Tales from my Electric Youth

by Rachel Brear

The year was 1987. I was nine years old, living with my mom in a Houston suburb, and my singing career was about to take off. I was modeling my life after teen-pop princess Debbie Gibson and I was certain her tour manager would come knocking on my door any day. My mom wasn’t aware of these plans but I figured I’d send her a postcard from Omaha or wherever the tour was to explain what was going on.

See, I’d recorded a demo tape by hooking up a set of headphones into my record player with a cassette player nearby locked into the “record” position to capture music at its finest. While Debbie was singing about love and being lost in so-and-so’s eyes, I was singing right along, eyes closed and hands clenched, practicing my vocal gymnastics to hit every note possible on the scale. I didn’t have access to an actual editing studio so the finished recording was mostly me singing a cappella into a crappy mic with white noise and phones ringing in the background. It was good enough to send to Atlantic Records; they’d get the point.

The plan was so simple and ingenious I was surprised no one had tried it before. Debbie Gibson was a 16-year-old singing diva shocking everyone in the music world because she was writing, producing and singing her own stufff. The clincher would be when she discovered me, a 9-year-old prodigy in Texas, and together we’d become the world’s youngest female touring ensemble. Everyone would marvel at how smart Debbie was to find a youngster with so much talent and give her a chance to tour the world.

Atlantic Records never got back to me. My demo must have gotten lost in the mail.

These days, there’s a new pop tart on the scene making young girls daydream in the same sort of vain: Miley Cyrus, AKA Hannah Montana. A friend of mine’s 9-year-old daughter had to explain to me how Miley Cyrus leads two lives and one of those is singing sensation Hannah Montana, while the other is a normal 14-year-old teenage girl.

In case you live under a rock, the biggest show in a young girl’s life is going to be right here in Greensboro three days after Thanksgiving. Best of Both Worlds, the completely sold out tour, featuring both Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus, who is really, um, the same person, but whatever, will have tweens screaming so loud dogs in Winston-Salem will perk up their ears. My friend’s daughter is psyched, along with everyone other little girl in the Triad.

“Do you think she’s gonna give out her phone number during the concert?” she asked.

“Doubtful,” I said, “She probably won’t want everyone in the coliseum calling her all the time.”

She thought about this for a while and said, “Well, I just want to talk to her.”

“What would you say if you got the chance to meet her?” I asked.

“I’d just tell her I am her number-one fan and then we could be friends,” she said. “She could come over to my house and spend the night.”

My friend’s daughter is lucky that she has tickets. I went on, and ticket prices range from $129 all the way to $1,846. (The latter price is only if you buy two tickets, subtotaling $3,692 before taxes and fees.) For tickets! To a concert! I was lucky if my mom bought me Debbie Gibson’s perfume, Electric Youth, but I never got it because it was too expensive.

Nowadays, Debbie Gibson, er, Deborah, is still singing and entertaining audiences worldwide with her music and her… body. In March 2005 she posed for Playboy during the time she was releasing a new single entitled, “Naked.”

Can you imagine Miss Miley Cyrus might suffer the same fate? An overhyped teen princess will go from sold-out shows to playing smaller venues to moving from Disney to MTV and then falling off the radar completely, only to reemerge years from now posing for Playboy asking fans to remember when she was a big deal.

Every generation has a celebrity role model to look up to and the stars you discover when you’re younger don’t always reflect the kind of career you’ll have when you grow up or the adult you’ll grow up to be, but it is important to get the seeds of imagination growing and to let young girls daydream with reckless abandon.

I’m curious and excited to know about the kind of celebrity role model my daughter will have when she’s that age.

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