I think they're alone now
May 5, 2004
Every girl singer has to have her rival. Britney versus Christina. Whitney Houston
versus...crack. The Great Aqua Net Battle of 1985 featured Madonna and Cyndi Lauper. I
remember Tiger Beat pitting them against one another, forcing you to take a side. Even
though Madonna slept with Vanilla Ice, she still came out the winner. To her credit,
Cyndi did score it big when Kodak started using True Colors in all their
commercials. Not to be upstaged by HP using the Cure's Pictures of Me. I'm
waiting for IBM or Phillips to bust out with Girls on Film for their next ad
campaign blitz. I'll probably be waiting a long time.
Now that a good 15 years has passed since the peak of their stardom and the final
spritz of Electric Youth burned its last hole in the ozone, the time has come for you
to choose between another powerful two-some of teenage diva past:
Tiffany and Debbie Gibson both arrived on the scene in 1987. Tiffany embarked on
the The Beautiful You: Celebrating the Good Life Shopping Mall Tour '87 which
kicked off in New Jersey. Her tour revolved around that dance move (the under the
chin/side of head hand thing), her jean jacket and that hair. Given that her hair
closely resembled Jon Bon Jovi's, I feel this was a smart marketing move to start in
NJ instead of her native So Cal. You've got to deliver something to the people that
they will recognize. You have to ease them in gently...so big, feathered and red was
the way to go.
Debbie is now selling herself as "Deborah." Since my childhood bonds were formed with
"Debbie," this is how she shall forever be known in my world. Much like Rick Schroeder
will always be Ricky and Jo from the Facts of Life will always be a lesbian, I
will not surrender to the tides of time and refer to her as "Deborah." Her claim to
fame is that she's the youngest artist ever to write, produce and perform a number one
song. Unlike this statistic, the song itself, Foolish Beat, has not stood the
test of time.
Debbie and Tiffany could be the 80s female version of Biggie and Tupac: East Coast versus
West Coast, bitches. There just hasn't been a shoot out in Vegas yet. Debbie is from
Long Island, Tiffany from Norwalk, CA. Debbie grew up doing children's theater and
musicals. Tiffany performed country western songs and passed a hat afterward to collect
money. Kind of like the traveling bands of mariachis in my neighborhood. Her step dad
soon began to exploit young Tiffany's talent.
Tiff comes from a broken home. Her mother divorced her step father after she caught
him spying into Tiffany's bedroom every night. He only had her best interests at heart
and wanted to "make sure she did her breathing exercises." In 1988, she
leaves to record her second album and never returns. This results in a missing persons
report, a legal battle for emancipation from her mother and a heyday for the National Enquirer.
Meanwhile, she acquires a stalker from Santa Cruz who claims he is her cousin and (in
accordance with Lebanese culture) was betrothed to her at birth.
On the other side of the coin, Debbie was getting piano lessons from the same guy who
taught Billy Joel and performed in the children's chorus at the Met in NYC. Enough said.
One common link: Star Search. Debbie tried out but didn't even make the
show. Tiffany was on the show and lost. Star Search has birthed more beasts than
any other program I can name. Rosie O'Donnell? Ray Ramano? The three-headed
fire-breathing Khimaira? They've all gotten five stars. Ed McMahon's laughing
all the way to the bank.
You've got your blonde and your red head. Gentlemen prefer blondes, but redheads
are more limber and flexible. Unlike the contrived "Britney is a virgin!" mantra,
at least we weren't inundated with stories about Tiffany and Debbie's purity. Everyone
was too busy being appalled by Madonna's burning crosses to give a shit whether Debbie
Gibson's delicate flower of girlhood had been plucked. And you know that Tiffany's
Debbie had that perky permed look - complete with hat and suspenders. Her first album
cover featured her in one of those classic "senior photo" poses with an exposed knee
sporting a drawn on smiley face. On the Electric Youth cover she looks like a man.
Even at 17, Tiffany could have been mistaken for the local skank bumming cigarettes
off the bartender. The equation: one part hair and four parts acid washed. Most
people of my generation wore acid washed at some point in their lives, myself
included. For a time, I was particularly fond of the "Get Used" variety. Even when
it was fashionable nationwide (someone please call Alabama and tell them the trend is
over) there was a certain subset of the population that just couldn't pull off wearing
bleached-with-acid denim without looking like a truck-stop whore. Sadly, Tiffany was one of those.
Here's a piece of trivia for the files: Tiffany is largely responsible for foisting
the New Kids on the Block upon us all. Oh, venerable boy band! She graciously allowed
them to perform as the opening act on her 1988 tour (not at the mall this time.) Later,
the roles are reversed when she opened for them. Rumors fly that she and John Knight
(brother of Jordan, also a New Kid) are dating. He quickly administered damage control
to put a stop to such "accusations." At least the rumors involved someone safe, and
did not tarnish her reputation. In other words, John was a total pussy who wore his
hair in a side spike. Had it been Donny, the scary bad rebel New Kid, Tiffany's career
and family appeal surely would have suffered. Society would see that badass exterior
and just assume he's no good. Maybe even think he's in a gang. Worst of all would
have been Danny, the group's resident monkey-boy. In the videos, Danny seemed to
spend his screen-time lifting weights in the corner. Maybe he fantasized that he was
in a prison movie instead of in a boy band brought to you by Maurice Starr.
Since appearances frequenty lie, Debbie did not always bring joy and perkiness wherever she
went. Her crime: the introduction of Electric Youth Cologne Spritz into this
world. I never understood the coil thing inside the bottle. Girl power electricity? An
un-severed umbilical cord symbolizing fertility? A Chinese proverb? I can't remember
what it smelled like because my olfactory memories are too clouded the lingering muskiness of
Benetton's Colors. If you draw a parallel to Tiffany's promotion for the New Kids and
the effect it had on society, then Debbie and her entrepreneurship can be blamed for the
much higher evils like the Olsen Twins, Walmart and J. Lo's "Glow" line. (Available at
Macy's and fine retailers everywhere. I was paid to say that.)
What have those wacky girls been up to?
Debbie-cum-Deborah has starred in various shows and musicals. She released a Broadway
pop album in 2003. The next Carol Channing? Probably not. Yawn.
Tiffany posed for Playgirl (girl: not a mistake) fully clothed in
1998. I guess that was a warm up session, as she went on to get implants and appeared
naked in Playboy (March 2002 if you happen to care). I love when fading
has-beens show up in Playboy to (try to) jumpstart their careers. They, especially
the old ones, portray themselves as martyrs for doing so. "I used to be famous before
I sucked, but look at how 'brave' I am about getting naked. I'm not really doing it
for the money, I'm doing it because I'm proud of my body." Blah blah. A few months
later, she got in a fight with her estranged husband "Junior." Both were arrested
after an incident with a shovel and broken windows. She was part of Fox's Celebrity Boot Camp
cast in 2003. Sigh. And she likes to wear cowboy hats.
SO WHO'S IT GONNA BE?
Now it's your turn to make a difference in this pop culture dumping ground I call
home. Let your voice be heard. Be like Martha Quinn:
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