Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Belinda And The Ugly Dodger Boyfriend - Part II AKA "We Don't Get Along"

So Belinda, that Mike Marshall fellow ... how did it go?

"Mike came out for some dates and brought along his hard-partying teammate Bob Welch, who was a great guy, though not without his own troubles. He and Charlotte took a liking to each other."

Wait, Bob Welch? He of the 1990 Oakland A's, Cy Young Award, 27 win season? You've got to be kidding me. Bob Welch dated Charlotte Caffey? This is awesome. Glad to know at least some of these guys weren't complete assholes. But I guess those "troubles" to which Belinda refers were troubles with the bottle, which you can read all about in Welch's book, Five O'Clock Comes Early: A Cy Young Award-Winner Recounts His Greatest Victory. Either he picked the best, or worst, band to hang out with, depending on your point of view. Too bad they got swept by the Reds.

In February, I joined Mike for spring training at the Dodgers' complex in Vero Beach, Florida. There was nothing for me to do. While he worked out with the team, I went to Bible study sessions with the other Dodger wives and girlfriends, which I found was as torturous as Sunday School when I was a kid.

By the time we returned to L.A., our relationship was fodder for gossip columns and tabloids. Writers dug up old photos of Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio, Hollywood and baseball's most famous couple. They had wed in January 1954 and nine months later Monroe filed for divorce, citing mental cruelty.

My relationship with Mike followed a similar course, minus the marriage. Once the season began, Mike turned into a different person and living with him was difficult. He blamed me for his strikeouts, groundouts, errors, and anything else that went wrong. I fretted about what kind of mood he would wake up in in the mornings. I was constantly afraid of doing something that would upset him. I walked on eggshells; sometimes it felt like it was a minefield.

In many ways, my life with Mike reminded me of growing up with my dad when he drank. Mike wasn't an alcoholic, but he created a volatility that, although unhealthy, was very familiar ground to me. A few times I reminded myself of my mother as I yelled back at him.
Sounds like a match made in '80s sports/pop music heaven. Here's an amusing interview with Belinda from the Mike Marshall period, probably filmed during the band's hiatus between Vacation and Talk Show. This interview sets the template for every Belinda Carlisle interview of the next twenty years: a unique combination of vagueness, confessionalism, defensiveness, and bemusement. Watch as she pontificates on everything from the role of females in pop music to her and Mike's ill-fitting role as the Monroe and DiMaggio of the '80s. It looks like sitting out in all that sunlight is making her eyes hurt.


Shortly after we settled into the Marina del Rey apartment, I was at my lawyer's office and asked one of his assistants if they knew of a coke dealer in the Marina. I needed a connection closer than Hollywood. My lawyer's assistant made a call and gave me a slip of paper with a number on it and said it was okay for me to call.

I went home and it turned out that the dealer lived on the floor directly below mine. I couldn't believe my good fortune.

"You're in the same building as me?" I said.

"Yeah, the same one," he said. "I've seen you around."

He told me his apartment number.

"I'll be right there," I said.

Mike never picked up on the frequent visits I made downstairs. He was too into himself to notice I was high out of my mind. As he slept, I sat on the floor of his walk-in closet, snorting lines till the sun came up. On game days, I showed up at Dodger Stadium just before the opening pitch, and I was always loaded. I had no idea how I made those drives back and forth without an accident.
That would make two of us.

Let's stop for a moment and contemplate this delightful little scene. Coked-out pop celebrity Belinda Carlisle, cruising down 101, probably incapable of reciting the alphabet, dodging cars left and right, pulling up to Dodger Stadium at the very last minute ... which, knowing Dodger Stadium, would be about the third inning. Zing!
At the stadium, I sat in the section reserved for the players' wives and girlfriends. These were women with the big hair, jewelry, and designer outfits. They had their own social pecking order. I was not a part of their hierarchy. It was like being a guest at a club where they don't allow those of your skin type or religion. In my case, I was a nonconformist, drugged-out rock star. I was a celebrity in my own right, not dependent on Mike in any way. They also hated me for all the attention I received from dating Mike.

Not that I cared. I had nothing in common with them, plus I was coked up to my eyeballs and focused on Mike's play on the field only so I could gauge how he was going to treat me at home.

I've been told our relationship helped inspire playwright Neil Simon to pen the movie The Slugger's Wife. If only he had known the truth!
It turns out that not even Neil Simon gained all that much out of this doomed affair. From Wikipedia:
The Slugger's Wife was a total critical and commercial failure. The film has a 0% favorable rating on the Rotten Tomatoes web site. A New York Times review of March 28, 1985 written by Janet Maslin began: "It's a shock to find Neil Simon's name attached to something as resoundingly unfunny as this." The film was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Original Song for the song "Oh, Jimmy!"
Mike Marshall: not even worth a good Neil Simon/Hal Ashby movie.

But he was worth a good chapter in Lips Unsealed, and in the (as yet unfilmed) movie adaptation, the song that needs to be playing over the cheesy montage of Mike and Belinda fighting and bickering in the Dodger clubhouse is "We Don't Get Along."

Like "Vacation," "We Don't Get Along" was an old Kathy song which she'd originally written for the Textones, but the Go-Go's decided to recycle it for themselves. Although at a quick glance the lyrics don't appear to be particularly profound, upon closer inspection they are actually quite clever. The trope of using "opposites" in song lyrics is as old as John McCain, probably best exemplified by George and Ira Gershwin's "Let's Call The Whole Thing Off" ("You say po-tay-to, I say po-tah-to/You say to-may-to, I say to-mah-to"). Well, Kathy spins that on its head by naming a quality, and then pairing it with that same quality, but with a negative in front of it. She names what something is not, and then names that very same something. So she's naming opposites, but in the opposite way from what you'd expect. Whoa. For example: instead of "I'm really serious/You're really silly," the lyric is, "I'm not very serious/You want me to be straight." Instead of "I'm right on time/You're too late," the lyric is, "I'm not out of time/But you think I'm too late." This is brilliant! Kathy doesn't keep it up for the whole song, eventually reverting to the conventional naming of opposites, but who cares? Just that first verse alone seals it for me:
I'm not very serious
You want me to be straight
I'm not out of time
But you think I'm too late
I'm not feeling desperate
You think I can't wait

Somehow you always get me wrong
Somehow you always take things wrong
Somehow you always get me wrong
Well I guess we just don't get along

You always go to sleep
When I stay up all night
You say I'm wrong
When I'm thinkin' you're alright
I just wanna talk things over
You just wanna fight

You leave me broken
And you don't realize
Everything is all right
And then you apologize
The things that really matter to me
They just pass you by
Still, sometimes a great song is not enough; you need a great band to flesh out a quality tune to its full potential. Here's the original version of "We Don't Get Along," as performed by the Textones (Kathy is not the lead singer):



Not bad, I guess. Now, here's the version by the Go-Go's:



Holy smokes! Everything about this version is better: better drummer, better singer, better backing vocals, better guitar solo, better rhythm guitar (Jane sounds like she's strumming that thing as if her life depended on it) ... better everything. As one YouTube commentator put it, "This song kicks so much ass I have to clock in several times a day to listen to it."

But as we know, Belinda wouldn't have needed to dig too deep to summon the required emotional commitment to this set of lyrics. She just needed to look up from the lines of coke on the floor of the walk-in closet, and take one quick peek at her ugly Dodger boyfriend.

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