Belinda + Buster: When Bill Bateman and Go-Go’s singer were ‘first couple of Hollywood’

For a hot minute, the fertile LA punk-roots scene of the early 1980s intersected with the Teen Beat set.

That’s when Belinda Carlisle of The Go-Go’s met Bill Bateman of The Blasters.

Of course, The Go-Go’s weren’t born as MTV stars. The group started innocently enough as a punk band (on a scene boasting The Germs, Fear and, of course, X) before their hit pop songs, catapulting them off the bar-stage/friend’s-couch circuit and into, well … induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame later in 2021.

The early tales of The Go-Go’s (and many others) are recounted in John Doe’s books “Under the Big Black Sun” and “More Fun in the New World.” But Belinda herself dedicated a hunk of her 2011 autobiography, “Lips Unsealed,” to her relationship with the “cute” Blasters drummer:

Soon after I settled in, I began a two-year relationship with the Blasters’ drummer, Bill Bateman — aka Buster. We’d crossed paths at clubs and parties, but it wasn’t until Pleasant set up a situation one night at the Troubadour that Buster and I were able to talk more intimately and get to know each other. He had on a striped shift and wore a bandana around his neck. I thought he looked cute, and I liked him even more as we talked.

I thought he liked me, too. It was one of those setups where everything clicked except for one detail. I didn’t like his hair. As I told Pleasant, there was too much of it. He needed a new do.

An early promotional photo of The Blasters, featuring Bill Bateman (third from left), pre-haircut.

Well, the next time I saw him, Buster had a nice clip. Imagine that. I guess he had somehow gotten the message. I let him know that I approved, and from then on we were a couple.

He was one of the nicest people I’d ever met. Buster lived in Downey, where he and Phil Alvin had started the Blasters before recruiting Phil’s brother, Dave, who turned out to be one of the greatest songwriters to emerge from L.A. during that era. Buster showed me around the town, including the original McDonald’s restaurant and the two side-by-side apartment buildings that Karen and Richard Carpenter had built. They were named Close to You and We’ve Only Just Begun.

Buster also took me to the butcher shops where he bought large meat bones, which he then boiled, fried, and occasionally used in lieu of drumsticks. I thought that was cool.

Most of the time we went to shows and stayed at my place. I had traded my moped to a friend going to Europe for her white Cadillac, which was the ultimate cruisemobile. Buster and I felt like the first couple of Hollywood as we rolled down the Strip in the wide-body as a Jolly Roger flag flapped from the antenna. One of my favorite memories from that time is of Buster sitting on the windowsill of my bedroom, watching me put on makeup as he drank a beer from a bottle that was wrapped in a little brown grocery bag. And then for some reason he threw his head back and laughed at me.

The relationship appeared to be serious. Like, “Dick Clark mentioned it on ‘American Bandstand’ serious” (at 1:35 in this 1982 clip):

Or even Rolling Stone article serious.

But young love was not to grow old and, like Liz and Richard, Frank and Ava and, um, Johnny and Winona, the pair split up. Carlisle goes into a few gorey-cringey details in her memoir. But that’s probably a story best left to her (and Bateman) to tell.

Bill Bateman and Belinda Carlisle, 1982. Detail of photo by Janette Beckman

Published by J.J.

Drums and barbecue ribs. Blues music.

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