(Cover photo courtesy of RayGarciaPhotography.com)
As a young 80s fan in the late 90s and early 00s, one of the artists whose work spoke to me was Debbie Gibson. Ballads like “Foolish Beat” and “Lost In Your Eyes”, upbeat tracks like “Shake Your Love” and “Electric Youth”…These were songs that inspired me and cheered me up during some rough times. In 2014, I met Ms. Gibson at Chiller Theatre, and she was as sweet and lovely as her music is. I mentioned that I wanted to interview her, and I was finally able to do so in 2016. Since Debbie has been busy with various projects, including an upcoming Hallmark Channel TV movie called Summer Of Dreams, we did the interview via e-mail. I hope you all enjoy her thoughts on topics ranging from “Only In My Dreams” to Summer Of Dreams.
Say hello to Debbie Gibson!
Johnny: This year marks the 30th anniversary of the release of your debut single “Only In My Dreams”. You’ve occasionally retooled and revised it in the 3 decades since its’ release, but no matter form it plays in, it’s a great pop song. What do you think has caused the song to remain so memorable after all these years?
Debbie: I think it is because it can mean whatever you want it to mean. It feels like an upbeat loving song but the lyrics are actually the opposing sentiment. When I went to do it as a ballad, I realized that it could break your heart. If you fill in the blanks, however, you want to as the listener. To me though, if melody and lyrics are strong it can be re-imagined and will always stand the test of time!
Johnny: As I’ve said to quite a few of my previous interview subjects over the years, I think you looked great in the 80s, and still do so now, but a lot of people look back on the styles of the 80s with a sense of mockery and shame. Why do you think that is?
Debbie: Well, anyone looking at his or her high school yearbook will cringe! My yearbook, so to speak, was in the pages of magazines but at least every awkward moment was not online! I feel bad for this generation in that sense. It was a time of mix-matched clothing and bright colors. People have become to slick and cautious now in fashion, but I love seeing people like Miley who come out with a sense of whimsy and authenticity. It reminds me a lot of Cyndi Lauper!
Johnny: What 5 artists would I be most surprised to find on your iPod?
Debbie: Troye Sivan, Brandon Flowers, Moscow RTV Symphony Orchestra, G-Eazy and Shaliek. I love everything from Urban to Classical and I don’t discriminate against teen artists just because they’re teens. That’s so cliché and easy to do. And if you do that you’re missing out! Shawn Mendes could be 18 or 50 – I could care less. A great artist is a great artist!
Johnny: On 1996’s Deborah, you performed “Don’t Rain On My Parade”. Which came first: Your performance in a tour of Funny Girl or your recording of “Don’t Rain On My Parade”?
Debbie: The recording! That was the hardest tour I have ever done, but I am so proud and happy I can check it off my wish list because I would never want to go through that again. I do not naturally sing in that range so it was like doing a triathlon 8 times a week. Gaga? It’s all yours! She would be phenomenal!
Johnny: You played Marta in a UCLA production of Stephen Sodheim’s Company. As I’ve previously asked Ellen Foley and Jean Louisa Kelly, did you find Sondheim’s lyrics difficult to perform, or easy?
Debbie: Great question! Being that I did “Another Hundred People” you are right to ask me. It’s not that the lyrics are difficult but how many words are fit into a measure of music is crazy. I was doing tongue and jaw exercises so I could rattle all that off! One stressful day and you’re sunk!
Johnny: You starred in 3 SyFy movies, Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus, Mega Python Versus Gatoroid and Mega Shark Versus Mecha Shark. If you were to go from songwriting to screenwriting, and you could mash up any creatures, great or small, for a movie in the vein of those Syfy films, which ones would you choose?
Debbie: I love this question because I am always walking around saying “Mega … vs. Giant…” and filling in the blanks and now I am DRAWING a blank! (laughs) I think it would have to be… Mega Lobster Vs. Giant Shrimp! There’s not been one involving crustaceans. But, first we need Mega Shark The Musical. I mean, these movies are kitschy enough. People may as well burst into song. Can’t you see it?
Johnny: I met you at Chiller Theatre in October of 2014. What has been the most rewarding part of attending conventions like Chiller Theatre?
Debbie: I remember! And, that’s just it! I love meeting people who enjoy my work. And I love that these conventions provide a place where we are not rushing into a stage door or standing on a cold street. It is a time and place where we all can take the time and entertainers can give their admirers a meaningful moment.
(Pictured above: Johnny Caps and Debbie Gibson at Chiller Theatre in October of 2014)
Johnny: You appeared in the music video for Katy Perry’s song “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F)”. Were you a fan of her work before signing on for the video?
Debbie: Of course! I think she is a brilliant crafts-woman and an underrated singer because she does not blatantly show off her skills in a traditional way – much like comic actors are underrated, and she is a sharp business woman and a creative force. I was honored to be asked!
Johnny: As Summer Of Dreams is inspired by your own work with youth, what has been the most rewarding part of working with a new generation of talent?
Debbie: I don’t have kids but I feel like I have sent an army of a couple of hundred kids out into the world with some knowledge and a lot more confidence than they had before attending my boot camps. That is a phenomenal feeling!
Johnny: What would you say has been the biggest change in the entertainment industry between 1986, when “Only In My Dreams” was first released, and 2016?
Debbie: The Internet and reality TV. We had Star Search. And by the way, I was rejected 10 times so if you are out there and audition for The Voice, don’t give up! It is not all about your voice or what TV judges think. It is about individuality and perseverance, though I adore The Voice and shows like it for giving talent a platform. I played to 200 drunken people a night to get my song out there. I shook every program director’s hand and every DJ and kissed every baby on the campaign trail and by the time anyone knew who I was I was worn out! (laughs) Today’s generation has it easier in that they have a faster inroad and a bigger platform that is instantly worldwide. But, they have it harder because they have to be ready for all that and a faster pace having never played Joey’s Place in Clifton New Jersey! (laughs)
I would like to thank Elizabeth Neff at Buzz Entertainment for setting up the interview, and I would like to thank Debbie Gibson for taking the time to answer some of my questions. Summer Of Dreams debuts August 27th on Hallmark Channel. For more about Debbie’s life and career, vist her official website.
Who will I Flashback with next? Stay tuned.