies, having shared an increasingly rare collective moment of submissive giddiness.
The last video has Belinda saying "It's done!" for The Go-Go's after their upcoming buh-bye tour + footage of me asking her about the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame...