After Four Years of Training, Singer Debbie Gibson, 16, Comes Out of the Blue and Onto the Charts
Relax, kid: The two of you have more in common than just Long Island. The pop phenom with perfect pitch has been writing songs since she was 5, when she scored a ditty called Make Sure You Know Your Classroom. "I've always had my hand in songwriting," Gibson says. "It's a lot of work, but I took everything one step at a time." The biggest step came in 1983 when her mother, Diane, asked a then 27-year-old entertainment lawyer named Doug Breitbart to copyright a song Debbie wrote when she was 9. "Here was a kid who could write songs," Breitbart recalls, "but she was going in all the wrong directions." Under his tutelage, Debbie took dancing and voice and was coached by recording professionals. Three years ago he even persuaded her parents to convert their garage into a 12-track recording studio.
These days her family devotes much of its time to her career. Her mom is a constant companion on the road, sister Karen, 21, mixes the lights and sound for many of her shows, and Michele, 20, is her seamstress. (Her dad, a TWA customer service rep, confines himself to cheering.) An honors student, Debbie says she's determined not to go showbiz. "I want to project myself," she says, "as a clean-cut, funky teenager." Still, it gets weird sometimes. "When guys come up to me for an autograph, they get intimidated at first, but then we start talking on a normal-person level," she says.
Which isn't to say she lacks ambition. "I want to win a Grammy in two years," Gibson says. "It's funny. Billy Joel doesn't like the Grammys. He once said they were like getting a best Dad award." The new kid on the Hot 100 concludes, "I don't agree."