Sunday, April 11, 2021

David Letterman And Belinda Carlisle: A Love Story, In Nine Acts

Sailing through the Seven Seas of YouTube, one can find clips of Belinda Carlisle on every conceivable interview program known to man, from The View and The Joy Behar Show to BBC Breakfast and Good Morning Australia. But boy, either she couldn't get enough of David Letterman, or David Letterman couldn't get enough of her. Two '80s screwballs met in the potent New York night, and awkward television romance blossomed. How blessed we are, decades later, in that the residue of their torrid affair is here to see in all its grainy VHS glory. Join me, if you will, on a detailed retrospective I would like to call "David Letterman and Belinda Carlisle: A Love Story, In Nine Acts."

Dave vs. Belinda, Round 1:

Belinda's first encounter with Letterman, as far as I am aware, was in 1984, when she was still the lead singer of the Go-Go's, and when he was still a gap-toothed comedic curiosity, and it only gave the merest hint of the passion that would soon engulf them (and us). A few years back, I had hoped to embed the clip in a previous blog post discussing Belinda's affair with Michael Hutchence; however, I was forced to write the following: "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." Lo and behold, the clip has miraculously resurfaced, which means that the internet can see for itself just how accurate my expertly witty summary, composed without the aid of the clip at my disposal, truly was.

For our purposes today, what I'll say is this: 1) Although Dave and Belinda seem to develop a nice rapport here, he essentially treats her no differently from how he might have treated the majority of his guests (an attitude that was not destined to last); 2) Belinda is still in her coked-out Rue McClanahan phase and has not yet become, shall we say, "late '80s Belinda" in physical appearance.

Dave vs. Belinda, Round 2:

Two years was a lifetime for our freshly-minted Mrs. Mason AKA Queen of Yuppie Rock, and by the time Belinda returned to Letterman in May of 1986, she was in full-blown blonde bombshell mode and promoting her first solo album. Practically the first words out of Dave's mouth are "Boy, you look great!" Not having been privy to the details of their breakup, he asks what the hell happened to the Go-Go's ("I know it's none of our business, but..."), and her initial answer, while grossly oversimplified and rather uninformative, perhaps contains a kernel of truth to it: "It just got to be real boring." He sticks at it:
Dave: Was it one decision or did everybody collectively make it?
Belinda: No, it was sort of, uh, two people's decision. (giggles)
Dave: And who were those two people?
Belinda: Charlotte and myself.
Dave: Oh. (chuckles) Oh, I see, so you guys just kind of ... you walked.
Belinda: We just kinda, yeah, we said, "See ya later."
Another exchange features Belinda's typically self-censored responses:
Dave: So how is it different now travelling because, for eight years, you were an all-female organization and now you're with, uh, men and women in the group, is it a big difference for you?
Belinda: Well, um ... it's kind of weird like on the bus, we can't exactly parade around in, uh ... you know ... what we used to. (giggles)
Dave: And what exactly was that? (audience chuckles)
Belinda: Well you know, underwear, and uh ... undershirts, and that kind of thing. (more giggles)
Dave: So when the Go-Go's were out touring ... (audience hoots and hollers) I just want to make sure I have the proper mental image of this ...
As Belinda/Dave interviews go, this one is fairly tame, for reasons unbeknownst to me, Belinda, or Dave. However, feel free to check out the sultry version of "Mad About You" featuring Paul Shaffer on back-up vocals (at 32:47).

Dave vs. Belinda, Round 3:

And now let's cut to October 1987, with Belinda promoting "Heaven Is a Place on Earth," sporting the Wilma Flintstone black dress/green skirt outfit as seen at the Prince's Trust Concert. Apparently either Letterman hadn't been paying much attention the year prior, or he is particularly horny on this night, but let's just say that Dave has finally seen the light. The realization has hit him like a diamond bullet in the brain: Belinda Carlisle has become laughably gorgeous. Dave has essentially decided to rename his show The Let's All Gawk At How Attractive Belinda Carlisle Is Hour. Samples:
Dave: How you doin'?
Belinda: I'm all right.
Dave: Well you look great. (mile-wide gap-toothed grin on his face) You do, you really, I mean you really look great.
Belinda: Thank you.
Dave: Yeah, uh ... well how is it (possibly pivoting to a new subject, but finding himself unable to do so) ... that you look this great?
Belinda: Um ... I run about 25 miles a week ... and I ... (shrugs her shoulders) I dunno, I eat healthy...
Dave: Now when you were with the Go-Go's you didn't ... I mean you looked great then. But now ... Paul what am I lookin' for here?
Dave then proceeds, like Johnny Carson before him, to ask Belinda about her new pet pig (Belinda clarifies, "It's a suede-back potbellied Asian pig"):
Dave: Do you have it in the house with you?
Belinda: Yeah, it's a house pig.
Dave: You know, I was accused of that once in a divorce settlement, but that's a uh ... Do you have other animals?
Belinda: I have four dogs and a parrot.
Dave: And what is the interaction like between the dogs and the pig?
Belinda: Uh ... they all seem to get along all right. And the parrot likes the pig too.
Seriously, who comes off weirder here, Dave or Belinda? Finally, Dave returns to the theme of the evening:
Dave: I just can't get over it, you are stunning.
Belinda: Well God that's ... thank you.
Dave: Well you're certainly welcome, I mean, you deserve it, I mean, why not? ... Well you come back as often as you like, come back tomorrow night as a matter of fact.

Dave vs. Belinda, Round 4:

Despite Dave's suggestion, Belinda did not, in fact, come back the next night. Rather, she came back two nights later - possibly without intending to. Apparently, at the start of the show (which was to feature Buck Henry, screenwriter of The Graduate and other films, as well as noted character actor), Dave and Paul got wind that Belinda Carlisle was coincidentally in the building, and they decided to track her down "just say hello to her" because, as Dave put it, "she looks great."

With cameraman in tow, they accost her in the hallway:
Paul: Belinda you really, you really ...
Belinda: Is it tomorrow yet?
Paul: Nice to see you.
Dave: We wanted to to tell you that you just look great and ...
Paul: You look fabulous.
Dave: You want to spend the rest of the evening with us? Would you like to ... it's hard for you to say what you're really thinking right now which is, you'd like us to leave you alone, I'm guessing. Do you have plans, where are you going now?
Belinda: Um ... I have to go do an interview.
Dave: Yeah, with who?
Belinda: Slice Magazine. (giggles)
Dave: Slice Magazine. Oh it's the prestigious ... Slice Magazine.
Paul: Blow that off, babe, and come spend the rest of the evening with us.
And so, with a roar of approval from the studio audience, Belinda walks onto the set and takes a seat. He asks her if she knows Buck Henry, and, hilariously, her eyes grow wide with surprise as she exclaims, "Yeah I do know Buck Henry!" Apparently Buck, Belinda, and Morgan had spent some time together at the beach in LA. When Buck comes out, he explains to Dave, "I have a photograph I took of her a few weeks ago in a wetsuit that I'll be glad to send you - for a reasonable fee," before adding, "I know Belinda, I know her husband - he'll be pretty angry when he sees this mess." Dave proceeds to interview Buck for five minutes, while Belinda sits there and says absolutely nothing. After the commercial break, Dave welcomes everyone back with "All right, Buck Henry is here and Belinda Carlisle is here and," turning to Belinda, adds "you're hating every minute of this, aren't you?" After Dave and Paul proceed with one more round of "You look great" and "She hates us all," Dave asks, "But you'll come back eventually, won't you?" Belinda responds with a nakedly sincere, slightly clueless, "Well yeah, definitely."

Dave vs. Belinda, Round 5:

Clearly, she meant what she said. Now in her leather biker chick phase, Belinda returned to the program in March 1988, riding high on "I Get Weak." Dave mentions that she's been nominated for a Grammy and asks her if it means anything to her, to which she replies, with a typical hint of self-loathing, "No, not really." He then asks her about her wardrobe plans:
Dave: What kind of dress did you get?
Belinda: It's just sort of a ... uh ... strapless ... kind of ...
(Several audience members whistle and holler)
Dave: (To the audience) Oh please.
Belinda: Just, you know, sort of like a showgirl-type dress.
Dave: Oh a showgirl-type dress!
Belinda: Well it's not like that - it's like a partygirl-type dress.
Dave: A showgirl/partygirl-type dress. Where does one go for these accoutrements? ... And do you have things prepared to say if your are a trophy winner?
Belinda: No, I don't think I'm going to win, so I'm not preparing anything. (Audience groans with disbelief and sadness.) I know I should have a better attitude, but ...
To be fair, I believe she was up against Whitney Houston, so, she probably possessed a clear-eyed view of her chances. He asks her how her pet pig is doing, and when she responds, "I don't have it anymore," the audience once again groans with sadness, prompting Dave to ask the audience, "Now wait a minute, whose show is this?" It goes on:
Dave: What happened to your pig?
Audience member: Breakfast!
Belinda: No I didn't eat it. Um ... it was, um, it sort of was kind of messy in the house.
Dave: Well I don't think you should be keeping the pig in the house anyway.
Belinda: Well it was sort of messy outdoors too.

Dave vs. Belinda, Round 6:

She returned for more punishment in 1989, knee-deep in her Nicole Kidman circa Days of Thunder phase, to promote "Leave a Light On." Dave asks her why she recorded a bulk of Runaway Horses in France, and she responds, "Just to get away from it all, and get away from distractions." "What kind of distractions were you trying to get away from?..." "Well, we were trying to get away from phone calls, and ... um ... distractions! I don't know." One might consider this a prelude to what follows:
Dave: And you worked in Monaco for ... you did a TV show or an awards presentation, what was that?
Belinda: The Monte Carlo Music Awards. I was up for an award, but I got there and found out I was hosting it (giggles), so ... yeah.
Dave: Now see, if you'd been near a phone, there wouldn't have been this mix-up.
Wrapping things up, Dave says, "Boy you smell terrific," which inspires Belinda to quickly sniff her own wrist in an attempt to establish precisely what she smells like. Whether she succeeded or not is difficult to discern.

Dave vs. Belinda, Round 7:

Here she is in her proto-Lauren Holly phase, and it feels like the love affair might have grown just a touch more lethargic at this stage of the game, with Dave more preoccupied by some gag revolving around the construction of wooden shelves, as well as the next night's guest, three-year-old golfer Brent Palladino, and yet, a few sparks still remain. When she explains that she's been touring all summer, he asks her which place was the best and which place was the worst:
Belinda: The worst place was ...
Dave: Not here, don't tell me here.
Belinda: Uh ... Malaysia. It was kinda scary.
Dave: People nice? Food not good?
Belinda: Mmm, no, no, I got food poisoning.
Dave: Really, what were you eating there?
Belinda: Curried something.
Dave: Curried something. See, you need more information on the menu, before you order. "I'll have the curried something."
Speaking of meals: he comes right out and asks her, "What are you doing tonight?" She explains that she plans to have dinner with a few friends somewhere in Little Italy:
Dave: Could I stop by?
Belinda: Sure, come on over.
Dave: Would that kill you if I stopped by?
Belinda: No you can come on by.
Dave: You'd die if I walked in the restaurant, it would be like one of these (proceeds to pull his sport coat over his face), "Oh geez, oh my God."
Belinda: (unconvincingly) No I wouldn't do that.

Dave vs. Belinda, Round 8:

Now it's 1991 and Belinda is in her "Jackie Kennedy on November 22" phase, promoting what she and Dave do not know will be her (US) flop single, "Do You Feel Like I Feel?" In retrospect, this renders their seemingly innocuous banter slightly more tragic:
Dave: Yeah! That sounded great. Now will that, will that ... that sounded so good here, you know, that's got, like "hit" written all over it, don't you think?
Belinda: Well I think so.
Dave: And that's the one that's gonna sell the album, and it's gonna be a huge hit.
Belinda: I hope so.
Dave: And also, I understand congratulations are in order, because you're, uh, you're pregnant ... And are we far enough along now to know much about it, do we know if it's a boy, do we know if it's a girl, do we want to know?
Belinda: No, we call it The Blob.
Let me note that, while the audience does not even emit the slightest hint of laughter at Belinda 's answer, I, for one, find it magnificent.
Belinda: 'Cause that's what it looks like.
Dave: Good parenting. But do you want to know, ultimately ...?
Belinda: Yeah, yeah, I do want to know. Um ... my husband doesn't want to know, but I'll ... figure it out. (giggles)
Dave: Are you just ... wild with excitement about this?
Belinda: Well I'm kind of horrified actually, but, um ... yeah I mean I get more excited about it every day, I'm getting used to the idea. I guess I'm not 15 anymore.
Dave: No. Uh ... how old are you?
Belinda: I'm 33.
Dave: Are you - 33? Wow, that's, that's great. How old do you think I am?
Belinda: 25.
Dave: Aww, bless your little heart (kisses her hand). And what do you think I weigh?

Dave vs. Belinda, Round 9:

By the time of 1993's single "Big Scary Animal," perhaps Belinda's US standing had fallen so low that she didn't even merit an interview segment? (Looks like Letterman had moved to CBS at this point; maybe that extra airtime would have cost her record label more money than they were willing to shell out.) Let's call this round a draw. Hell, let's call every round a draw.

Please note that I am also excluding three (!) appearances by the reunited Go-Go's in 1990, 1994, and 2001, respectively, none of which feature interview segments with either Belinda or the rest of the band.

Postscript: Lord knows where I saw it, but I recall reading, in one of many numerous interviews with our fetching heroine, the interviewer asking her what qualities she found attractive in men, and her answer was something along the lines of, "A great sense of humor, you know, like Howard Stern or David Letterman." Two thoughts: 1) What, precisely, would become of David Letterman's brain if word of this ever got around to him? 2) A great sense of humor? Am I crazy to think I would've had a chance?