Sunday, August 30, 2009

August 31

Remember Debbie Gibson? And I don’t mean that as a slight. Debbie Gibson’s still the youngest artist to write, produce, and sing a number one song on the Billboard charts; as teen stars go, she’s more Taylor Swift than Miley Cyrus or Britney Spears. In the 90’s, Debbie Gibson the former teen star became Deborah Gibson, Broadway star, and she still toplines marquees today. At the same time, she's not above doing the occasional reality show or bizzare fast food commercial...
And yet, the generation after me will probably end up remembering her for "Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus."

Debbie plays neither shark nor octopus, but the “voice of reason” scientist that all ecological disaster movies have. Hey, it was big enough for a sequel...

Who remembers The Vines? They were supposed to be Australia’s answer to Nirvana, as in catchy, scruffy three-and-a-half minute songs that made rock exciting again. But instead of being the next Kurt Cobain, lead singer Craig Nicholls started turning into Syd Barrett, having on-stage meltdowns and frequent performance cancellations. He was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, which has cut down on the touring but not on the music-making. He’s working on album number 5 as we blog.

I saw this performance on Letterman, and it’s as hypnotic a train wreck as I remember. Wish I could have found their performance on Conan O’Brien later that month, when they pulled it off. Somebody stocked different refreshments in their green room, apparently…

Gotta give props to drummer Jerry Allison, co-architect of the Crickets’ sound (and, therefore, of rock n’ roll.) True story: Buddy Holly wrote a song in 1957 that he named after his niece, “Cindy Lou.” Jerry asked Buddy to rename the song after his girlfriend, who he was on the outs with at the time . Buddy agreed if he could double-time the drum beat through the entire song. So, Jerry gave the song a driving beat, Buddy renamed the song “Peggy Sue,” the song made it to the top 5, and Peggy came back to Jerry (their marriage lasted for a decade,) demonstrating the power of a radio hit in winning over a girl.

But my personal candidate for a federal holiday is Julie Brown. Not “Downtown” Julie Brown, but that crazy red-headed comedienne – the one that’s still alive, I mean. Cable TV afternoon movie viewers might have seen her as The Best Friend in “Earth Girls are Easy.” But if you know her, you probably remember her from “Just Say Julie”, her signature show on MTV, back when they had VJs and music and stuff. She had this bipolar valley girl persona, perfect for puncturing the most ponderous music videos, the apex of the goofy side of 80’s comedy, before everything got “edgy”.
[Speaking of “edge,” that was the name of her sketch comedy show on Fox. It only lasted a season, and I can’t remember any of the skits, but the show also introduced America to Jennifer Aniston and Wayne Knight, before everybody started calling them “Rachel” and “Newman.”]
But the reason I’m celebrating Julie Brown’s birthday is because she came along at a pivotal moment in my life. As a kid, I couldn’t understand what was so fascinating about supermodels and centerfolds. Sure, I knew what made pretty girls pretty, but magazine covers didn’t do anything for me – certainly not as much as my classmates. And then Julie Brown came along. Here was a fire-engine redhead acting anarchic and insane, telling bad puns in short skirts with the energy of a four-year-old on Pixy Stix.
Julie Brown changed my life. She shaped the criterion for the women that would inhabit my fantasies – and, ultimately, my life. She taught me that I’m into two kinds of women: 1) Redheads (not necessarily natural,) and 2) Women that will do anything for a laugh.

Oh yeah, she’s on my List.

Tomorrow: A new month!

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