The Go-Go's' Gina Schock talks photo book, Rock Hall, and open-heart surgery at age 26: 'We took that trip to Palm Springs in case I didn't make it. We were gonna have one last party.'

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The Go-Go’s’ saga has been told from many perspectives — the autobiographies by frontwoman Belinda Carlisle and bassist Kathy Valentine, their acclaimed Showtime documentary last year. But now, as the first (and only) all-female band to go to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with an entirely self-written/played album finally gets into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame this week, another book is sharing their story in a truly unique way.

Go-Go’s drummer Gina Schock’s new hardcover coffee table volume Made In Hollywood: All Access with the Go-Go’s isn’t just a memoir. It’s a showcase of her personal, never-before-seen photographs of the band’s adventures, along with commissioned essays from famous friends who were along for the 40-year ride, including Carlisle and Valentine, actress Jodie Foster, the Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart, the B-52’s’ Kate Pierson, original MTV VJ Martha Quinn, and Paul “Pee-wee Herman” Reubens.

One especially harrowing chapter details how Schock, at only at age 26, underwent open-heart surgery to repair a golf ball-sized hole in her heart (a previously undiscovered congenital birth defect), just as the Go-Go’s were unraveling due to infighting and rampant drug use — and how she then went on tour for the band's final studio album of the 1980s, Talk Show, while still recovering physically and mentally.

Here, Schock discusses how she accidentally became the Go-Go’s unofficial archivist; how her health scare temporarily brought the fractured Go-Go’s back together (and led to some drug-fueled good times on a one-last-hurrah girls’ trip to Palm Springs); what the band’s bond is like now in 2021; and what her hopes (and fears) are for this weekend’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ceremony in Cleveland, when the Go-Go’s will be inducted by their longtime fan Drew Barrymore.

'Made In Hollywood: All Access with the Go-Go’s' (Photo: Black Dog & Leventhal)
'Made In Hollywood: All Access with the Go-Go’s' (Photo: Black Dog & Leventhal)

Yahoo Entertainment: It's good to see you, Gina. You have a lot going on! The Go-Go's documentary came out, you're getting into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame friggin’ finally! and I want to talk all about that. But now you have this book; it's sort of a memoir, sort of an autobiography, but it's also a beautiful coffee table book with all of your photos. It's kind of like a book form of Go-Go's Hoarders. Did you keep everything?

Gina Schock: I'm not a hoarder, OK? [laughs] I keep everything in its place, but I am very sentimental about things. And they mean a lot to me in that respect. I guess I wanted to hold on to a piece of something that was happening at that moment, so that one day I could look back at it and go, “Wow, that was great.” But I had no idea that I would sort of become the Go-Go's unofficial archivist. I didn't realize all that I was collecting until 40, 30 years later or whatever.

The Go-Go’sv stories all obviously been told from multiple perspectives. I want to zero in a little bit on something that was unique to your story: the hole-in-the-heart scare you had kind of right around the time when the Go-Go's were at a pretty fraught moment. You have a whole chapter in the book dedicated to this. You have pictures of you in the hospital. You have pictures of you from the bonding trip you took. So, what exactly happened? First of all, you were how old, only 26?

I was, yeah, 26, I think. It’s like one of those things that happens to other people. It doesn't happen to you. "How could this be happening?" And I've said this many times, that it was like being stuck in a bad movie. Before, when we would go on long tours, you'd have to get a physical to get insurance. And so we all got physicals, and it came back that I had a heart murmur. So, my doctor was like, “You know, Gina, plenty people have heart murmurs. It's not a big deal. Don't worry about it. But… we’re going to do further testing.” And so they did. And then I found out that I had a hole in my heart, and it was pretty shocking.

I read it the book that the hole was actually the size of a golf ball. Had it not been discovered, or if it had been discovered only a year or two later, you might not be here now.

Yeah, it would have been irreparable because they wouldn’t have been able to operate. And so yeah, I would have died by the age of 31. Wow. That was so scary. And we all dealt with it the best way… it did bring us together at that moment in time when things were kind of falling apart, when everybody was sort of the height of the drug intake. Everybody had lots of money. It was a crazy time, but not in a good way. And so, yeah, like I said, we took that trip to Palm Springs in case I didn't make it. We were gonna have one last party.

Tell me about that trip. I mean, that sounds like a great trip, but I imagine the doctors might've been like, “Um, don't go partying in Palm Springs!”

I was only allowed to take Valium or mushrooms then [laughs]. And so that was, you know, “Keep the other drugs away from her!” But that's your mentality. We were so used to live in a certain lifestyle, and drugs back then weren't a big deal because we were kind of kids experimenting and doing what you do when you're a rock star. We weren't thinking about it, honestly. We just dealt with things the best way we knew how. There was nobody there to give us a handbook on how we're supposed to behave, or the do's and the don'ts. We were exploring and finding things out on our own. We weren't the best communicators. We were just experiencing everything for the first time and trying to navigate through all that was happening around us. ... It was a tough time. And then when you add in something like me having the heart surgery, that just freaked everybody up. But then after a while, we got back into the routine of what was going on.

The Go-Go's' Kathy Valentine, Charlotte Caffey, Gina Shock,  Belinda Carlisle, and Jane Wiedlin in 1984. (Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
The Go-Go's' Kathy Valentine, Charlotte Caffey, Gina Shock, Belinda Carlisle, and Jane Wiedlin in 1984. (Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

As you were mentioning, you guys didn't have any rules. I mean, it sounds kind of dark, but I had to laugh when I read in the book where you say Belinda Carlisle came to visit you in the hospital after you just had heart surgery and offered you cocaine! … That's a good ‘80s story, a rock ‘n’ roll story.

Perfect ‘80s story, right? [laughs] The decade of excess, everything is happening and you're a part of it. It's all OK. Now I can look back at that and laugh. At the time, it was really f***in' stupid to do, but you know, she wasn't thinking. She was just …

…being polite?

Yeah, which was just so typically Belinda to do something like that! She always made me laugh. And of course, when she offered me that, I screamed. We both laughed. And that really hurt [my chest]! Um, I don't think she would've seriously given me cocaine if I had asked for it.

Weren't you performing while you were still very much in recovery?

Well, I don't remember how many months it took. I just know that I was in a lot of pain, because they saw your sternum in half and you can't move without it being some really intense thing. I just fought through that and tried to deal with it in the best way I could. I knew I had to go on tour, so I had to get my s*** together, and I wanted to. … I didn't want to just lay in bed. You don't want to lay there and think about things. You want to get up and do something, so your mind isn't stuck on what you just went through, which was really heavy.

And thank God we had each other to rely on. Even though we may have been fighting and there was a lot of problems, there was still always this thread of family. We always were like family. I've said this many times: You might not like the family, but you always love at the end of the day. And there's times when you don't even speak to them for however long, but it always comes back, because there's something that holds it together. It keeps it together. And that's the way the band is still after all these years. I still think we're all pretty tight.

The Go-Go's' Kathy Valentine, Belinda Carlisle, Jane Wiedlin, Gina Schock. and Charlotte Caffey today. (Photo: Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for WarnerMedia and AT&T )
The Go-Go's' Kathy Valentine, Belinda Carlisle, Jane Wiedlin, Gina Schock. and Charlotte Caffey today. (Photo: Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for WarnerMedia and AT&T )

It's interesting because in the forward or the introduction to your book Made in Hollywood, you say something I'm paraphrasing but you say something to the effect of it still kind of surprises you, whether it's the fact that Beauty and the Beat was the first album that to go to No. 1 that was all female-written and played. … Has it sunk in by now, particularly when you've been going through all of these archives like, “Oh, wow”?

No, I was too in the moment to even think ahead, honestly. I mean, everything was happening so quickly, and I was young and didn't quite understand everything that was going on. I was just taking photographs, having fun. I didn't realize what they would mean to me or to our fans or anyone, until I put this book together. I almost feel like it's some other person — like, “Is this really my life?” It's been pretty magical, I've got to tell you. It’s been really magical. I don't know what else to say. In retrospect, I am just so grateful. I can't believe that this has been my life. It was my dream as a child, and I grew up and it all happened for me. I am very proud of the band and all we've accomplished, and I think we have made a difference.

Absolutely. It made a difference in my life, for sure. And that's why I've expressed such elation over the fact that the Go-Go's finally not got only got nominated for the first time for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame — and that the nomination itself was so overdue — but then now you're getting inducted. And your book release for Made in Hollywood and the ceremony are happening in the same week!

That’s crazy, right? You couldn't have planned that. That's the cherry on the cake. Everything's really great. I haven't felt this good... just everything's working out beautifully. And to be inducted with other folks like Tina Turner and the Foo Fighters, who I have great respect for, to mention a few, it's going to be a very special night. So, I'm very nervous about it too. A lot of stress.

What are you nervous about?

Well, I just want everything to go really smooth and smoothly. And who knows, I might drop a stick or somebody ‘s guitar string, like a string might break. I just want everything to go really smooth for the band. We don't know what's going to happen, but we'll be there, doing what we do.

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