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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   Debbie
Tiffany or Debbie Gibson

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.

Tiffany: My hair! Jon: It's so heavy!

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.

Star Search 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 had been.

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.

(Dis)Honorable Mentions

Hangin' Tough 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.

Smells like teen spirit 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.

Dude! She looks like Marilyn Manson! Nice hat. 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.


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: