Mall Over Again

Former teen queen Tiffany pops up at Plantation's Pop Cult Con

In that golden time before marketing flaks defined the 'tween demographic, Tiffany exploded into shopping malls and pop radio with her cover of Tommy James and the Shondells' 1967 hit "I Think We're Alone Now." Only 16 at the time of her '87 first blush, Tiffany Darwisch was the youngest female singer to top Billboard's album chart. Now, the redheaded siren is preparing for a new album, a new tour, and a new shot at the limelight.

Q:You pioneered the mall tour as a way to expose young artists to teenagers. Why is that kind of grassroots marketing so effective?

A:Malls were where the kids who couldn't get into clubs hung out. Some people thought it was corny, but no one realized how successful it would be. With another song, I don't know if it would have worked.

Q:You've had your share of personal and professional problems, from multiple management changes to legal emancipation from your mom.

A:When you're a celebrity, particularly at a young age, you have a lot to live up to. Everybody has problems; it's part of being in the world. The thing about the industry -- and it wasn't as bad then as it is now -- is that labels only care about singers who are hot.

Q:Ever lip-synch? What do you think of the Ashlee Simpson Saturday Night Livedisaster?

A:I have lip-synched, usually because a certain gig wasn't equipped for sound. I sing better live than I do on a record. As for Ashlee, I like her music, but she doesn't have enough experience. It's frustrating to see people who get record deals because they have a certain look, but the public doesn't seem to care.

Q:You're a born-again Christian, yet you posed for Playboyin 2002. What gives?

A:I can't justify the Playboyappearance if you're going to approach it from a Christian angle. Posing was separate from my personal beliefs; it was strictly for shock value. I was promoting an album [2000's The Color of Silence] and needed to do something to break my image. Most people heard "Tiffany" and brushed the album off. I did it out of frustration, not to validate myself.

Q:Your rivalry with Debbie -- uh, Deborah -- Gibson is legendary. In fact, she recently posed for Playboy and made some unflattering remarks regarding your pictorial. What's the story?

A:Deborah and I have never had an unkind word. The media created it, and our managers liked it because it fueled competition. We have different styles, and there are things she's better at, like Broadway, and certain things I can pull off more. Playboywas one of them. -- Larry Carrino

Tiffany will appear at 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, March 12 and 13, at the Pop Culture Convention, held at the Holiday Inn Plantation, 1711 N. University Dr. Tickets cost $15 and can be purchased in advance at www.spookyempire.com. Watch for Tiffany's upcoming self-released album TPop, available in April at www.TiffanyMusic.com.

Sonic Surgery

Oh, hey guys. I hope you haven't been waiting long; I had a teenage lobotomy to do, and those aren't as fun as the Ramones made them sound. Anyway, let me pull up your chart. You're New Found Glory, right? Just making sure -- I sometimes get you guys confused with Simple Plan.

There's really no way to put this mildly, so I'll just say it: You have two X chromosomes -- a normal one and an Xtreme one. Fortunately, the extra X is saving you from an even worse epidemic that's turned some of your Warped Tour pals into radio-friendly pop-rockers (All-American Rejects) and make-believe goths (My Chemical Romance). At this rate, there won't be a Warped Tour in a year or two -- all the bands will be playing Coachella with Coldplay and Bauhaus.

So, NFG, I have my scalpel ready with your name on it. I've long suspected you have an overactive pituitary gland that has caused you to develop from a tiny dive-bar band into a full-grown national act in just two years. (I wish I'd graduated med school so quickly!) Plus, when I tried to measure the punk levels in your urine sample, it came back watered down, too diluted to read.

You know, five years ago, I would've recommended hormone pills for the whole punk/emo scene and its habit of sounding, looking, and dressing like 12-year-olds. But today, watching these same bands try to act like adults -- mature, sophisticated artistes -- is enough for this aging doctor to put on some baggy pants, spike his hair, and drink a bottle of Robitussin while listening to the Offspring.

So keep that immune system healthy, guys. It's the most vulnerable -- and important -- part of any band (gotta fight off that pop-rock virus). Oh, and Mr. Pundik, regarding your nasal vocals -- it sounds like you have the same sinus problems that you did six years ago. Put a little Vicks VapoRub on your microphone. If that doesn't work, maybe New Found Glory can remake Chipmunk Punk.

Findings: Emo-punk's got some new rules -- jump-kicks are out; mascara is in. Diagnosis: Lame-o-nucleosis. Treatment: Put down your Maybelline and put up your mohawk for the New Found Glory show Thursday, March 10, at Revolution, 200 W. Broward Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. The show starts at 6 p.m. with Reggie and the Full Effect. Tickets cost $17.50. Call 954-727-0950. -- Doc Le Roc

Toonsmith

It's a funky, Technicolor world of azure seascapes, creamsicle sunsets, boho musicians, and fashionable vixens: The streetwise cartoon artistry of Dave "Lebo" LeBatard both imitates and idealizes the vivid tropical environs of South Florida. The Fort Lauderdale-based painter -- who's currently moving his studio to Miami's Biscayne Boulevard -- has helped define the area's post-millennial visual aesthetic on canvases and on street corners, private homes, and store windows from Orlando to Aventura.

Along with the thick-lined, stylized cartoon ethic evident in his work, music is LeBatard's major muse. He produced the Spam Allstars' album art as well as the themed decorations for the Langerado Music Festival. Many of his paintings capture musical moments with gestural swoops and vibrant lines.

"Music has been as much an influence as visual stuff as long as I can remember," he says. "Really good music complements good art. I don't see a difference between the two."

LeBatard explores that connection fully in The Art of Lebo: The Finest in Postmodern Cartoon Expressionism, released in December of last year. The glossy, 95-page book is LeBatard's self-penned guide through his mood-enhancing illustrations, graphic design work, and personal explorations. The book explodes with candy-colored images and clever, verbal riffs on his style and inspirations. Like a good album, it also features "hidden tracks" on nearly every page -- clear-varnished images that can be viewed only in the right light. Overall, LeBatard's work is a locally produced reminder that great art can be technically slick and still a ton of fun. -- Jonathan Zwickel

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