This is an edited and condensed transcript from a phone interview with Debbie Gibson in January 1993.
** This is easily the most-read page on my web site, accidentally. It seems a lot of people arrive here after typing “debbie gibson nude” or words to that effect in their search engines. Well, since you are here, I have a new rock ‘n’ roll memoir to promote: Strange Days: The Adventures of a Grumpy Rock ‘n’ Roll Journalist in Los Angeles, is available here. For more info, go to strangedaysbook.com **
It was a quiet time, and Debbie had a new album to promote, Body Mind Soul. I don’t think it did much business, but I heard that her Atlantic Records label boss Ahmet Ertegun was a big fan of it.
At the time, Gibson was a squeaky-clean, 22-year-old ’80s teen idol living at home with her mother. She’s a smart lady, and it was a no-brainer that she would turn down Playboy when the magazine came calling. But she had a change of heart in time for the magazine’s March 2005 issue (three and a half years after the photo above was taken). Scroll to the bottom for a tasteful, SFW shot.
A lot of your peers, like Tiffany and a bunch from England, seem to have fallen by the wayside. Why have you been able to hang around?
Well, first of all just ’cos I wanted to. I’m not one to give up easily. As far as music goes, I’ll never stop doing it. I’ll always be around in some way, shape or form. Whether people wanna hear me or not. She (Tiffany) went and got married and had a baby, so her story is quite a different one than a lot of the other people that were out at that time. It’s interesting though. Shanice and Tracie Spencer have hung around. Shanice was just starting when I was starting. She’s a few years younger than me, and t’s good to see that she’s stuck around. Her big deal was really last year. It’s pretty cool.
Do you have a support group, call each other up and compare notes on the state of play?
I’ve met all my peers at one time or another. But I’ve never really stayed in touch with anyone or formed any kind of relationship with anyone outside of a business setting, I guess. Maybe it’s because everyone’s really just so busy and our paths cross when they cross. We chit-chat a little, and that’s about the extent of it.
Are you looking to remold your image and sound for the ’90s? Most people probably associate you with the ’80s and the prevailing excess?
It’s not that I’m going out and saying, “What can I do to create a new image?” I’m basically just going with the flow, and going by how I feel. You definitely feel different at 22 than you do at 16, so whatever comes of that will be the image. I don’t really put too much time and effort into planning that out because you can’t really second-guess how people are going to respond anyway, so you may as well be yourself. I think in the long run if the music’s good then all those other problems disappear, which is why that’s really my main focus. I just try to concentrate on bettering myself and bettering my music and growing as an artist. All the rest of the stuff I just chalk up to luck. My main concern is building a really strong foundation for the future and sticking around a while.
How would you describe the typical Debbie Gibson fan?
A lot of the fans are people who write to me and say, “Well, it’s kind of embarrassing because my friends make fun of me, but I’m your fan anyway.” My fans seem to be really down to earth, energetic kinds of people who are rebellious not in the sense that they go out and do bad things, but that they rebel against that stereotype that young people are supposed to be in to all kinds of illegal things, or whatever! Instead they’re into my music and they take some heat for it, I think. But that makes that audience stronger. When you do a small concert and all those dedicated fans are in one room it’s like an amazing thing.
It must be tough to be a fan of a clean-cut person when clean-cut isn’t really in these days
Right, but I definitely would rather be criticized for being clean cut than for being like Todd Bridges in jail and selling drugs or whatever. That would be really embarrassing. This is who I am. You can always feel good about the fact that you’re being yourself. Like I said, whatever happens happens. I’ve gotten used to the fact that I’m never gonna be as hip as Arrested Development or Pearl Jam! That’s the way it is with a lot of pop artists. But 20 years from now I know I’ll still be here and that’s what’s really important to me.
NOTE: Read the rest of this interview in the upcoming second volume of my gossipy rock ‘n’ roll bio, due in stores in 2015 (or maybe 2016). For now the first volume, Strange Days: The Adventures of a Grumpy Rock ‘n’ Roll Journalist in Los Angeles, is available here. For more info, go to strangedaysbook.com
Copyright © 1993, 2013 by Dean Goodman. PLEASE DO NOT CUT AND PASTE THE WHOLE THING