Monday, December 21, 1992
My birthday is tomorrow and I am very excited. Yesterday my mom and I went to Manhattan and it was great. We went to the “Gap” first and I got a whole bunch of new stuff. Then we went to A&S where I got a tape for myself (U2, “Boy”) and one as a present (Genesis, “ABACAB”). I also got a book there. Then we went to Macy’s where I got a new watch (it is a really pretty Swatch). Also my starter jacket and Doc Martens were part of my birthday/Hanukka presents. I love all the stuff I got. Oh yeah. My parents also got me “Poison” (it’s a perfume by Christian Dior and it smells really good).
[After many, many, many instances of exhibiting what some might consider questionable music taste, I finally got to fulfill somebody else's sonic guilty pleasure. Whether Genesis surpasses Samantha Fox in cheesiness is up for debate, but I vote hell-to-the-yes. I'd rather listen to "Naughty Girls (Need Love Too)" over Phil Collins any day.
As for The Gap, starter jackets, Swatch watches and Doc Martens, welcome to the 1990's, where plaid shirts, combat boots, puffy sport-related outerwear and colorful plastic timepieces reign supreme. It was the year I was a slave to the trends, though I still kept a bright palate. Despite never seeing a basketball game in my life, I selected a jacket for the Charlotte Hornets, simply because it was teal and purple and I found it pretty. (Full disclosure: I even had to double check that the Hornets were in fact a basketball team. Just now. True story.)
I got some of my presents already from my friends. I got a U2 tape (“The Joshua Tree”) from Linda. In case you haven’t noticed, I am really into the group U2 right now.
[Though clearly I still hadn't noticed that my diary was an object incapable of observation, not being a living thing and all.]
At the moment, they are my favorite. I also got some jewelry from Renee and Erica (both on the bus). Last but absolutely, posotively not least Didi gave me a Swatch too! I was expecting a plaid shirt and was really surprised. It is really pretty, pinkish purple with anchors and square knots all over it. That is just the beginning. I am going to get even more presents tomorrow and the day after that.
Well, I really should try to get some sleep for tomorrow because not only is it my birthday, but we also have a big science test. I don’t think I’m gonna do well. Oh well. ~See ya!
So let’s review. I was 14-going-on-15, my fashion philosophy could best be described as “Technicolor lumberjack,” and I was become increasingly obsessed with U2. I guess it could be worse.
Considering my girly-pop musical track record, it still surprises me that the first band that would form the backbone of my musical evolution would be a straight up rock band like U2. The best way I can describe it is like falling in love. You might have a type, you might have inclinations, but you can never predict what will capture your heart. Something about Bono’s earnest and feverish voice, The Edge’s soaring guitar riffs, Larry Mullen’s brooding handsomeness and adorable eyelashes drumming really captivated me (Adam Clayton was okay, too, I guess). Never before in my life had I found so much passion in music.
And while we’re on the topic of music and passion, here’s something else I was stubbornly fervent about: cassettes. I was building up quite the tape collection, despite a supposedly superior music format that was becoming increasingly popular. I resisted the “compact disc” hype, refused to pay more money for CDs (“we’ll see how long they last…” I’d scoff and roll my eyes) and swore loyalty to my cassettes. Because surely they would be around forever…
Monday, July 27, 1992
As I am writing this, we are on our way to Boston.
Right now I am sitting next to Anita. She is really nice (& cool) and I like hanging out with her. Didi is acting nice toward me.
I am feeling pretty restless and a little bored. In the front of the bus the councelors are playing Donna Summer songs and Anita knows the words to almost all of the songs because her mother listens to her a lot. Anyway, I am very bored. I don’t know what I should do next. I’ll probably listen to my walkman. I can’t wait until we arrive at our destination. I’ll write more later. See ya!
A moment of silence for the walkman.
Before it was possible to carry hours, days, weeks worth of music in a portable device the size of your palm, there were cassettes, boomboxes, and walkmans (according to Sony, they prefer the device be pluralized as Walkman Personal Stereos, but I prefer saying “walkmans” or “korvalappustereot” which is how they say it in Finnish. Those wacky Finns).
Back in the early 1990′s, CDs were starting to appear on the scene, but the cassette tape was still my preferred music medium. Not only were tapes less expensive, but you could buy blank ones and fill them with songs taped off the radio.
I was around nine when I discovered this clever and elusive way to capture music, except that I had a stereo that only had one tape deck and no record functionality. However my parents did have a clunky tape recorder, which I was able to hold up to the radio to capture two-thirds of Europe’s “Carrie” (not the most auspicious musical beginning perhaps, but I’ve always had a soft spot for power ballads.
Luckily, my parents noticed my emerging passion for music and started buying me tapes, and eventually a stereo with two tape decks. The first piece of music I ever owned was George Michael’s Faith (followed by Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors). I remember one awkward summer day listening to “I Want Your Sex” with my mother; she grew thoughtful and said “I think he [George Michael] is light blue,” in Russian. She then explained “light blue” in our native language meant “gay.” I didn’t know what to think of such a statement at the time, considering that back then I associated homosexual men with the flamboyance of someone like Liberace or Elton John. I also developed something of a crush on the tight-jeaned, 5 o’clock shadowed, aviator-shade-wearing George Michael of 1987, and was completely under his hetero-spell. Who knew Mom had such dead-on gaydar?
In addition to the tape player, my parents bought me several walkmans (take that, Sony!) over the years, and much of my allowance was spent on cassettes. For the next five years, my music tastes grew but remained limited to pop selections from the Top 40, and often the cheesier end of the spectrum (though I did stop after one Paula Abdul album, so a little credit for that, right? No? Okay). The later models of the walkman I owned had fancy features like Auto Reverse, which would start playing the second side of the tape without the need to manually remove and flip the tape. Back then this was considered pretty high tech.
The summer of 1992 expanded my musical horizons beyond Donna Summer (who was fun for bus trips, but not anyone whose albums I sought out). I remember the counselors also played a lot of Billy Joel and Meat Loaf (Anita couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” before), neither of which I was crazy about. It wasn’t until Anita let me borrow her cassette copy of The Joshua Tree that I started to understand how intriguing and captivating music could be. “With or Without You” was the song that hooked me, more than any other song had in my life. Compared to the more straightforward catchy tunes I was used to, I found this song haunting, ambiguous, and deliciously tortured. I didn’t bother listening to the rest of the album, just that one song, over and over again, recording it onto a blank tape repeatedly until it filled up all of Side A. I was slowly discovering music that made me think and feel on a level I never had before and was on the cusp of a music revolution, one that would help me survive some dark days ahead.
Later on, “With or Without You” would the first piece of music I owned on CD, when someone gave me the CD single as a gift. However I was so stubborn about remaining true to my walkman and growing collection of cassette tapes, it would be a while before I had anything to play it on. The discman would not be part of my reality for a few years yet…
Wednesday, August 28, 1991
Boy! It has been a while, hasn’t it? For a boring summer, it hasn’t been so bad. I did go to Ohio for like 10 days & I spent some time with Fay. During that time we grew pretty close & even though we haven’t seen each other in a month, we are now not only pen pals, but are best friends, too! Let me describe her to you. She is 11, tall and thin. She is very pretty, and she acts mature for her age.
[I bet Fay just materializes out of the ether before you the way I paint her with words. Such vivid description!]
What I like about her is that, although we have a couple of things in common, we have our differences, too. Plus we can talk about anything. It’s funny. I thought that Nisa was my best friend, but how can we be best friends when I feel closer to a person hundreds of miles away than I do with one just a block away. I feel that I’m just not connecting with Nisa the way I am with Fay. I haven’t been for a while.
[It had been years since I'd seen Fay and even longer since I mentioned her in my diary. Becoming insta-best friends with her was easy, because we didn't have to deal with each other on a day to day basis. Given enough time, I'm sure we would have had our ups and downs and maybe even some drama involving a Certificate of Friendship. Alas.]
Well. I’m on a diet. I’ve already lost around 10 pounds & I’m praying (not literally) for another 10. I’ve also cut my hair. It looks like the same style as Chynna Phillips. I feel & look like a different person. If I just lose those 10 little pounds before school starts. I will be complete.
[If you lived in America, have a pair of ears, and were alive in the early 1990's, chances are you heard Wilson Phillips smash hit "Hold On" more times than you ever want to for the rest of your life. For those too young (or unborn) to remember, you may have heard the song in Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, when the square-burger-craving duo sings along--nay, rocks out to the chirpy anthem. Back in the days when my musical taste was of the more sugary pop variety, I was a fan of this "supergroup" who were initially more famous for their Beach Boy daddy (Carnie and Wendy Wilson, daughters of Brian Wilson) and Mamas and the Papas mama (Chynna Phillips, daughter of Michelle). That, coupled with the fact that I was growing out a bad perm and had a catastrophic 'do that was straight on top and curly on the bottom made me look to Chynna as something of a hair role model. My eighth grade class photo bears the exact same haircut as the one above, only light brown instead of blond. In my defense, it was the early 90's and it was still a marked improvement over the perm-plus-small-hedgehog-made-of-hair-and-Aqua-Net-that-I-called-bangs.
The ten pound weight loss came from a ridiculous but temporarily effective seven day diet that included one day of nothing but fruit, one day of nothing but vegetables, one day of nothing but bananas and milk, and a couple of days of nothing but meat and vegetables. Every once in a while Mom would come home with a grainy photocopy of some fad diet that one of her coworkers swore was the best way to lose weight fast. My parents and I tried this one and all of us lost weight...and eventually all of us gained it back.]
Gosh am I looking forward to school! It starts September 11, but orientation is September 6th. I will get to see all my friends (and the cute guys in my grade!) that day! I’ve been thinking about Justin all summer. I want to see if I still like him. And if I do, I want to see if he has matured a bit & if he likes me. I also want to see if any of the nerds I knew last year have turned into hot studs. (I can hope, can’t I?!) Well just wanted to fill ya in. See ya!
So much excitement and optimism for the beginning of eight grade. If I had known it would be one of the most wretched years of my life I would have gone easy on those exclamation marks.
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…
Today I went to a park with Rose and Rose’s friend Lauren and we had a really great time.
But the really good part was that I saw a really cute guy!
Then I found out that his name is Donald but I call him Donnie (like Donnie from New Kids on the Block!).
Anyway, I also found out that he likes me!!!
I gave him my telephone number and he might call me to ask me out!!!!!!!!!!
He is so adorable!!!!!!!!!!
Eat Your Heart out!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Donald/Donnie never called. Maybe because he didn’t appreciate having a nickname foisted on him like that, especially one that recalled one of the most mocked boy bands of the last 25 years. Or maybe he didn’t call because of my dubious music taste.
Once again, I’m a bit baffled that I thought nothing of continuing a friendship with the girl who agreed to go out with the boy who broke my heart. It’s as if I separated the deed from the people involved, or just took all the bad feelings and projected them at Mitch, since he was the one who took actions to make me feel so terrible. Maybe I saw Rose blameless in all of this because I could see why she’d want to go out with him, I had once been charmed by the gelled hair, pale blue eyes, and rosy cheeks myself.
One thing I’m glad I don’t remember is anything about the encounter with “Donnie.” The very idea of what my 12-year-old self on the rebound must have been like makes me cringe.
We are on the bus back.
Yesterday we had square dancing and I danced with Mitch and we held hands for the first time. His hands are really warm.
I also had a dream with Mitchell. I usually dream about a boy I like if I really like him.
Well anyway this was the dream and what I think everything stands for.
First I’m in this store buying an apple (not to eat but we have these kinds that are pins that we have to wear to school).
Then all of the sudden I’m at this small party. I guess Rose was the one that threw it. Well anyway we were all drinking seltzer (yuck!) and there was a song playing. It was New Kids on the Block “Please Don’t Go Girl.” Well Mitchell was just standing there. Then Rose comes up to me drags me over to a corner and says
“He’s really tough isn’t he?” and then the teacher wakes us up. Weird Huh?
Alert David Lynch, because he obviously has some strong competition for strange dream sequences.
For some reason, despite pronouncing myself an expert dream interpreter, I didn’t actually bother to interpret the dream in the diary entry. Twenty years later I can make a cursory guess at what it stands for. I rarely had any privacy with Mitch–or “Mitchell” (it made me feel more mature to call him that for whatever reason). I felt frustrated that our courtship was being stunted by the crowd of our classmates and developing an intimacy was proving difficult. Nevermind the fact that we had only been out on one date.
Either that or I loved my “cool” New Kids on the Block jeans so much, my subconscious brain was paying the price.
New Years Eve!!
I can’t wait until later tonight! I am going to my cousins house for a party. (Anna’s)
Yesterday Mitchell didn’t call me so I went shopping and got these amazing “New Kids on the Block” jeans! They are so cool! I absolutely love them! Later!
This is quite possibly the only time the words “New Kids on the Block” and “so cool” were used in the same sentence together.
As a new decade was about to dawn on us, did I take those last moments to reflect on the last ten colorful years? Did I ponder what the dawn of the 1990′s might bring? No and no. Instead I enthused over a pair of acid washed pants with airbrushed graffiti on them spelling out “New Kids on the Block” in bubble letters down one of the legs and the band members down the other. (I have scoured the Internet looking for a comparable photo, but there isn’t one, which can only mean they were one of a kind. Thank heavens for that.)
I could try to defend myself by saying that not hearing from Mitchell caused some sort of fashion temporary insanity. Because there’s retail therapy and then there’s retail suicide. The truth is, I was briefly a fan of this boy band (Joey was my favorite, in case you’re wondering, which you probably aren’t). My taste in music and clothing would take another few years to improve, but at least I ended the decade on a sufficiently tacky and colorful note.
As for the end of the 80′s, I always thought I was born ten years too late. While I was blessed with some fantastic cartoons and sit-coms (Thundercats, Jem & The Holograms, The Facts of Life, Perfect Strangers, Diff’rent Strokes… my definition of “fantastic” is probably not the same as yours), I missed out on a lot of the pop culture being so young. Sure, I had the enormous hair and wore enough shoulderpads to stand in for a quarterback, but I never got to get tarted up like Lucky-Star-era Madonna back then. Wearing fingerless lace gloves a decade later just wasn’t the same. And sure, in recent years I ended up seeing a lot of the new wave and post-punk bands I was too young to appreciate back then (Pet Shop Boys, Sisters of Mercy, Duran Duran, The Cure, Depeche Mode, Human League, etc.) but it would have been really special to see them in their heyday.
I think a lot of people feel out of time in their era. I was a reluctant participant of the 90′s and will always feel like I was stuck with a bum decade to come of age in. And as a another new decade is about to roll in I can’t imagine what kids growing up today will contend with. All I can wonder is whether we’ll ever get those damn flying cars.
In the meantime, I hope somebody out there is tinkering with and putting the finishing touches on a time machine that will one day let me return to the 1980′s and experience it in person again, this time as an adult. I’m sure I’ve glamorized that time period far too much in my mind, and maybe it’s best left in those nostalgic corners. Still, a girl can hold out hope.
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.
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.
I have a lot to tell you about my weekend.
Well first of all I forgot to tell you a dream I had a few weeks ago. It was about this book that I found.
You see, you write a question on it, and the answer magically appears…
So in my dream I wrote asking when I would see Jonas again. (Jonas is this boy I like that graduated from my school.)
Well, anyway, in my dream the book answered: “Nov. 11, 88.” And that was the day of Jessica’s birthday party. By the way, Jessica’s brother knows him. So I thought that I would see Jonas again, but I was wrong, because Jessica told me her birthday party was going to be postponed.
So I thought I would never see him again.
But since Friday I did not go to school I spent the day with my parents. Then we went to the movies and my parents were outside waiting for someone (I was inside) and who should I see by Jonas. So my dream came true.
Plus I got two tapes, Stacy Q and Kylie Minogue so I had a really good weekend.
Of all the things I could ask an all-knowing book, I didn’t for the meaning of life or how to cure global hunger or for upcoming lottery numbers or even for Corey Haim’s phone number (not for me now; for me then). Oh no, instead I aimed much lower than that. I asked when I would randomly run into the red-haired hall monitor I had I crush onback when I could barely spell. And I was thrilled when my dream became prophetic. Never mind the fact that I saw Jonas from fifteen feet away and did not even make eye contact. It was important to me to be psychic and this was burgeoning proof that I very well might be.
As for my music selections, what can I say, I was ten. It would be years until I discovered the “cool” 80′s music like The Cure, Sisters of Mercy, Duran Duran, Bauhaus, New Order, Alphaville, and of course, Depeche Mode. Before I was into male-fronted new wave and post-punk, I was into colorful female-fronted unapologetic pop. Debbie Gibson, Tiffany, Cyndi Lauper, The Bangles, and the two women added to my burgeoning music collection that day: Stacey Q and Kylie Minogue.
Stacey had style I coveted and a guest appearance on my favorite t.v. show back then (okay, and maybe of all time), The Facts of Life. She also had what I thought was one of the coolest names in the world, second only to Vanna White.
Kylie had an infectious smile and perky spirit I could not resist. When her hit cover of “Locomotion” came on the radio, I was filled with delight and an urge to dance (badly; rhythm and coordination were not my friends–the way my parents tell it, my childhood dance recitals were “hilarious”).
Truth be told, the use of Stacey Q’s song “Two of Hearts” in Party Monster was my favorite thing about the movie and I still get a kick out of the tune to this day. As for Kylie, I was happy to see her have a major U.S. comeback in the early 00′s and still maintain a strong presence in the pop world.
I still wonder where Stacey is today, but I don’t want to Google her out of concern that it might make me sad. I want to remember her as the crimp-haired, wide-eyed, helium-voiced pixie that wowed me back in 1988.
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.