Talk about an “Electric Youth”! Deborah “Debbie” Gibson burst “Out of the Blue” when she was barely 17 with a string of hits on the Billboard charts such as “Foolish Beat,” “Only in My Dreams” and “Shake Your Love” that made this extraordinarily talented Long Island teenager the favorite of music fans everywhere and established her forever in America’s pop pantheon.
Gibson scored nine Top 40 Hot 100 hits between 1987 and 1991 and remains the youngest female artist to write, produce and perform a number-one single, according to Billboard.
Though born in Brooklyn, she grew up in Merrick, and Gibson credits her early experiences performing in musicals at churches and temples and the Long Island Teen Repertory Theater, as well as the WINGS program at Camp Avenue Elementary School and her teachers at Sanford Calhoun High School as helping propel her career.
“Long Island has always been great for the arts,” she says. “There was always somewhere to go perform.”
On June 8, Gibson will be performing at the Long Island Pride 2013 festival in Huntington’s Heckscher Park. For her, it was a no-brainer.
“I could not say no!” she says. “It is a smaller Pride in relation to, let’s say, Chicago or Denver or many others I have done, but come on! It is Long Island! I fully expect my hometown peeps to out-Pride and be louder than anywhere I have previously performed!”
She remembers winning contests on WPLJ when she was a teen and listening to Z100 and especially Hot 97, which broke her first hit, “Only in My Dreams.”
“They were all faves,” she says fondly. “I was influenced by everyone from Mozart to Madonna, Elton John and Billy Joel, as well as Broadway performers.”
Indeed, it was her wanting to be cast as “Annie” that brought her and her family regularly into Manhattan for auditions. In 1992, she played Eponine in Les Miserables on Broadway—the first of many theatrical performances on and off The Great White Way.
Though she now makes her home in L.A., she still has close ties to the Island, referring to her aunt, uncle and cousins, such as Buddy, her choreographer, and her hometown friends Dee Snider, Ron Luparello and Mike Provenz. She also still regards Galleria Pizza on Merrick Avenue as “the best!”
Who would dare to argue with that? Back in the day, she supposedly had a rivalry with another young pop phenom, Tiffany, but that was just media high jinx.
“There was no divide—ever!” she says. And to prove it, the pair did do a “crazy” Syfy original movie together later in their careers called “Mega Python vs. Gatoroid,” and have toured together.
“I would do it again in a heartbeat,” she insists.
Gibson competed in last year’s season of The Celebrity Apprentice, is about to become a judge on ABC TV’s upcoming Sing Your Face Off, and has begun working on a new album.
Now 42 years old, the former teen sensation is in a good place these days, she says.
“I am super-private, having grown up in the spotlight,” she admits, “But let’s just say at long last I have found balance!”