A Tiffany Epiphany

I went to see Tiffany in concert at the BYU on Monday for the same reason I would go to a traveling freak show: It may be unsettling to watch, but I’m curious to see if anyone has two heads.

OK, maybe not exactly the same reason. My point is, I’m not exactly a huge Tiffany fan, and I’m not convinced anyone really is. After it was announced she would be performing on campus, I casually polled every single person I know, and no one could remember anything she sang other than 1987’s “I Think We’re Alone Now,” which was actually a remake, which means technically, she didn’t have ANY hits. (Several people tried to say she sang “Lost in Your Eyes,” but in fact that was Debbie Gibson — the Britney Spears to Tiffany’s Christina Aguilera.)

I was curious whether this “comeback” tour, in which she’s performing at colleges all over the United States, would be embarrassing. I suspected it would be. It seemed like people attending the concert would be doing so to watch an ’80s has-been try to regain her former popularity, which was dubious in the first place.

(Free joke you can tell your friends: What did Tiffany say to the bank officer after her popularity faded? “I think I need a loan now.”) (I didn’t say it was a good joke. What do you want for free?)

Upon arriving at the BYU, I was not surprised to find literally thousands of people there, clamoring around the outdoor stage, “clamor” being one of the few verbs permitted under the Honor Code. I figured a dozen or so were actual fans, and the rest were there for the camp value, like I was.

A BYU representative stepped forward to announce Tiffany, and everyone got real loud and excited. Then they had to shut up because, in BYU’s typically surreal juxtaposition of sacred and secular, someone had to offer a prayer. (“Please help Tiffany to rock” is something the person offering the prayer did not say.)

It was important that a prayer be offered so that Tiffany could be properly inspired when she sang: “Then you put your arms around me/And we tumble to the ground/And then you say/I think we’re alone now.” (Also: “Look at the way/We gotta hide what we’re doing.”)

After the crowd yelled a thundering “amen,” Tiffany came onstage. She sang a lot of her new songs, which all sounded about the same. Her guitarist was hopping around like he was a superstar. My friend Reyna pointed out to me the sadness inherent in this situation, as here was a guy who was not even a former pop star; he was a former pop star’s guitarist. (Reyna also suggested we start the rumor that the reason Tiffany performed at BYU is that she’s a Mormon now. So consider the rumor officially begun!)

After a while, I realized something strange: I graduated from this university years ago, yet here I was, standing on campus like a student and listening to Tiffany. Not one detail of this scenario made any sense. Next thing you know, I’ll be wearing socks with sandals and proposing marriage to girls I’ve just met.

Then I realized something else. Though I had come to the concert to mock Tiffany, I was actually enjoying myself. Tiffany was rocking, to the extent that Tiffany can rock. I didn’t care a lot for her new songs, but then, I didn’t care a lot for her old song(s), either.

You have to respect someone who has the courage to stage a comeback. Many have tried and failed. Take Donny Osmond, for example. He spent most of the ’80s in oblivion, then tried a comeback in 1989 with “Soldier of Love.” Do you remember this song? Of course you don’t. The song stunk, and his comeback didn’t work. But he reappeared a few years later, this time acting out characters from Bible stories, and he was a star again. Then he did that dreadful talk show with his sister, What’s-Her-Face, and lost a few points. But the net result is that he’s a big deal again, and he has fans everywhere, all the way from Logan to St. George.

Others have not been so lucky. Huey Lewis, Vanilla Ice and cocaine all tried comebacks, but to no avail. I don’t know whether Tiffany will fare any better, but one thing’s for certain: She’s a Mormon now. Spread the word!

I don't see this column as becoming a timeless classic. It's got some good stuff, but it's more of an "I'm doing this twice a week now so I'd better start discussing current events in a timely manner" sort of column.

The people who estimate these things estimated there were 10,000 people at the concert (which was free). The previous record for a Tiffany audience on this particular college tour was 4,000 at UCLA. As my research assistant/consultant/fashion adviser Josh pointed out, this confirms that BYU students are, in fact, the biggest nerds. (I guarantee you, if the concert had cost even one dollar, there would have been 100 people there.)

I was going to get Tiffany's autograph afterward and try to get an interview with her, but the line was too long and I hate waiting. So there you go.

I intentionally referred to BYU as "the BYU" in this column because that's how it's said by old people and people making fun of old people. My editor, who is not from around here, thought I had done it by mistake, but I set him straight before he could take out the "the.

This column inspired more discussion than usual at the Daily Herald Web site, becoming among the most-read and most-commented-on stories in the site's two-month history (at that point).

The day after it ran, I received a phone call from a young-ish woman who sounded very trailer park. The first words out of her mouth, when I answered the phone, were:

Yeah, I just wanted to call and tell you what a [****] you are.

She was mad that I had made fun of Tiffany. The conversation went downhill from there, as you might imagine. Some theorized it had been Tiffany herself calling me.

But I also got a very amusing e-mail from an earnest Daily Herald reader:
I read your article about Tiffanies concert and at the end you mentioned that she is a Mormon now. I just wanted to know if you meant she's popular around mormons or whether she was actually converted and what source did you get your info from. thanks

I wrote back and said my source was earlier in the same column, when I said I was going to start spreading that rumor. The person wrote back and reported having now found the joke, and appreciating it. Whew. Another soul saved.

Two years TO THE DAY after this column ran, I received the following angry letter, in which someone displays a propensity toward becoming angry about things that don't matter very much.

I just finished reading your article on Tiffany's performance at BYU. [It's been two years and you JUST finished?] Who do you think you are? . Tiffany has had more success by the age of 18 than you will ever have. Granted her fame was short lived, but who cares? No one stays on top forever. [Or even in the middle, where she was.] Why are you trying to crucify someone for what they did at an age when most of us were barely getting our driver's license? Everybody was digging her for a while, why should she hang her head now?

You being a "journalist" should know that you need to have concrete facts before writing an article. [Actually, if I'm a "journalist," with the sarcastic quotation marks indicating I'm not a real one, then I can probably get by without any facts. It's only if I'm a journalist, without the quotes, that I have to be more thorough.] Tiffany had more than 1 hit, she had 5. Yes, you don't remember them. Why? Because you, in plain english, said you were never a fan. [Except that if only fans have heard of the songs, then almost by definition, they probably aren't hits. A hit is when even people who don't listen to the music have at least heard of it.] So I do not understand how you can try to belittle someone like that when you don't know what you are talking about. FYI: Tiffany had 5 Top 40 singles, 2 of which were #1 on Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart, her first album shot to #1 [Actually, it took nearly a year to become No. 1, not reaching that spot until MTV and radio latched onto "I Think We're Alone Now," so I don't think we can say it "shot" to No. 1] and made her the youngest artist to have a #1 album in music history. [Actually, that would be Stevie Wonder. Tiffany was the youngest FEMALE artist to have a No. 1 album] The album sold over 6 million. She promoted that album with a world tour of 15,000-20,000 seat arenas that took her all over the US, Europe, and Asia. Her second album, went double platinum in 2 months and made the top 20. After that release, she went on another extensive world tour. In desperate need of time off, she took a break, a long one. [Actually, before that long break, she released a third album, "New Inside," which flopped miserably. THEN she took a break, releasing an album in Japan in 1993, a greatest hits album in 1996, a few miscellaneous things, and then finally...] In 2000, she released her first US studio album since in 10 years. Billboard magazine hailed it as "one of the finest pop albums of the year". Radio programmers gave her singles rave reviews. The album sold all of its initial pressings. [My first book sold all of its initial pressings, too -- all 500 copies.] Tiffany has been featured in countless TV interviews, including Behind the Music and the E True Hollywood Story. [Not to mention "Where Are They Now?," "Whatever Happened to...?," and "Famous People Who Now Work at Arby's."] After all of the publicity and all the hype, she has not been give a second chance because she is "Tiffany, the 80s teen pop idol" and jackasses like you aren't making it any easier.

Not only that, how pathetic are that you would even waste your time going to see a show that you don't even care for? You're a loser. Go ahead, say it, "you're a loser because you like Tiffany". [You're not a loser because you like Tiffany. You like Tiffany because you're a loser.]Blah, blah, blah.

At least Tiffany has made a name for herself at one point in time [which of course I will never, ever do, in any way]. You're an ugly, four-eyed geek who runs some rinky-dink website. [A Web site so rinky-dink, it doesn't even warrant responding to two-year-old columns.]