A new wrinkle

Eighties reunion tours are a shiny-shiny industry all their own, seemingly devoid of real momentum and aimed directly at the nostalgia nerve that keeps us all spiking our hair long after we ought not to have time to care. In the case of seminal she-poppers The Go-Go's, the shine even comes with its own militaristic border mongers.

"NO!" spouts a state-worker bang job a few feet from the stage, as she and her gal pals brace arms in offense at my stage approach.

"But I'm covering this!" I gnash. "I need wrinkle details!"

I'll have to settle for the squinty wrinkles on my own face, it seems, because these riot girls are not relenting.

Another riot girl saves the day with the promise of a backstage pass. No kidding. I'm 29 and I'm still all "Rock 'n' Roll High School" lit up about a chance to warble with Belinda. In fact, I'm practically revealing a sweatshirt shoulder at the thought of it.

Which is far less than Belinda's been revealing lately. Last month's Playboy, featured a pinup spread of our little "Circle in the Sand," in what was cleverly packaged as a tasteful Varga tribute and positioned as a semi-political statement for full-figured gals. Except that Belinda, who is all of about a size three these days, was also once the poster child for dieting, following a noticable short-girl obesity that accompanied her (coke) "Head Over Heels" days. "I'd rather be a pinup girl than zero size," she says on the Go-Go's new album nadir, "Throw Me a Curve." Is this what middle-aged women do for punk cred?

No. What they do is enlist a sorta-vital punk force to paste on a promo sticker, which in the case of their current "Unforgiven" single is the sometimes nude Green Day heckler Billy Joe Armstrong.

"Oh, he's an awesome guy. What a great guy and a great songwriter," glibs frumpy drummer Gina Schock after the show. "He's a huge Go-Go's fan, and it's quite mutual."

Not a bigger fan than me, though. Tragically, I even possess all of Belinda's throwaway solo material of the past 10 years, including a gender-challenging read of John Lennon's "Jealous Guy."

Top that! OK, I will. Miss B also once coined the best chardonnay couplet ever in her song "California," where she offers from what must be a hottub, judging by the urgency of her vocal bubbles, "I remember I was in a tanning salon/when I heard that River Phoenix was gone."

It doesn't get any better than that.

Surprisingly, the Go-Go's sound better than ever. By the time "Vacation" waterskis across the soundscape, I'm in full Molly Ringwald mode dancing like an idiot next to the makers of local rag Axis Magazine.

"Man, we love your column," they chum.

Man, I wish I was more sober.

Speaking of sobriety, the subject of chemical dependency is no stranger to the five on stage, having been dissected charmlessly by one of the more bitter "Behind the Music's" ever. Even in the current interviews, the girls seem to harp on the ego problems of their clan, and nobody misses the $300 a day tidbit defining Miss Carlisle.

"To me, everything that was in that Ã?Behind the Music' was sort of common knowledge anyway," Schock shocks me. "I mean, everybody did what we were doing back then. It was the early '80s -- the age of excess -- and everybody was just sort of like that. We were in our early twenties, and everybody, no matter what you do for a living, is experimental at that time."

These days, it's a press conference and a get-well card at the mall.

"Well, back then it wasn't for general consumption," surmises Schock.

What really consumed the band was the ego issue, anyway. Believe it or not, there was a time when the Go-Go's were every blonde girl's ideal, with a marketing campaign to match it. Now, our Belinda, who was used to shooting up with Pat Smear while (not) playing drums in the L.A. punk band The Germs, took a little heavy to the lifestyle and built up a cuddly blonde image to mask her darker circles in the sand. Of course, she didn't write any of the songs, so the Go-Go's became one of the premier royalties issues when it seemed that Belinda was the high-ticket star and Jane, who did write the songs, was but a quirky also-ran. Gina explains.

"We were together 24 hours a day, and we never stopped touring. I mean, it really did wreck everything. That led to the drug abuse. That lead to the insane egos. When you have a ton of money, you think you can do whatever you like. So, now, we make sure that we have time apart. We're happy to see each other."

Not as happy as I am to see the publicity chick. She escorts me to the backstage area -- in front of the militia -- to descend into a pit of Go-Go, with the playground credo "as long as you're nice."

Only, I can't be. Seems the meet-n-greet has been cancelled, allowing only one fan -- somebody who spent thousands of dollars on something both Go-Go and eBay -- to secure a girl-rock audience.

My lips are sealed.


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