Like “Sliding Doors,” “It’s a Wonderful Life” and other movies in which characters experience “What if” versions of themselves, the TV movie "Summer of Dreams" (2016) and its sequel, "Wedding of Dreams," premiering Saturday, Sept. 8, at 9 p.m. on Hallmark channel, ask, "What if Debbie Gibson had given up pop stardom to teach music to kids in Ohio?"
Since Gibson herself is both the star and an executive producer of the telefilms, it's question she's actually asking herself. Like her, the fictional Debbie Taylor had the hit song "Out of the Blue" and a sister named Denise — plus the last name of Gibson's longtime beau, Dr. Rutledge Taylor. So the fictional Debbie seems to speak for both when she says in the first film, "I need some time to figure out who I am, apart from who I was."
The real Debbie, of course, was a Merrick teenager who graduated from Calhoun High in 1988 after having scored three top-five charting singles. She enjoyed multiplatinum hits including the aforesaid and "Foolish Beat," "Lost In Your Eyes" and "Only in My Dreams," starred many times on Broadway and continues to perform concerts in the United States and abroad. Slowed by a long bout with Lyme disease, she climbed back to compete last year on "Dancing With the Stars."
In a chauffeured car headed to Long Island, the singer, 47, spoke by phone with Newsday contributor Frank Lovece.
So you here to see family?
No, I'm seeing the "Long Island Medium" . . . Theresa Caputo. I used to go to a medium on Long Island called Ann Cervone when I was 17 and 19 and 22, and she was the real deal. She made a believer out of me because she would say stuff that nobody knew. I mean, she'd bring up a song I was working on that was in a notebook under my bed that nobody had heard.
You live in Las Vegas now, as does the illusionist Criss Angel, from East Meadow — who coincidentally has offered Theresa Caputo $1 million to prove she can contact the dead. You two Long Islanders ever hang out?
Oh, that's so funny. I've run into Criss here and there and we've been in touch a bit over the years, though not in a while. But I went to the opening of his show ["Mindfreak Live!" ] and I was on his A&E show "Mindfreak" once. . . . It was super fun.
It's hard to picture you living in Vegas.
We [herself and Dr. Taylor] were both in L.A. together and spending a lot of time in Vegas on weekends. And we started to say, "Y'know, this is a really neat place." The suburbs of Vegas are underrated and you can hop in your car and be to L.A. in four hours for showbiz meetings or whatever. You don't have to be living where everybody's talking about scripts all the time. That can be tiring.
But I will say, being back in New York, I've gotten the New York bug again so badly. [While fighting Lyme disease for years] I really had a hard time being in big hotels and in a lot of traffic. But now I'm back to my old self to where I love the chaos! I love saying, "Hi!" to 18 people before 7 a.m. on the street walking my dog. So I've been kind of back in that mindset. There might be a bicoastal situation coming up in the near future.
You've been vocal about never wanting to get married, and now you play a character based on you who's getting married in "Wedding of Dreams." You subconsciously trying to tell yourself something?
[Laughing.] You're saving me $200 in a therapy session! I mean, look, I'm not going to lie: Yes, there's something magical about putting on the gown. It was really fun. But it also felt really foreign and odd. … For me, in the context of my relationship of the past 10 years, it hasn't been necessary to have a piece of paper. I'm not saying I'm anti-marriage in any way. I just always wonder … I've asked people who were getting married, especially younger people, why. And some say, "Well, it's like the next thing to do" or "Well, I don't know if I would but he wants to or she wants to." Other people say it's for religious reasons. Other people say they're just traditional in that way. And some people want it for the sake of family or kids. So people all have different personal reasons. I think it's really great to be thoughtful about one's own life and not just follow the path.
Quick last thing: Let's confirm uncredited movie-extra roles you had as a kid. "Ghostbusters" (1984)?
I'm the birthday girl at Tavern on the Green. I'm wearing a pink bow in my hair and a guy playing a server was blocking me 90 percent of the time! [Laughs.] … I did, like, 10 movies at that time. "Sweet Liberty"  was so much fun because we shot it at Adventureland in Farmingdale. I got to ride roller coasters all day. "The Manhattan Project."  "Daniel"  with Timothy Hutton. There were miniseries. I was an extra on the TV show "Fame" a few times. All this was between the ages of 11 and, like, 16, before I started to record. Any chance I got to be around acting and cameras and stages — I just wanted to be everywhere. And my parents were crazy enough to take me!