March 21, 1991
Well, me and Justin are over before we began.
About two weeks ago I called Justin and he said he didn’t want to go out with me. I’m over him.
I was in the talent show today. I sang “let the river run” and I only hit 1 sour note. What was neat was that a lot of people were cheering for me and complimented me on my singing.
What wasn’t “neat” was that I had to spend weeks on tenterhooks and then initiate my own rejection by Justin. And I didn’t get over him as easily as I tried to make it sound in my diary. When practicing for the talent show, there was a part of me that hoped more than anything that Justin would be so moved by my singing that he’d change his mind and go out with me after all. Obviously, that didn’t happen.
And hey, at least this time it wasn’t a Debbie Gibson song.
I was never a major Carly Simon fan, but always loved the 1988 classic* Working Girl, whose theme song was “Let the River Run.” It plays over the opening sequence as Tess McGill (Melanie Griffin in her finest role) rides the Staten Island ferry, dreaming of a better tomorrow while she begins another day as an under-appreciated secretary. Tess takes her fate into her own hands, transforming herself into a savvy businesswoman. She’s not afraid to defy convention to achieve her dream, something I found inspiring.
Of course my way of defying convention (throwing a note out a bus window at a boy I liked) did not make my dreams of getting a boyfriend come true. Even so, I used “Let the River Run” as an anthem of hope. “Let all the dreamers wake the nation,” belted out Carly. “Blaze a trail of desire,” she commanded. I was a dreamer! I wanted to wake stuff up too! I would have to face plenty of rejection, but wouldn’t let any dumb boys tarnish my optimism. I had too many trails of desire to blaze to let a little disappointment get in my way.
* Your definition of “classic” and mine might vary.
June 14, 1990
I went to a Madonna concert, and, well what can I say it was FABULOUS!!! TERRIFIC!!! WONDERFUL!!! EXHILARATING!!! GREAT!!! SPELLBINDING!!! UNBELIEVABLE!!! SPECTACULAR!!! BREATHTAKING!!! THRILLING!!! I hope that says enough!
Even though our seats were in the back of the Coliseum (The concert was at Nassau Coliseum.) We could see very well because there was this big screen on top of the stage that showed everything that was going on the stage.
These are the people I went to the concert with: My Mom, my cousin Anna, Tolya, his father and Tolya’s friend Peter.
When I went to the Debbie Gibson concert, I was really amazed at all the energy she had, but when I was at the Madonna concert, forget about it, I was so shocked at the LIMITLESS energy that SHE had. I will NEVER forget what a MINT concert that was!!
[This was the last Doogie Howser-style entry. After this I returned to the composition book.]
It’s quite probable that I consulted a thesaurus when writing that concert review.
Madonna was never one of my favorite singers. In terms of pure ability, even as a kid I thought Cyndi Lauper and Debbie Gibson could sing circles around her. I also found her boldness and uninhibited (if not calculated) sense of sexuality daunting, much the same way I did of Samantha Fox. Seeing Madonna live on her on her Blonde Ambition tour changed all of that. It raised my opinion of her as a performer and made me gain an enormous amount of respect for her that I have to this day. It’s a concert I’ll never forget, and not just because of how uncomfortable I was watching her writhe around on a big red bed during “Like a Virgin” with my Mom next to me. Regardless of the bawdy shenanigans, the energy, charisma and precision with which she executed that show was nothing short of phenomenal.
I saw Madonna again about six years ago for the Reinvention Tour, and even in her mid-40′s the woman was still impressive. She twisted her yoga-fied body into complex shapes, tangoed in five-inch stilettos, and showed off complex choreography– all while singing live, which puts other divas who use backing tracks (*cough*JLo and Britney Spears*cough*) to shame. Say what you will about Madonna as a singer (and we won’t discuss her “acting,” unless we’re talking Desperately Seeking Susan), but as an entertainer, few can rival her. Sure, Lady Gaga seems to be her present-day successor, but Gaga’s career is a few years old. Madonna has been evolving her persona and captivating the public for over thirty years, without a single collapse or rehab stint or breakdown or bout with “exhaustion.” Let’s check back in a decade or two and see who’s still standing.
Pop culture is fickle, with very few constants. Madonna is one of the rare survivors, and I feel lucky to have been able to see her when she was putting out some of her best music, and to enjoy a concert which shocked and dazzled me so much. Few shows since have made me want to use as many capital letters and exclamation marks.
Oh, and did I mention Technotronic opened up for her? They pumped up the jam, and wore puffy neon pants while doing it.
Like I said, pop culture has very few constants.
[I seriously considered leaving this entry out of The Diary Project, to spare myself the many layers of embarrassment contained therein. I decided there was too much for me to mock to keep it private.]
May 15th, 1990
Well there’s not really much to tell you.
[Except that there is. This entry was so long and juicy (that's what she said) that I ecided to split it up into two blog posts.]
I wrote a fan letter to New Kids on the Block (well Yan Mei wrote most of it and put Carmella Louise, hers and my name on it.) and I wrote one to Debbie Gibson.
[I don't know what's worse, the fact that I was involved in the writing of a fan letter to New Kids on the Block, or the fact that I didn't even write most of the damn thing and just added my name to the bottom. You be the judge. I just wish I saved a copy of the letter I wrote to Debbie Gibson, because I'm sure it would be highly amusing to read today.]
Well I am going to be graduating very soon, and we are going to have a prom. It will probably be so much fun.
I am going on a trip to Philadelphia with my class on May 22 and we are going to spend the whole day going to museums and other places and learning a lot of new things.
I also think that I am going to have my period very soon, because I get cramps pretty often and today I even got a twitch in my leg, and even though Mom says that it’s just nothing, I read somewhere and some one told me that you get these twitches before you get your period.
I hope that I don’t get it in school, because it would be VERY embarrassing, especially if anyone noticed.
[No, what is truly, truly outrageous embarrassing is that I believed a leg twitch was an omen for menstruation. And that I was actually eager for this cursed event to actually happen.
I blame Judy Blume.
Her classic young adult novel and ode to menstruation, Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, made puberty this desirable thing. Blume somehow, bafflingly, portrayed a girl getting her period as this cool thing, like a badge of honor. It was an invitation to be part of an older, more with-it, more mature group of not girls (oh no) but women. I wanted that. Had I known the physical discomfort, emotional wretchedness, and ick factor that accompanied the monthly event, I would not have been so impatient. Now I wish I could visit my twelve-year-old self, shake some sense into her, and make her enjoy the few period-free years she had left.]
Today in Family Living class, we were talking about the changes that a girl goes through during Preadolescence and a lot of things that the teacher mentioned are happening to me right now, for example: I am a lot more sensitive now and I cry quite often, and I am growing a lot of hair you-know-where, and my breasts are beginning to grow, also.
In other words, I probably should have been surrounded by flashing hazard lights and enveloped with “CRIME SCENE DO NOT CROSS” tape. And mind you, this was all before my first bout with PMS. So much for me to “look forward” to…
In the late ‘80s/early ‘90s, I was fond of the show Doogie Howser, M.D. in which a young Neil Patrick Harris played a prodigy whose impressive memory and passion for medicine helped him become a doctor at 14. On top of dealing with the stresses of being a practitioner, Doogie had to navigate the everyday pressures and dramas of puberty. Keeping a journal helped him make sense of it all, only he didn’t use paper, he used a computer (twenty years ago, this was pretty damn revolutionary). At the end of every episode, he would type away his insights. As the white words scrolled along the blue screen, many a night I felt like I learned something from his experiences too.
Around the time the show aired, my parents got me a computer. It cost about $3,000 (!) and I used it to write a handful of term papers and play hundreds of hours of Tetris. For a couple of months, I also used it to keep an electronic journal. I thought it would be fun to experiment with a new format and figured it would provide a safe place to keep my private thoughts private (how things change). Tucked into the back pages of the composition book journal are several printed out pages (dot matrix style) from my “Doogie diary.” This is the first entry:
April 2, 1990
Today in Music (class) we saw the tape of some of the talent show and during my act Mrs. Angelo said to me and Elaine
“Look at Mitchell (Also known as: two-timing sleaze-ball), he’s blushing!”
So we turn sideways and he was all red!
I wonder what that means…maybe he kind of misses me after all…
Well since we’re on the topic of sleaze-ball, and sleaze-ball is going out with Rose I’ll tell you what’s up with her.
First of all, I had a fight with her, so we’re not really on speaking terms. Also, some of Sam P’s friends are having a surprise birthday party for him and I’m invited to it. I kind of have a crush on Sam, and I know that he just likes me as a friend, but after the surprise party, who knows what could happen!
Also, Passover is coming soon and I am going to my cousin Anna’s house on April 10 and sleep over. I just can’t wait until Spring\Passover\Easter vacation!
For the talent show, I sang what was at the time my favorite song: “Foolish Beat” by Debbie Gibson. I don’t know whether my sentimental musical rendition had anything to do with Mitchell blushing, or what the fight with Rose was over, but there was tension between the three of us. None of us could communicate it in any real way, so instead the awkwardness grew.
Meanwhile, I plotted my revenge…
School’s great and me and Elaine are starting the cool group.
Also, Mitchell is cute.
Also, Mrs. Angelo (our music teacher) is doing this play thingie that I’m auditioning for. I’m dying to get a solo.
Also Friday I went to a Debbie Gibson concert and it was fabulous!
Well I guess that wraps it up. —Bye—
What more does an 11-year-old in 1989 need to be happy? Cool group in progress? Check. Cute boy in class? Check. Audition for a musical (or “play thingie”) in which I might get a solo? Check. Debbie Gibson concert? Double check!
I didn’t write about the concert at length (probably to save blank pages for mooning over crushes and ranting about friends who done me wrong), but I loved the show. My parents took me to see her in Madison Square Garden, and I couldn’t believe how many thousands (!) of people came to the show. Our seats were pretty far back, but as soon as the music started I forgot the distance between the three of us and the stage. Debbie’s silhouette appeared behind a white screen and the crowd went wild (seven years later, when seeing Nine Inch Nails live, I would be reminded of this concert when Trent Reznor did the same thing, only tore through the screen).
Considering that Debbie Gibson released only two albums at that point, I’m pretty sure she played all my favorite songs. When she finished the last song, my parents and I got up to leave and were surprised when the music started up again a few minutes later. Both my parents had been professional musicians, but it took Debbie Gibson to teach us how to do a proper encore.
The most surprising thing about that night was how much my brooding and difficult-to-please father enjoyed the concert. Despite being critical of much of the music I listened to (especially from the teen years onward), he found Gibson to be a talented singer and was impressed with her live performance. He spoke of that Debbie Gibson show well into his later life and every time he did, a look of surprised wonder always came over him.
You will never bielive where I am going 9/22/89!
I am going to go to a Debbie Gibson concert!!!
I am so happy!!!!!
Actually I am kind of looking forward to school.
With a Debbie Gibson concert on the books, I probably would have looked forward to the Spanish Inquisition.
As I mentioned before, I was a major fan of Ms. Gibson. At that point in time, there was no singer I loved more than Debbie. I loved her music, her hats, her upbeat attitude, and her perfume, which shared the same name as her second album, Electric Youth.
I know I’m not the only one who had that perfume, either. There were two main versions of the packaging, the bottle with the coil (pictured) and the bottle with the lightning bolt. I went through a lot of that perfume in the late 80′s/early 90′s, and owned both versions of the bottle. For some reason I greatly preferred the one with the pink coil. There was just something more aesthetically pleasing about the way it wrapped around the plastic tube of the atomizer.
I wish I still had a sample of the Electric Youth fruity scent, just for nostalgia’s sake. I bet a single whiff would bring back lots of memories. It was my favorite perfume at the time, followed closely by Exclamation (with the excellent tag line of “Make a Statement Without Saying a Word!”). Yeah, I wonder what kind of recollections smelling these again would bring…
I got another song for Jonas. It is called “Eternal Flame.” It is from one of my new tapes. The Bangles. I also got Samantha Fox.
The musical miseducation continues…
Actually, I still listen to The Bangles once every so often. Music is a powerful thing, and was especially so for me as an eleven-year-old nursing a hardcore unrequited crush on someone she hadn’t spoken to in years. At the time, I thought Susanna Hoffs knew my heart better than I did. When I heard “Eternal Flame” in the late 80′s, I was blown away by the vulnerability and wistfulness of the song. I marveled at lyrics like “Say my name, the sun shines through the rain/A whole life so lonely, and then you come and ease the pain.” Nevermind that the song implied a real relationship, whereas the few times Jonas actually said my name, it was to get me to stop talking during assembly.
Some bands from the 80′s fade away and are worth being forgotten, but I think The Bangles were a talented group with some solid tuned and I stand by my appreciation of them. And while I don’t have them in the same heavy rotation I did 20 years ago, I do still get a kick out of “Walk Like an Egyptian” when I play Dance Dance Revolution (in case you had any doubt that I am still dorky today).
As for Samantha Fox… yeah, I’ll take that shame. The only thing I can say in my defense is that I didn’t really have anyone around with edgy music knowledge to guide me, only what was on Casey’s Top 40. Though even if there was someone, I don’t know how far they would have gotten considering my soft spot for bubblegum pop back then.
The Samantha Fox song that really hooked me was “Naughty Girls (Need Love Too),” which I didn’t realize until much later was something of a slutty girl anthem. I also didn’t know right away that she was a topless model in England, which I found mildly scandalous but not all that surprising considering her first hit in America was called “Touch Me (I Want Your Body).” Fox’s overt sexuality was something I found intimidating and unappealing, but oddly intriguing. I couldn’t relate to her the way I could to someone like Debbie Gibson, and I didn’t idolize her style the way I did Cyndi Lauper’s. I liked her, but I didn’t love her. And at such a young age, listening to her suggestive lyrics was kind of like the musical equivalent of reading V.C. Andrews. It was ultimately harmless, but it made me feel like I was getting away with something at the time.
For some reason, despite keeping up with regular entries to the composition book journal, I still wrote in the Hello Kitty diary from time to time. It had three sections of pages: pink, then yellow, then blue. I think the completist in me was determined not to waste paper and make it to the blue pages, though I never even made it out of the pink ones. I ended up mostly sticking with the composition book, but these rare entries show a snapshot of where I was at the time with less filler (despite the repetition of content). A prime example:
I don’t like Charles anymore (he’s a pain in the !?!?!?) but I am madly in love with George. But the good thing is I think he also likes me! I hope he asks me out and that my parents will let me go out with him.
I still love Jonas and a lot!!! But I know it’s impossible for anything to happen with us, but me and George have a chance to get something started.
Me and Marcela (the bitch) are not friends anymore because she walked out on my birthday party which went even better without her.
-Bye- (4 now)
The last time I mentioned George was back in November, 1989, when he started to tell me something that I suspected was a confession of love (or at the very least, strong like). Despite rarely mentioning him in the other journal, I evidently still carried this torch for my opponent to the vice presidential race of our elementary school. What baffles me today is how I interpreted his ambivalence back then as reciprocated interest. Good thing you can cut an eleven-year-old some slack for being clueless in matters of dating (as for later years…well, we have plenty of time before we get to those comedies/tragedies of errors).
And Jonas. Oy, again with the cute third grade hall monitor. I’m awed and embarrassed at how many entries there are in both diaries devoted to Jonas, years after he graduated and long after I randomly saw him at the movies. (I’m also editing a lot of them out of this blog… you’re welcome). At the very least, I was aware of the futility of any relationship. It’s kinda difficult to “get something started” when you never see the person you allegedly love “and a lot.”
I know it seems like I throw around the word “love” a lot in my diaries, and I do, but let’s review a list of some of the other people I “loved” at the time (parents notwithstanding): Debbie Gibson, Corey Haim, Cyndi Lauper, Stacy Q, Blair from The Facts of Life, and Madison the mermaid (as portrayed by Daryl Hannah in Splash). Need I say more?
I went to Pennsilvania and it was fun. There was a boy my age there named Wallace who gave me a tape. Tiffany.
Tomorrow night I am going to sleep over Rose’s and stay at her house for Thursday and Friday. I am not really mad at Rose but we get along pretty well.
Today we are going on a trip to prospect park. I am going to be partners with Nisa and Jessica.
I am glad things are working out well for me.
I still remember that cassette, covered with green and blue marker squiggles to the point where you could barely make out the song titles. That weekend, I played that Tiffany tape so many times, I think by the end of my stay Wallace was happy for me to take it off his hands. I wouldn’t be surprised if to this day he shudders every time he hears “I Think We’re Alone Now.”
There have been numerous pop culture debates over the years. Coke vs Pepsi. PC vs Mac. In terms of music there’s been The Beatles vs The Rolling Stones and Blur vs Oasis. In the late 1980s there was a media imposed rivalry among two teen pop sensations: Debbie Gibson vs Tiffany.
Back then, numerous teenybopper magazines had charts comparing the blonde from Long Island and the redhead who got her start singing in shopping malls. As if we had to choose. While I discovered Debbie Gibson first, I wore out my copy of Out of the Blue and was thrilled to find another singer in the same vein. Back then, my main source for discovering music was Casey’s Top 40, which could be tedious considering all the commercials, the hit songs I wasn’t crazy about, and all those request letters Casey Kasem read on the air. Being handed a tape that contained songs I instantly loved was like magic.
While I have a tendency to be pretty damn gullible, I saw the Debbie Gibson versus Tiffany debate for the marketing ploy that it was. Why did one have to be better than the other? Why did we have to choose between them? Yes, Gibson wrote her own songs and had more Top 10 hits, but Tiffany had a bit of an edgy rasp to her voice and wasn’t afraid to sing her guts out to make “Could’ve Been” the heart-wrenching ballad that it was. Tiffany also gets bonus points for doing a cover of U2′s “New Year’s Day” with Front Line Assembly in the late 199o’s.
In the end, Debbie Gibson may have had more career longevity, but both she and Tiffany have a special place in my childhood and musical history. So let’s call it a tie.
Sep. 20, 1988
Yesterday I went over Rose’s house. She got this new game called girl talk and it is something like truth or dare and one of the dares was to call up a boy and sing him your favorite song, so I ended up calling Bruce and sang him “Foolish Beat.”
Before she was Deborah Gibson, star of the recent cult film Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus, she was Debbie Gibson, Teen Pop Queen. There was nothing scandalous about her: she didn’t wear skimpy clothes, have questionable affairs, drink, do drugs, display her wealth in obnoxious ways or do any of the other things many of today’s young celebrities do.To this day, the most “controversial” thing Gibson has done is pose for Playboy and that was well into her adulthood.
At 17, Debbie Gibson was the youngest artist to ever write, perform, and produce a #1 single, which she did with “Foolish Beat” a somber tune of heartbreak and regret. At ten years old, it was my favorite song and the one I chose to serenade Bruce with.
Rose and I called him up and there was probably copious amounts of giggling before I was able to sing him part of the song. When I was finished and on the verge of exploding with embarrasment, he said, “You have a really nice voice.” I hung up, blushing even though I no longer had a crush on Bruce.
That was the first time I sang a Debbie Gibson song in front of others, but not the last time. A few years ago, a couple of friends and I went to a karaoke bar one afternoon. The bar was dead, so we decided to pick the most humiliating songs for each other to sing.Russian Roulette Karaoke, we called it. Debbie Gibson’s “Electric Youth” was chosen for me. I pretended to be all put out and bashful singing it, but the truth is, I loved every pop-filled second.