Sunday, June 30, 2013

For the Love of Outback

Debbie and I after we met for the first time
Well, last night it finally happened.  Yes, that's right...Debbie Gibson and I finally met in real life.  For those of you who are new to the blog, you might be wondering what the big deal is.  However, there is quite the back story that you need to catch up on.  :)

See, I've been a fan of Debbie's since her teen pop sensation days of the late 1980's.  Her hit "Lost in Your Eyes" was my junior prom theme in 1989.  I've got several of her cassettes.  Yes, I may have even had a slight celebrity crush on her like a lot of my 17-year-old friends.

Fast forward to a year and a half ago.  My friends at Outback Steakhouse, who I had gotten to know through the power of Twitter, sent me 40 presents to give away in conjunction with my 40th birthday.  After giving a bunch away to friends and family and then branching out to people in the community, members of the news media, our town's mayor, and even Jungle Jack Hanna of the Columbus Zoo, I saved the best for last.  I was determined to try to get the final present to Debbie Gibson.  Yes, it took lots of tweets and nearly five months after my birthday to do it, but Debbie got the final present and was even nice enough to send a fun video that she filmed from the dressing room of the Tonight Show to mark the occasion.

A little over a year has passed since then.  Debbie and her publicist, Elizabeth Neff, have both been nice enough to correspond with me from time to time via Twitter.  When I noticed on Debbie's website that she would be in Ohio for a concert at the end of June, I started to think that maybe I would finally get the opportunity to meet her.  As the day of the event drew closer, I sent her a couple of messages.  Before I knew it, her production manager, Rob, was calling me on the phone and telling me what I needed to do to meet her at the concert.

I was stoked!  Despite being a big fan, I had never even seen her in concert.  And now, I was going to get to go backstage and meet her!  Was this really happening?!?

Saturday came and I made the drive to Cincinnati through lots of rain.  I was worried that maybe the concert, which was outdoors, would get canceled.  However, the rain stopped about the time that I arrived and before I knew it the time had come to meet Rob and go see her.

I don't know about you, but too often we put celebrities on pedestals as better than everyone else.  However, whatever expectations I had for meeting Debbie quickly vanished the moment I walked in her dressing room with Rob.

As soon as she saw me, she gave me a big hug and immediately acted like I was a long lost friend she had known forever.  We talked and laughed.  Next thing I knew, I realized that it was just Debbie and I hanging out and chatting as Rob had disappeared to take care of some things.  Seriously, could it have been a cooler experience.  What could have been intimidating was not because of how kind she was by going out of her way to make me feel special.  She is a very genuine person and it was really easy to talk to her.

I left the dressing room and waited outside while she made last-minute preparations for her show.  I was able to stand on stage and watch the whole performance.  It was great!  She sang lots of her old songs ("Shake Your Love", "Lost in Your Eyes", "Only in My Dreams", "Electric Youth", and "Foolish Beat",  and even a tribute medley of songs by other artists that she enjoyed back in the day.  Debbie is definitely a performer and did a great job vocally as well as interacting and connecting with the crowd.  And she has endless energy, too.  She even rolled with the punches when a stray dog got loose on stage and she led the crowd in "Who Let the Dogs Out".  She also didn't miss a beat during her rendition of "Lost in Your Eyes" when she had to whack a mosquito who had landed on her arm mid-song.
Debbie heading out to the stage to get the concert started
I had so much fun throughout the concert as she would came on and off stage walking right past me.  Before the first song, I gave her a fist bump.  I had no idea what the protocol was or what I should do.  Guess that came from working with student-athletes every day.  LOL  I also had fun chatting with Rob and her two dancers, Eddie and Buddy.  Everyone was just incredibly cordial and fun.

When the concert ended, I had the chance to talk to Debbie for a couple more minutes before she headed off to meet her fans and sign autographs at the merchandise tent.  She even paused long enough to record a quick message with me for our mutual friends at Outback.  Probably the most impressive thing for me all night was being about 45 minutes into my three-hour drive home and getting a message from her saying that she enjoyed meeting me finally.  Seriously, Debbie, you are the best!

Well, it's been a little over 24 hours now since the fun night and I'm still buzzing over how much fun it was.  We may never cross paths again (although I'm really going to push Outback to let us both be in a commercial 'cause Debbie may be a bigger fan of theirs than I am and that's saying something), but for one night she was kind enough to take the time to get to know me a little better while allowing me a glimpse into what life is like for her.  What a cool thing to do!

Thanks, Debbie, for a fun-filled evening.  Thanks, Outback, for helping to connect me with someone I know can call a friend.  And thanks, Twitter, for once again showing me that anything is possible if you work at being yourself to establish a relationship with someone else.  I can't wait to see what will happen next.

Debbie and I after the concert


The4Scotts said...

DAVE!!! This is so cool! :) Congrats, you deserve it :)

Nathan Okuley said...

very cool. love that shirt too.

MVNUSID said...

Thanks, Sarah and Nate. And I agree...Homage rocks! :)