Thursday, April 24, 2014

The (Unsurprisingly) Brief Affair Between Michael Hutchence And Belinda Carlisle

So let's see, we've had the Ugly Dodger Slugger, the Sensitive Hollywood Auteur ... who could possibly be next in the endless parade of Belinda flings? Try the Charismatic Australian Stonesy Rocker.

For years I only knew two things about INXS: 1) they did that song "One Thing Leads To Another," and 2) their lead singer Michael Hutchence accidentally hung himself in a botched attempt at autoerotic asphyxiation. Unfortunately, neither of those things is true. It turns out "One Thing Leads To Another" is actually a song by The Fixx, and, according to Wikipedia, although his girlfriend Paula Yates offered up the autoerotic asphyxiation theory to the media as speculation, the coroner ruled his death a suicide. Besides ... autoerotic asphyxiation? Really? Who would actually do that? The thing is, it seems like if anyone would have done that, it would have been Michael Hutchence. It's like the urban legend about Walt Disney being cryogenically frozen. Even if it isn't true, it feels like it is.

So, INXS. INXS are sort of like U2 with the flu, or Simple Minds with athlete's foot. I don't know if rock and roll really needed INXS, but INXS certainly needed rock and roll. At any rate, before they became international superstars and filled stadiums at the flick of the wrist, in 1984 they toured the U.S. as the opening act for the Go-Go's. It wasn't quite Jimi Hendrix opening for the Monkees, but let's just say that one of these groups was "on the way up" and the other was "on the way out." There's actually a great clip of Belinda doing an interview on Late Night with David Letterman right around this time (when the show must have practically been brand new), and Dave asks her about the tour, and she says something like "We've got a great opening act, INXS," and there is one guy, one solitary guy in the audience who claps and lets out an enthusiastic "Whoo!" and the rest of the place is dead silent. Yes, lone guy in the Late Night audience, you're on to something, and all those people around you are sheep, I tell you, sheep. It looks like somebody took the clip down from YouTube, but despite that obstacle, I have to say I watched it so many times, I can probably recall the entire interview from memory. In fact, my re-telling of the clip might be more entertaining than the actual clip itself. Some (paraphrased) highlights:
  1. Although the Go-Go's are still very much together at this point, only Belinda is asked to come on stage to be interviewed (looks like the Late Night producers could read the tea leaves here). Awkwardly, about two minutes in, Belinda points to the audience and says "The other girls are sitting up there, let me show you!" The camera cuts to Charlotte, Gina, and Kathy waving from their seats. Apparently Jane is running late, so one of the girls just holds up a photo of Jane. Remarkably prescient, symbolically fitting.
  2. Paul Shaffer informs the audience, "Did you know that I was the sixth Go-Go?" Dave replies, "I did not know that." Paul continues, "And I was also the third Hall and Oat."
  3. Dave asks Belinda about her hardcore punk past with "Darby Chase." She explains that she acted as the Germs' publicist and prop girl. Dave pauses, then responds, "Publicist for a band named 'the Germs.' Sounds like you had your work cut out for you." Belinda explains that, as "prop girl," she would stand on the side of the stage and hold the salad dressing and the Red Vines for Darby's eventual usage at one point or another. About 99% of the audience has no idea who Darby Crash is or was.
  4. Dave congratulates Belinda for singing the national anthem at a Lakers game. "Well, I had Charlotte there on keyboard helping me out," she adds modestly. She explains that she'd only sung the national anthem in public once before, in a boxing ring. "I had this little skirt on, and I got so nervous, and by the time I got to the end my skirt was all bunched up between my legs." Dave responds, "I'll bet they liked that." Belinda sheepishly adds, "Yeah."
This would actually be the first of several Belinda appearances on Letterman, with Letterman progressively becoming more and more adventurous with each interview, and I'm almost tempted to do a sub-series called "Dave and Belinda," but that might be going too far. Where was I? Oh, right, the tour with INXS. Apparently both bands just used the tour as an excuse to screw each other. From Lips Unsealed:
The Australian rockers weren't just an amazing band; they were pretty amazing partiers, too. They were riding high on the single "Original Sin" off their newly released album, The Swing. All of us clicked immediately. We were kindred spirits. I don't know if that was a good thing, but it made for fun on- and off-stage.
That was particularly true in the case of INXS's lead singer, Michael Hutchence, and me. We were attracted to each other as soon as we met. He was a sexy, sensual man, with great eyes that didn't suck you in as much as they made you want to jump in. He had all the goods to make him a great lead singer: hot looks, an animal-like sexuality, a mysteriousness, and the ability to deliver to an arenaful of people and touch the person in the back row. That's raw power, and it was packaged perfectly. Imagine trying to deal with that force of personality when he's right across the table from you.
My God Belinda, he's going to detonate right in your face! Wear a helmet at least.
I knew something was going to happen between us before there was any discussion or a move in that direction, and I warned myself in the strongest of terms that he wasn't the kind of person to get serious about. Once I was satisfied that I could handle that, which was about two days into the tour, I gave in to Michael's charms and we hooked up.
Gee, why wait so long?
We had fun, and I had to keep reminding myself not to let him get under my skin. He had a serious girlfriend, but he admitted that he also had many "friends" and preferred that arrangement. That was one more reminder that if I let him into my life he would be the death of me. I didn't need to have any more messes in my life.
I don't know, Belinda. What's one more when you've already got so many?
We watched each other perform, partied after the shows, and eventually disappeared into one or the other's hotel room for the night. His charms were strong, and I quickly felt close to him. I felt like he understood me. He had that way about him, yet I constantly reminded myself to keep a distance and protect my heart. I was partying pretty hard at the time, harder than even Michael, and at one point the girls in the band asked him to speak to me after I lost my voice from doing too much coke.
I'm going to make a wild guess and say this was probably not going to get the job done.
He wasn't the kind of guy who was going to save anyone, but he tried. He talked to me about the responsibility the singer had to the band, the record label, and the fans. He was extremely thoughtful and insightful and the special place we occupied in the imaginations of our fans.

"They fantasize about much more than is really there, don't you think?" he asked.

"Very much," I said, and for a moment I considered confiding how little I thought of myself, and how frightened I was that people were going to find out that I was nothing more than an imposter.

It would have been very easy to go there, but I feared it would have been letting Michael too far inside me. Ultimately I knew that revealing myself to him would only result in disappointment. As a result, I thanked him for sharing his concern but kept on doing my thing, which disgusted my bandmates so much that at one point on the tour they actually quit talking to me. It didn't last long, and neither did my summer fling with Michael. At the end of July, we said good-bye and Michael and I had a sweet, romantic, and passionate last night together that was a little sad and something of a relief and, in retrospect, kind of interesting in that we promised to remain friends, which we did until his death.
What? Belinda make a mature choice? The girl's getting soft.

No comments: