-- Diane Sawyer
Over the course of her two-decade career, Debbie Gibson has proven herself a versatile talent. At age 12 she won $1,000 in a songwriting contest, which led to a management contract, which led to 1987's Out of the Blue, the pop star's wildly successful debut album, certified triple platinum a scant few months after Gibson graduated from high school. Out of the Blue's follow-up, Electric Youth, bolstered by the hit single "Lost in Your Eyes," posted great numbers as well, though not as strong as its predecessor's. It was mostly downhill from there: 1990's Anything Is Possible, 1993's Mind Body Soul ... the list goes on and ends with M.Y.O.B. , which stands for "Mind Your Own Business," which pretty much everyone was doing with regard to Gibson when the record was released in 2001 (it sold a dispiriting 10,000 copies). But as her pop career swerved, she took to the theater, starring as Eponine in a '92 Broadway production of Les Misérables; Sandy in a '93-94 staging of Grease in London's West End; and Maggie in last summer's Brigadoon at L.A.'s Ralph Freud Playhouse.
But, of course, not all of us could make it to L.A. last August.
Thankfully, the 34-year-old Gibson recently revisited retail, and the results are shockingly good. Her January release, a collection of nine stripped-down pieces, is both a return to and a departure from the kind of titillating pop the star made her name on in the late '80s. A series of untitled works, the material is Gibson's most revealing yet, and also her most alluring. Take the first offering, which we'll call "Green Sequined Jacket," a snapshot of a singer who finds herself all alone on an empty stage, naked but for the gifts God has given her. "Jacket" is evidence that this former teen idol has blossomed into a cunning minx; here we find her coyly toying with the audience, using a kind of "come close/go away" approach to lure us in. "Jacket"'s companion piece, "Strand of Diamonds = Bikini Bottom," offers another side of the story, however: Gibson drops the shy thing and goes full-frontal, engaging the audience with her coquettish charms.
The voice responsible for the 1987 smash hit "Only in My Dreams" seems to be living those dreams in what we like to refer to as "Back in Black ... and Not Much Else," in which she casts herself as a vaudevillian bobby-soxer ready to pounce on the first artful dodger who walks into the room. As is generally expected from Gibson, the production leaves a little to be desired; there are just not enough rough edges to communicate a sense of authenticity. There are other flaws -- see the supersaturated "Pink Boa" and the gaudy "Naked on a Bed of Gold Satin Sheets" -- but on the whole this au naturel series is a worthy entry in the Gibson body of work, a body that has aged surprisingly well, its various parts kept taut by, I dunno, yoga?
If you're interested in getting your hands on this new material, you can find it online or in the January 2005 issue of Playboy. Also, Gibson is touring in support of her nudie pictures, making a stop at Café Du Nord this Wednesday, April 13.
And now for something completely serious.
In addition to being an amazing musician in the Oakland band Subtle and an Amoeba employee with an encyclopedic knowledge of the entire recorded canon, Dax Pierson is a supernice guy. He smiles a lot. He laughs and hugs people. There are many of us who've liked Dax from the first moment we met him, and who haven't stopped liking him since.
On Feb. 24, the members of Subtle were in their tour van, traveling through Iowa at 1 in the morning, when the vehicle hit a patch of black ice; the driver lost control and the van flipped. Six of the seven passengers sustained minor cuts and bruises, but Dax was badly hurt. He had broken his neck. Today, Dax is paralyzed from the chest down. He's living in Houston with his family, where he's undergoing physical therapy. This treatment is all very, very expensive. To help ease the financial pain, Dax's friends around the world have organized benefit concerts.
On Monday, April 25, there's a benefit at the Bottom of the Hill featuring Sagan, Matmos, Jel and Alias, and DJ Doseone. If this show were happening without this important reason to go, I would recommend it anyway, because all of these artists are crazy-good: They make wires and circuits come alive, they make them dance and sparkle and whiz around the room like fleas in flea-size spaceships. Having said that, there is an important reason to go, so you should go and hear some great music and help Dax get better. If you can't go but you'd like to help nonetheless, go here: www.daxpierson.com.