In the 80s, there was one place that herds of young teenagers could regularly be found – the local shopping mall. So, when producer George Tobin was faced with marketing his newest sensation, he took a rather unorthodox approach that would pay off tenfold. He brought his upcoming star to the fans, embarking on an ambitious tour of shopping malls around the country. Taking center stage, a young red-headed teen by the name of Tiffany, who captured the attention of millions of young shoppers with a penchant for pop music.
Tiffany Renee Darwish started singing at the ripe old age of four, and by the time she was 10, she was performing regularly at places like the El Palomino in Los Angeles. Country legend, Hoyt Axton, took notice of her talent and brought her to Nashville to sing on The Ralph Emory Show. Soon she was performing on the same bill as such country legends as George Jones and Jerry Lee Lewis. She was taken under the wing of manager, George Tobin and signed a contract with him in 1984. The following year, Tiffany was appearing on the Ed McMahon-hosted talent contest, Star Search, where she took second-place honors.
With a bit of television exposure under her belt, bigger things were on the horizon. Tobin landed her a recording contract with MCA in 1986 and, a year later, her debut album, Tiffany, was released. The album featured a modernized remake of the Tommy James and the Shondells 1967 hit, “I Think We’re Alone Now” which went to #1 on the Billboard charts. The success of the single was due to Tobin’s idea to have the singer tour shopping malls across the country and the strategy worked. Soon, Tiffany’s mug was featured on the cover of every teen magazine in the country and malls were besieged with crowds of young teens of both sexes, anxious to get a glimpse of their hero. She would reach the #1 spot again with a ballad called “Could’ve Been” and found success with another cover, a reworking the classic Beatles song, “I Saw Her Standing There.”
At the age of 17, and with her debut album selling over 4 million records, she became the youngest person ever to top the Billboard charts with a debut album. She embarked on an ambitious world tour in 1988, forgoing malls for bigger venues and making the wise decision to book another up-and-coming teen phenomenon, New Kids on the Block as her opening act. The tour was a big success but by the end, Tiffany was facing new challenges. In a highly-publicized court battle, Tiffany took both her manager and parents to court, in an effort to break her ties and become an emancipated minor. She was unsuccessful.
By the end of 1988, Tiffany released her follow-up album, Hold An Old Friend’s Hand. While this latest offering only had one song in the Top-10, “All This Time,” that didn’t dissuade her loyal fans from making the album double-platinum. From here, she went on to lend her voice to the character of Judy Jetson in the 1990 feature film, The Jetsons. Along with her speaking voice, she also contributed 3 songs to the soundtrack.
As the 90s rolled around, change was in the air. Not only had Tiffany transformed into an adult woman, but also the interests of teen audiences had switched to musical choices somewhat more urban. Tiffany did her best to adapt, with the release of her third album, New Inside, and showing off a decidedly more adult sound. Critics liked it; her teen fans, many who were no longer teens, were ambivalent. Even a few appearances of the television show Out of this World couldn’t spark new interest from the record buying public and the days of the screaming mall audiences had come to an end.
But Tiffany wasn’t quite ready to throw the towel in just yet. Pulling from her early influences, Tiffany attempted to reinvent herself as a country artist in the mid-90s and in 2000, she released an album called The Color of Silence. Critics hailed the album as perhaps the best pop release of the year and soon Tiffany was embarking on a tour of college campuses around the country. But her efforts were hampered by her still-strong image as a teen idol and the album didn’t achieve the recognition that many felt it deserved. Still, Tiffany continues to persevere, and her loyal fans remain dedicated to the hero of their youth. She continues to release new material – most recently, the 2011 album, Rose Tattoo.
Of course, she will always be remembered as the teen who toured malls for a living, but that is selling short the surprising career of an ambitious young singer who has weathered many storms in her life and is still finding notable success, eight albums and some 25 years after her debut. Few other teen stars have been so fortunate.
If Tiffany provided some of the soundtrack of your 80s youth, especially at the local shopping mall, we welcome all of your thoughts and recollections in our comments section.