One-time pop princess Tiffany sees difference in treatment of current stars

Tiffany has been called the original Britney Spears, since she became an overnight teen sensation in 1987 with her hit, "I Think We’re Alone Now." But she was really the potential first Britney, since her longevity was brief atop the pop culture nexus.

On the other hand, some of Tiffany’s music in her adult years garnered critical acclaim, unlike Britney’s adult music. It just didn’t take off commercially. She went back to her roots, country music. But in the past few years, it’s her remixed club songs that have hit dance charts.

In retrospect, it’s striking to consider how differently teen Tiffany and teen Britney were treated by the public and press in their day. Britney and teen stars following in Tiffany’s high heels have had many more trappings at their disposal, such as marketing, music video money and high fashion, Tiffany says.

And post-Tiffany teens could date more publicly and make mistakes without losing stardom, she says. In fact, I’d say, young stars who get in trouble now actually build their immediate legendary status as pop culture magnets; bad press works for them, not against them.

"It is acceptable for these celebrities, underage, to be in clubs, even though they aren’t legal to drink. If it would have been myself or Deborah Gibson, that would not have been cool. We would have lost our careers over that stuff," Tiffany says.

"So the barometer, the boundaries, have changed. It is hard as a young person to have access and not get caught up in it," she says.

Tiffany doesn’t think Britney’s gotten a fair shake, though, since the system built her up then tore her to pieces publicly.

For instance, even though Britney should have learned not to step out of limos in a short dress without undies, it was the paparazzi that shot and released upskirt photos of Britney’s genitalia. That whole scenario would have seemed unthinkable in Tiffany’s day.

Then again, it seemed unthinkable that squeaky clean Tiffany would someday pose for Playboy, as she did in 2002. There’s been much speculation Britney should do Playboy, but Tiffany isn’t sure about that.

"We’ve seen a lot of Britney" already, Tiffany says. "If I heard Britney was doing Playboy tomorrow, I wouldn’t be so shocked. There’s no shock value. … I don’t really know what would be the benefit. Somebody like myself — or somebody that you don’t expect to do it — is more catchy, definitely."

Tiffany does think Britney would probably enjoy the experience, as Tiffany did, because Playboy takes "amazing" photos, and "they handle you with the most respect."

"I don’t regret ever doing it," Tiffany says. "One day, I’m gonna look back and go, ‘Wow, I was on the cover of Playboy.’ That’s awesome."

As for Tiffany’s time in the Britney-esque spotlight, she was lucky and unlucky. She was unlucky to have been caught in a web of family drama that muddled her post-"I Think We’re Alone Now" music.

She even petitioned a court to become an emancipated minor. She was denied.

But Tiffany was lucky in that she worried about losing her career. She saw music as a way out of her family mess, so she didn’t screw up and lose everything, she says.

Tiffany mostly lives in Nashville, but she and her mom (who’s been sober for more than 20 years; "there’s no more mega-drama") help take care of son Elijah in Los Angeles, because he didn’t want to change schools when she moved her office base to the South.

She tours on stage. She pops up in TV shows. Last year, she was a contestant on a Hulk Hogan cable TV wrestling reality show. And she’s still trying to be successful in other fields. Soon, she will co-star in a horror movie hitting film festivals. It was inspired by the Donner Party of Sierra Nevada. The plot:

"We all go up there, and my boyfriend rents a cabin, and people go insane, and we start hacking people to death. Good times."

But the one thing she holds onto, she says, is how happy she was to become a mother at age 20, in 1992. Motherhood put everything in perspective and kept her grounded.

"Having Elijah at an early age was the best thing," she says.

She hopes that could be the case for Britney.

"Careers will come and go. Talent is always there. But those children are going to know her as Mom, no matter what, and in my eyes, that’s the most important thing."

What do you think? Tell me at delfman@reviewjournal. com, or post your reviews and rants at reviewjournal.com/elfman. My column appears Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays.

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