Deborah Gibson: Still Electric
By Bob Merrick
I have only spent the night on a sidewalk to buy concert tickets for two people; Deborah Gibson is one of them. Because of her, I became obsessed with vests that I still own, never wear, and can't seem to throw away. I spent every day during the summer of 1988 watching her Out of The Blue Tour on video until the tape finally broke, and I had to save up for a replacement. I still know all the moves to 'Electric Youth.' No matter how rough my life was'from being picked on in school to coming out at 19'her music and attitude always inspired me to stay positive. All these years later, I got to have a chat with someone who was absolutely my teen idol. A conversation with the resilient Deborah Gibson I thought could happen (forgive me for this one) only in my dreams.
You've had quite a year! The indie film you made'Coffee Date'is generating good buzz at film festivals, you took a spin on the ice rink on Skating With Celebrities, you've performed at several pride festivals, and currently you have a duet with former New Kid Jordan Knight rising up the adult contemporary charts. You must be feeling good!
Thank you and I am!
I just saw your debut performance with Jordan at an APLA event and I instantly felt like I was 14 again. You both looked and sounded amazing and as though neither of you have aged a day since 1989. How did this pairing happen?
[Laughs] We actually have a mutual friend at Trans Con, the record label, and he suggested it to both of us. We were both really into it. And I think we both use Oil of Olay to stay looking young!
After being absent for a decade, what does it mean to you to have a song on the charts now?
I know I have been absent from the charts, but I hardly feel like I've been absent. I never stop working so I don't have time to think about things like chart positions. I don't live and die by the ups or the downs which is how I stay sane! I recently saw an old interview of Brenda Lee's and she said the same thing. Us troopers just do what we do!
You are in a new movie, Coffee Date, which has been playing at all of the gay film festivals. Tell me a little about it.
My character craves drama. So when I think that Todd, the lead character, is gay, I suddenly become interested in him. I swear I didn't draw on any real-life experience. [Laughs] I basically play the office hussy! The film is so great. I have a tiny role, but I also did the song over the end credits. The cast is amazing, in particular my buddies Wilson Cruz and Jonathan Silverman and my new buddies since doing the film, Jonathan Bray and Sally Kirkland.
In the trailer for Coffee Date, I nearly spit up my drink when they cut to you on top of Todd yelling, 'Do you want to fuck me or not?' First Playboy and now this!
I never, ever swear. It was far more shocking to hear me say that than it was for my friends to see me naked! After Cabaret, Gypsy, and Chicago they were like 'That ol' body? Whateva!'
Now that you have our attention, what are three things that people would be surprised to know about you?
I am intense and tortured despite my sunny disposition. I have not taken a beach vacation in eight years 'cause I love to work. And I have never lived with anyone; I have a clean slate in the man department!
At what point in your career did you realize you were becoming a gay icon?
Oh, God'probably as a teenager when I saw myself being done in drag! I think all the gay clubs I played in the beginning of my career and my work in the theater has brought me closer to the gay audience. It is the only audience that allows me to segue from a Funny Girl song to 'Electric Youth' and doesn't get confused! There is no more loyal an audience. I hope we all grow old and gray together. Or, old and bottle blonde!
Earlier this year, you chose the ultimate in gay sports and were robbed on the show Skating With Celebrities. You were definitely the most improved and had no prior experience. Did you at least continue skating?
Why weren't you a judge? I knew going into it that reality TV is political. I think the fact that Kurt and I were so drama free hurt us. We were boring television 'cause we were like throwbacks to another era. It was Dick Van Dyke on ice! I was skating every month but haven't been in several months and I am going through withdrawal!
Recently our mutual friend Lance Bass came out publicly. Having thrived in the same pop landscape as the New Kids and then touring a couple of years ago with NSYNC, how do you think the public's acceptance/perception has changed since, say, 1989?
Not enough, being that it is still front-page news. We will know it really changed when people say 'who cares?' and they move on. But with the landscape being what it is and the Bible Belt folks still thumpin' those Bibles, I am proud of him.