Mall Mixtape: Tiffany "I Think We're Alone Now"
Welcome to the Mall Mixtape! This is where we will discuss all of those songs and videos that take us to the mall.
The obvious starting point (at least for me, a Gen-Xer), has to be 80's pop darling Tiffany and her breakout hit, 1987's "I Think We're Alone Now". This was a cover of a song first made popular by Tommy James and the Shondells in 1967. But, by the consumer driven mall frenzy of the late eighties, nobody remembered that.
First, here's the video. Watch it in all of it's mid eighties shot on VHS glory.
My MST3K-style notes:
Tiffany was killing it with those hand flourishes.
I identify as the girl with the big hair who is singing every single word (you'll see her).
The video is pure chaos. She goes from sexy train hobo to mall performing teen queen to dancing on a boardwalk in very fast succession. Also, none of her outdoor looks are actually seasonally appropriate. Why is she wearing shoulder pads at the beach like a divorcee at her second home in Malibu? Looks like the camera guy was on cocaine, and good for him, it was the eighties and he was in music.
The end is wonderful, if you're into great shots of super busy double level malls in their prime, chock full of people, having a great time. I love when she's singing to the crowd from the uppermost level. That's a total bad bitch move. And the smirk and shoulder shrug tells me that she knew it, too.
I won't reinvent the wheel here. If you want the entire story of her mall tour, you can find it here. This is absolutely worth reading, as they interview a lot of people involved with making the tour come true.
On June 23, 1987, a 15 year old singer named Tiffany Darwish played the first of ten concert dates at a plaza in Paramus, New Jersey. The Beautiful You: Celebrating The Good Life Shopping Mall Tour was sponsored by Adidas, Clairol, and Toyota.
From the LA Times before the tour began:
"The Tiffany Shopping Mall Tour ’87; Her manager is betting that this marketing spin will be a hit.
“We wanted to take her to where her peer group hangs out all summer long--shopping malls,” Brad Schmidt said excitedly. “If ‘Tif is going to make it, she’s going to do it first among 12- to 18-year-olds, and what better place to expose her than in America’s playgrounds, the malls.”
It could be a new Top 40 marketing move or a flop.
Although Tiffany likes the idea, she has some reservations about the tour which began last weekend in Paramus, N.J.
“I’m a little nervous about people’s reaction, particularly since they don’t know me,” she said, curled up in a big easy chair sipping a cola at a North Hollywood studio where she rehearses. " . . . I mean, I go to a mall to shop, and I’m not sure I’d stop and listen.”"
Tiffany would perform three 20 minute sets through the course of the day, backed by prerecorded tracks.
From a hilariously eighties article from The Chicago Tribune:
"Tiffany sings along with recorded music as she scampers and dances through the crowd of shoppers and malingerers who stop to listen. After about 20 minutes of this, she repairs to a nearby record store to sign autographs and albums."
When the tour first started, she was still relatively unknown,
so not many people would show up for the show. But as her star began to
climb, so did the number of people showing up at the mall shows.
"In the week following her performances in New Jersey, she outsold every artist but Whitney Houston at the Record Town shop, according to manager David Hackett.
She was ''a big hit'' at the Great Northern Mall in greater Cleveland and ''so sensational she had the boys swooning, I tell you,'' at the Thruway Mall near Buffalo, according to spokesmen at those shopping centers."
By the time she hit Schaumburg, Illinois, she was a household name.
The video footage was shot by her co-manager, who knew that shooting a video in the mall would lock her in with a teen audience. She was the first ever to tour malls, and set up the pathway for many other artists to do the exact same thing. Britney Spears did a mall tour! But we'll talk about that another time, this is about the OG queen, Tiffany.
|Those dudes look WAY TOO HUNKY to be mall security!|
What that other article didn't have: the tour dates. Those were VERY hard to find, but your girl found 'em. Here are the tour dates, and whether the mall is still open (which is always my first question when reading things like this):
One note: The LA Times article mentioned a show at Merle Hay Mall in Iowa, but I couldn't find any info on whether that show actually happened. If you happen to know, leave me a comment!
June 23, 1987 - Paramus Park Mall, Paramus, New Jersey (as of 2021, the mall is OPEN and not dying. good for them!)
June 25, 1987 - Great Northern Mall, North Olmsted, Ohio (as of 2021, the mall is OPEN. The Sears wing was empty when I visited in November 2020, but otherwise the mall is thriving. This mall was also THE SPOT for promotional tours in the Cleveland area for a long time. I did an extensive search of local newspapers trying to find anything about this concert, and there's not a damn thing out there.)
June 27, 1987 - Thruway Mall, Buffalo, New York (as of 2021, the mall is GONE. It was demolished in pieces, starting in 1996, and looks to have been converted into mostly big box and strip mall. I couldn't find much information on this mall, I'm always thankful for MALL HALL OF FAME)
July 4, 1987 - Ogden City Mall, Ogden, Utah (as of 2021, this mall is GONE. It closed in 2002 and was then demolished)
July 17-19, 1987 - Eastland Center, Harper Woods, Michigan (as of 2021, this Gruen mall is OPEN but VERY DEAD. It's owned by the same slumlord who owned Chapel Hill Mall, so this is not surprising. This mall has been on my Detroit mall list for a while, maybe i'll see it this summer?)
July 31- August 2, 1987 - Woodfield Mall, Schaumburg, Illinois (as of 2021, this mall is OPEN and a Simon mall, so they're fine. This mall also has a super vintage Macy's that I'm dying to see.)
August 14-16, 1987 - East Towne Mall, Madison, Wisconsin (as of 2021, this mall is OPEN and doing well.)
Tiffany has kept performing over the years, and has done stints on reality TV. I would absolutely love to talk to her about her mall tour, and see what she remembers about it, and really about malls in general. Like, how did she go to the mall after she was popular? She was literally the queen of the mall. There's no way she went unnoticed. So many questions! Tiffany, if you're reading this, let's get on zoom and talk about malls for my podcast!
As a treat, here's Tiffany performing "I Think We're Alone Now" at Mid-Rivers Mall in St. Louis Missouri in 2017. She still sounds good, and the crowd was singing along. Also very strange to see a busy mall in 2017, but that's just the Rust Belt in me talking.
Until next time!