I know what you’re thinking right now. “But, Loba, you’ve already done an entire Flashback Friday dedicated to Debbie Gibson! Why another one just for one of her songs?”
I have my reasons, denizens. Lemme ‘splain.
So one of my Internet PersonalitiesTM is currently subjecting me to a viewing marathon of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I’m almost halfway through the third season. It’s a bit of a manic experience, I can assure you. However, the highs are exponentially higher than the lows are low (thus far), so I’m sticking with it.
One of the secondary characters who arrived in the first season and immediately caught my attention was Jenny Calendar, the computer science teacher and, as we soon learn, a “techno pagan” whose mad Internet searching skills quickly come in handy to “the Scooby Gang.”
One of the things that makes me laugh the most about Calendar’s arrival at Sunnydale High is how in awe the Gang is of her computer skills (and how distrusting Watcher Giles is of anything that doesn’t slide back onto a bookshelf once he’s finished reading it). I had almost forgotten how new and unknown things like personal computers and teh Interwebz were back in the mid 90s. So quaint. It’s also a nice juxtaposition that Whedon makes with her character being both a dabbler in the dark arts and a dabbler in the techie arts, which when they were first catching on were viewed by many with an equal level of distrust as being nothing more than electronic hocus pocus. Good one, Whedon.
So what does all this have to do with Debbie Gibson? Jenny Calendar was portrayed by an actress named Robia LaMorte. Okay, right now I also know what you’re thinking: That has to be a stage name. LaMorte? “The Death”? I know, I know. Strangely, enough, this is her real name. And before she was an actress, she was a dancer.
Starting to click for you yet?
That’s right. If you watch the video for Gibson’s song “Shake Your Love,” you will see a 16-year-old LaMorte bopping along in the background with her Jennifer Beals-esque hair. Look for the dark-haired girl in the white T-shirt and the backward suspenders…
Sometimes I really miss the 80s. Then I remember Reagan and the fact that I was a pudgy little nerd at a Baptist school and I get over it.
It gets better, though. LaMorte went on to be “Pearl” for Prince’s Diamonds and Pearls album. She appeared with Lori Elle (“Diamond”) in several of the videos for songs from this album and even accompanied Prince on his “Diamonds and Pearls” tour back in the early 90s. I’d post a link for one of the videos but Prince doesn’t allow his music on YouTube. Even if I found a video online now, it’d be a dead link in a few weeks. Instead, here’s a screen capture of LaMorte and Elle sandwiching the tiny Purple One in some dance moves from, I believe, “Cream.”
Not long after she finished touring with Prince, LaMorte hung up her dance shoes and decided to chase the acting dream for a little while…which is how she eventually found her way to Sunnydale High. My first encounter with her, however, (other than “Shake Your Love,” of course) was as Joan Marks, from the CSI episode “You’ve Got Male.”
It’s a small one, this geeky world I inhabit.
And now for the…well, not the bad news. But the weird news. Apparently, LaMorte found Jesus. Three months after hitching her wagon to the Buffy Train, she became a Christian. Playing a techno pagan.
Yes, I am making a face right now. It’s my “difficult to process” face. But you know what? It’s obviously something that gives her fulfillment. So much so, in fact, that she runs her own ministry. You’re making a face now, too. I can tell. But it’s all good. She can have her faith. And I can have Jenny Calendar and “Shake Your Love.”
See? And here you all thought this was going to be another Flashback Friday on Debbie Gibson. You all should know me better than that, denizens…