It's Deborah, If You Please
Former teen pop star is surprisingly palatable

I'm about to say something I never thought I'd say: I like Debbie Gibson. Let me rephrase that, I like Deborah Gibson (like Rick Schroder before her, she too has moved on to the more mature version of her name).

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... by Jenn Shreve
... in the Dirt section
... from October 12, 1999

I went to her Web page prepared to mock. Here was yet another insignificant has-been using the Web to tell the world, "I'm still here, damn it! I'm still famous! Look at me! Look at me! Aiieeeeeehhh!" A sad spectacle, to say the least.

In the photo on her site's home page, she's dolled up to look like Alanis Morissette -- stringy dark hair, spaghetti-strap dress and all. Morissette, you'll recall, was also a teen pop star but, unlike Debbie, changed her sound and obtained a slightly more grown-up audience. Was Debbie desperately trying to show that she was no different than the chart-topping Canadian hag with one hand in her pocket and the other in the bank?

Then I came across the morphing Debbie, and everything changed. Perched above her online biography is an animated gif that shows her in early childhood, morphing into the awkward preteen years, on to her big-hair stardom period at the tender age of 16, college, and ending in adulthood. The "just the facts, ma'am" bio that follows has nary a hint of positive spin: Deborah was a very talented kid who made it big early; she's unashamed of her music and is doing fine now, thank you very much.

Many former child stars try to deny the embarrassing moments of their earlier careers while riding on their own coattails -- the Rickster is a classic case. Deborah's message: She's OK with where and who she's been. In fact, they were just logical stepping-stones on the road to her current success as an actress in Broadway and touring musicals. A cheesy career, if there ever was one, but one that's perfect for you if you're content with being a cheesemaker.

In an interview with Manhattan Magazine, Debbie says, "'Take 'alternative music,' with all its angst. I'm amazed it's still called 'alternative.' It's not. It's what's popular, predictable, and so easy to like. It's much easier to walk into a record store," she observes, "and ask for the Fiona Apple CD than the Deborah Gibson CD. You want to be alternative? Ask for my CD! See how many heads turn."

Touché, Deborah! Touché! For someone who hasn't had a hit since 1987, yet has managed to put out six records during that time, she's taking things pretty well.

Granted, her career hasn't been easy. She's had success as an adult, though none to match her early Britney Spears-esque superstardom. Under the news section of her site, the news isn't good. Concerts have been cancelled, radio spots postponed. Even her tour with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is hurting. But hell, the woman's still got a fan club, one you can register for online. And if the site's photo gallery is any indication, she's not looking too shabby either. We should all be so lucky.

Jenn Shreve is a freelance writer in San Francisco and a media columnist for