Friday, June 26, 2015

'80s CONCERT FLASHBACKS (Pt. II): Debbie Gibson

(Pt. II)
Debbie Gibson

When it comes to live concerts,
the real story rarely plays out
onstage. And throughout this
series, I'll be sharing several
of my most memorable personal
experiences and mishaps. An
excerpt from my 2014 book,
Shout it Out Loud, this story
took place at the tail end of the
glorious decade of decadence.

Up against the wall! DO IT NOW! 

This wasn’t the first time that I’d found myself, spread eagle, and being patted-down by “the man.” But this wasn’t a DUI interrogation. It wasn’t an airport security checkpoint. And it wasn’t a drug deal gone bad. It was a Debbie Gibson concert.

I'd just turned 27 in December 1989, and reigning pop princess Debbie Gibson was hot as a pistol. In less than three years, the 19-year-old singer / songwriter from Brooklyn, New York had racked up two consecutive platinum-selling Top 10 albums and an impressive string of eight Top 40 singles, including such hits as “Only in My Dreams,” “Shake Your Love” and “Lost in Your Eyes.” Her high-energy music was as fresh and contagious as her youthful “girl-next-door” persona. Simply put, Debbie Gibson’s songs and oft played MTV videos made me happy. The Gibson brand also had the same affect on my (then) 24-year-old brother, Greg. And when we heard that Deb was coming to Orlando on her Electric Youth world tour, we were the first in line for tickets front row, center stage. Psyched, indeed! However, very few others at the concert that night would be quite as enthusiastic about our presence. 

In recent years, I've either sold off or thrown out
much of my rock and roll "collectible" crap. But
I just can't part with my Debbie Gibson memorabilia. 
As we navigated through the sea of 10,000 eight-year-old girls and their soccer moms while en route from the parking garage to the entrance of the Orlando Arena, I quickly noticed that (next to my brother) I was the tallest person at the show a first for me. One by one, everybody was being ushered into the venue, posthaste everyone that is, except yours truly. I found myself being pulled out of the line and “encouraged” to “spread ‘em” just as I was approaching the turnstile. Perhaps it was my Motörhead T-shirt that first raised suspicions. Maybe it was my near waist-length hair, piercings or backwards ball cap that made me stand out from the crowd. Or maybe it was the undeniable fact that I clearly wasn’t a parent, and that I was a good 15-20 years older than the "typical" Debbie Gibson fan. But for whatever reason, I’d been flagged as a “suspicious.” My passion and intentions were as genuine as anyone’s in attendance, yet I was perceived as being “different" even dangerous. Consequently, there I stood, being nearly strip-searched as everybody else was allowed to enter the coliseum without even as much as a second look from the concert security force. Even my brother was waved right in which was particularly disturbing considering that he was the one carrying the gun. It’s a long story. However, I was finally "cleared," and granted admittance into the venue, just moments prior to showtime.

“Hey, c’mere!” the rather intense-looking, beefy brute wearing the tight-fitting “Event Security” T-shirt instructed me and Greg as we made our way back to our seats following the opening act with our super-sized sodas, enormous pretzels and armloads of just-purchased Debbie Gibson merchandise. “You guys are being watched by every member of our team tonight,” he warned. “One wrong move, and you two clowns are outta here! Get it?” Wow, this guy was serious. The fact was, we wouldn’t have dreamed of being disruptive. But we were perceived as “suspicious,” and it was a distinction for which we’d continue to pay dearly. 

This Electric Youth tour book remains the
crown jewel of my Debbie Gibson collection.
“Why are you here?” the less than friendly mom sitting next to me inquired, just before the night’s headliner took the stage. “Because I love Deb,” I replied gleefully. “Oh really?” she sneered. “And why do you ‘love Deb?’” Gee whiz lady lighten up! “Because she’s a musical genius the ‘John Lennon’ of my generation,” I fired back. That one finally shut her down. Houselights drop it’s show time!

Debbie Gibson never once came directly center stage at any time during the concert that night. I’m not suggesting that she’d been tipped off to our presence, however, I will say that the security guards who were positioned behind the barricade across the front of the stage kept their flashlights shined on me and Greg throughout the entire show. Awkward, to say the least. But that mattered little to us, as Debbie Gibson's high-energy performance and state-of-the-art production made for one of the single greatest and most thrilling concert experiences of my life — second only (maybe) to the first time I saw the New York Dolls.

-Christopher Long
(June 2015)


Check out my entire
'80s Concert Flashbacks


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