After Kourtney Kardashian and Scott Disick take their 21-month-old son Mason to see Broadway’s Lion King on Wednesday, he surprises her with a trip to the grand reopening of Culture Club, where she greets club partner and “ambassador to the ‘80s” Debbie Gibson with a friendly wave.
It’s a big moment for Debbie fan Kourtney, who cannot wait for the pop icon’s surprise performance of Shake Your Love and a cappella rendition of Only In My Dreams.
But that’s not the only fun taking place inside the nostalgic heaven. As South Beach Smoke electronic cigarettes are offered and appetizers like crab cakes are served by cocktail waitresses wearing Nanette Lepore glow-in-the-dark dresses and high-top sneakers, a Michael Jackson impersonator roams the four-floor club adorned with throwback pop culture memorabilia and neon murals of Pac-Man, He-Man and Smurfette.
Debbie and her crew – including boyfriend Dr. Rutledge Taylor and dancer Eddie Bennett – hit the lighted dance floor to bust their moves to songs like Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart and her hit Electric Youth. “Michael Jackson” even has a dance-off with Debbie to the sounds of Thriller. Partygoers sip themed cocktails like The Gibson Girl, Top Gun, Madonna, Ronald Reagan, Ghost Buster, Back To The Future, Purple Rain and Terminator.
It’s clear that Debbie, 41, is in her element at the club that acts as a virtual time machine. She recalls the highs and lows of her ‘80s heyday.
What was the best moment?
“Different things come to mind at different times,” she tells me. “The one that just came to mind was doing the Prince’s Trust Concert in London, opening the show with Electric Youth, and meeting [Princess] Diana. I met Diana and Charles. It was so funny. Because I was on first, I didn’t have time to put on a gown and then change into my outfit, so I was in my ripped jean shorts, my bandana, my vest – like the video – two Swatch watches, and I was like ‘I can’t believe this is how I’m meeting royalty.’ She leans into me, and said ‘Uh, I wish I could be wearing that right now. You look a heckuva a lot more comfortable than I do.’ [repeats in British accent] I was like ‘wow.’ It was an awesome moment from the ‘80s for me. Sean Connery introduced me. It was just crazy. Crazy night. I think it was 1989.”
Although she may have felt under-dressed for her brush with Prince William’s parents, she adores ‘80s fashion.
“One of my older sisters made a lot of my clothes,” she says. “For me, my fashion was authentic. It was true to who I was. I was not trying to be older than my years. It was the cute little layered skirts, and the little bolero jackets, jean shorts. My fashion in a word, from the ‘80s, was accessible. I still combine accessible with things that I get specially made that are a little more glam, theatrical, rock ‘n’ roll. But I like mixing it up. I will wear a little bustier top that I bought at the Sherman Oaks Galleria with a jacket I had made for $1,000, and put it together. I think I’ve always been a blend.”
For Debbie (and everyone else), the ‘80s were all about embarrassing hair.
“It’s funny. Someone had Tiffany’s cassette cover and mine on our Journey Through the ‘80s tour, and basically my hair was like this in the ‘80s – long, straight and bangs. And then, the label, because teen stars weren’t ‘in,’ they did try to make me look older for the first moment of my career, which most people don’t even remember because it was really the moment that the 12-inch came out at the clubs, and I was still pretty invisible. But if you look at those early covers, I had the helmet, layered thing.”
She continues, “Cutting my hair, to do that, to create a look, was slightly traumatizing, so for me, if I could’ve started out of the box with the bangs and the straight hair – I said to Tiffany, ‘I remember looking at your album cover saying ‘I’m so jealous, she’s so pretty and natural, and I’ve gotta spray my hair in 18 different directions.’ I couldn’t wait for it to grow out.”
Some ‘80s fashions are also cringe-inducing for the pop star.
“The shoulder pad look that was, like, Joan Collins matronly,” she says. “Now shoulder pads are futuristic and cool, and they’re back – they’re sharp, like Rihanna, Fergie, and everyone wears them. Back then, it was those actual soft pads that are meant for your grandmother going to a wedding.”
She continues, “It’s funny, because I feel like I looked older then than I do now. I feel more youthful now in how I carry myself and how I dress now. That was a time of structured fashion and taking it a little bit too seriously at times. [laughs]”
Flash forward to 2011, and Debbie calls it a night after Kourtney and Scott head out – she’s gotta wake up early to host Good Day New York!
Here’s my pic with Deb and my pic with Kourtney (and Khloe):
Visit Debbie’s Culture Club, which has reopened in its new midtown NYC location. You’ll never want to leave.