Here's a question no one will probably ever ask you again: how early do you need to get to the mall in order to see a one-hit wonder from 27 years ago sing in the food court? It's currently 2:45, so I hope the answer is "45 minutes." Tiffany, if you're either an infant and or have never gotten your hair cut at a Great Clips, is famous primarily for three things: her 1987 cover of Tommy James and The Shondell's "I Think We're Alone Now," a 2002 nude spread in Playboy, and a documentary about a pair of strangely endearing stalkers.
Though her popularity faded faster than a pair of acid washed Girbaus, Tiffany's sort of kept at it on an E-list celebrity level by appearances in reality TV shows. I've never seen any of them, but it occurs to me that among the 200 or so people crowding the lower-level plaza in the heart of the Vista Ridge Mall, I'm probably in the minority.
Despite the proclamation of a 3:30 start time (Tiffany is set to begin "promptly" according to a serious, crimson sign immediately beyond Vista Ridge's entrance), Tiffany is late. I wonder if it's nerves, or if she's waiting until there's a huge crowd -- because there actually is one. And it's not just soccer moms, though admittedly that's like saying a sleeve of Sonic fries is diverse because a tater tot and part of an onion ring found their way into the bag. Still, amid the housewives excitedly chattering about how Tiffany was their first concert, there are a few couples in their 60s, kids of all ages, gays and lesbians, and of course, Weird 40-Something Dudes Who Like Tiffany.
One of these guys is right up front. He's got on a green hoody and sports a mustache and Dorothy Hamill haircut shot with gray hairs. He looks like the kind of guy you'd expect to have informed opinions on local cover bands -- except that he's holding a vinyl copy of Tiffany's eponymous second album. I wouldn't say this necessarily make him a weirdo, but then I've resolved to be nicer in 2014. Later, a photographer friend of mine who was bullied by the production director into bagging up his camera told me that the dude actually had two Sharpies with him, so he's definitely a weirdo.
By about 3:15, there's probably almost 200 people radiating outward from the stage, a platform elevated above the mall's tiled fountain, a four-sided ceramic wedge of water and dreams between the escalators and a Clinique kiosk. That's where I've posted up, behind a trio of area moms, Left Mom, Center Mom, and Right Mom, the latter two having set up a base camp made of two strollers overflowing with approximately 70 toddlers. One of these smells bad, and Left Mom departs with him. "Hurry!" says Center Mom. "You've got 11 minutes!" While she's out of pocket with her child's diaper situation, the PD walks through the crowd distributing white, airbrushed Tiffany t-shirts and handmade I Heart Tiffany posters. Center and Right Mom get one of each, shouldering into the shirts right as Left (out) Mom returns.
The monitors buzz to life in a screech of feedback; Dorothy Hamill Haircut Guy digs a finger in his ear and announces to everyone, "Well, it's a concert!" Some production guy with a Secret Service earpiece steps to the stage and informs the crowd that Tiffany will be starting soon, but that they'll be selecting a few fans to appear, presumably with or near Tiffany, in the reality show being filmed in the food court up above. I can tell by the gasps and whispers around me that appearing on a reality show with Tiffany is an intersection of at least two specific fantasies shared by more than several people, but then the guy on stage goes, "And we'll need you to be here until about 8 p.m.," thereby crushing the dreams of everyone who had to be home before then because of a child's bedtime.
By the time 4 p.m. rolls around, the anticipation is palpable, especially if you're anywhere near this one particular tall guy with a patchy beard and Hollister t-shirt. I'm ten feet from him, and I can sense it, the way you can feel the heat radiating from someone with a hilariously terrible sunburn.
And then Tiffany appears.
The people at the front and left of the stage see her first, walking from the shadows onto the stage, and the cheers ripple backwards toward the Best Buy. This is the first time she's performed at a mall since the 1987 tour that bridged her journey from Star Search to the top of the charts, and as a performer, at least, she hasn't really missed a beat. The crowd likes it well enough, even though she's singing a single from her 2011 country album. The hook is about feeling the music, an exhortation her fans diligently follow. Tiffany whips her non-mic-holding hand about her head like she's lassoing something; I'm guessing it's memories.
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The Mall Tiffany of 2014 performs five songs: the aforementioned "Feel the Music," followed by the three singles from Tiffany, and "Feel the Music" again, because she's shooting a video of it. I bet it was similar in 1987, her standing in front of 200 people in the vicinity of a Sbarro, and at the front of the crowd, sitting on the edge of the fountain is a girl about 9 or 10 with wavy hair and pink sneakers, who probably looks pretty similar to whoever brought her did in 1987. So that's the same, too, except malls are dying, etc., which gives me a weird, sad feeling, for like ten whole seconds.
I go up to the second floor when she starts "I Think We're Alone Now," and it occurs to me that if you auto-tuned this song, and I dunno, had Future moan over the hook, it would sound pretty current. I also remember that the song is fucking long, and not in a live-jam sort of way. Even when the single was new, it clocked in around five minutes, with Tiffany milking the chorus for all it's worth, which I assume is millions of dollars. And there she is, 26 years later, doing it again, for old time's sake. What that's worth is anyone's guess. I supposed you'd have to ask the guy holding her record and a backup Sharpie.