BY STEVE HELLING
Thirty years ago, an unknown 16-year-old Long Island girl named Debbie Gibson released her first pop album.
Entitled Out of the Blue, it spawned five hit singles and sold five million copies worldwide. The chart topping “Foolish Beat” made her the youngest female artist to write, produce and perform a top single – a record that endures today.
Gibson is still around. Her follow-up album, Electric Youth, went straight to no. 1. She continues to release new music and she occasionally acts—most recently in the 2016 TV Movie Summer of Dreams. She is releasing a box set of her music later this year — and it’s already available for preorder.
On the 30th anniversary of Out of the Blue’s release, Gibson shares 30 fun facts about herself with PEOPLE.
1. I was still in high school while demo-ing my debut album, so I had a studio in my garage. My friends thought that was so cool. During a blizzard, they all came over and we came up with an original song called “Rappin’ on a Snowy Day.” We were a bunch of suburban kids trying to rap.
2. I used Carvel Ice Cream rainbow sprinkles as my shaker on all of the demos for the Out of the Blue album.
3. I recorded my early hits in Producer Fred Zarr’s basement laundry room. There was this sheet hanging on a clothesline; if you pulled it back, there was his washer and drier. (Laughs) I only got lint in my throat once!
4. When I wrote “Only in My Dreams,” I intentionally set out to write a song you could hear on the radio. It worked!
5. On tour, I wore the same outfit every night as a signature style. That would never work today with social media!
6. I remember where I was when I heard the remix of “Only in My Dreams” on the radio for the first time. I was heading back from a voice lesson when I heard it on Hot 103.5 in New York City. My Dad almost drove off the road because he was so excited!
7. No, I don’t know whatever happened to the bustier I wore on the cover of the “Only in My Dreams” single.
8. My sister Michele designed and hand sewed those plaid ruffled skirt outfits I performed in and wore in videos.
9. I wrote the song “Wake Up to Love,” while dozing off in History class. I played a club the night before and was saying to myself “Wake up… wake up…” and sang to myself “Wake up to Love.” I immediately wrote out the music and it ended up on the album!
10. PEOPLE Magazine was at my graduation party at my Aunt Linda’s house in Wantagh, Long Island.
11. I was underage, so I never went into clubs to promote Only in My Dreams through the front door! They let me in the back. I’ve seen the greasy kitchen and basement with leaky pipes of every club across America!
12. I had a wardrobe malfunction during my first live performance of “Only in My Dreams.” My dress caught the microphone and began to unravel, but I made it part of the routine. Gotta think on your feet!
13. In the first club that hired me to perform, Joey’s Place in Clifton, New Jersey, my dancers and I did this big lift, and I ended up going through the stucco ceiling.
14. My sister Karen did sound for me at all the clubs that I played! A 21-year-old chick sound engineer was very rare at the time.
15. I got my signature black hat on Scott Shannon’s Christmas radio special from Michael Damien. I took it off his head! I had black hats made up to take on tour with me. I threw my hat out into the audience at the end of every show. Ryan Seacrest‘s sister Meredith caught one of them!
16. I was upset because people thought I was going to the prom with Brian Bloom because he was also a teen star, which was so untrue! To this day, Brian and I are friends and always have a great connection!
17. I almost didn’t get to graduate with my class because the school district was concerned about safety because of media. I signed an insurance waiver so that I could be a part of it.
18. Sean and McKenzie Astin dropped by the set of the “Shake Your Love” video, which was my teen dream come true! Also, Paula Abdul choreographed the video.
19. I couldn’t go anywhere after Out of the Blue, but I really wanted to go to a local church carnival. I bought a brown wig and glasses, but it didn’t work. People were like, “There’s Debbie Gibson in a brown wig!”
20. My sister Denise and I would freak out seeing me in the pages of teen magazines. We used to say, “Who’s this Brad Pitt guy?” because he was a pin up, but we never saw his work!
21. The photographer for the album cover thought my knee was pulling focus in the photo, so the makeup artist drew that face on my knee! Little girls everywhere came to my concerts with faces painted on their knees!
22. I had a panic attack at age 16 at a dinner with a radio program director and my mom. I had three club shows to do, and I was exhausted at the time. I ended up in the ER that night.
23. I didn’t want to cut my hair, but the management felt the bangs and straight hair look was too ‘ordinary’ and made me look ‘too young’. The ozone layer is what it is today from me having to spray that hairdo to keep it in place! Eventually, that “ordinary” look with the bangs and straight hair ended up being what kids related to.
24. We shot the “Foolish Beat” video at South Street Seaport on St. Patrick’s Day. There were drunken New Yorkers shouting at me and having a blast celebrating while I was doing my “walk and cry” scene.
25. Since we didn’t have cell phones when I was on my first tour, I had to call my friends from my hotel rooms with a calling card!
26. The outfit in the “Foolish Beat” video was something I borrowed from my sister Michele’s closet, but I think the bow was mine.
27. I got to perform on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand with INXS. Michael Hutchence was a genius.
28. Billy Joel called me to wish me happy birthday during the Out of the Blue era because he knew I was a huge fan! He’s incredible!
29. I performed at a lesbian club in Brooklyn and loved it so much, I didn’t wanna leave! The girls were so thrilled a new teen artist would play there. I am forever bonded with the LGBTQ community from those early club days!
30. The same week I graduated Calhoun High School in Merrick, Long Island, my first ever tour bus picked me up. I decorated my bunk with posters of George Michael and Billy Joel and off I went!