You may have never heard of Tommy Page before, but to me he was an absolute legend. It saddens me to learn of his recent death as his music has been a massive part of my identity growing up. He was an accomplished musician, successful music executive and from what could tell by word of mutual friends, an all around great guy. I’m disheartened by the cookie-cutter copy and paste news reports about his death, so I just wanted to put something out into the world that tells people exactly what Tommy Page meant to me. He was more than just a teen idol pop machine – he was my role model and someone I looked up to.
When I was a teenager in high school, I was having an internal battle with my sexuality, living in a small rural town in Oregon. Many times I entertained the idea of suicide as I felt I was living a lie in a town that was very hard for me to be normal in – cue Bronski Beat. I hardly had any guy friends and the only other gays in my school hid in the closet as well. You’ll be proud to know we all did come out after high school as well, times have changed. On the flip side, I had loads of girl friends though, with my best friend Stacy and I being absolutely inseparable – everyone thought we were going to get married to each other.
One day I heard this beautiful song on the radio called “A Shoulder To Cry On” by new Sire Records signing Tommy Page. The song was the most eloquent and heartfelt song I’d ever encountered. It was about true friendship and being that person who would talk you off the ledge when you went to those dark places in your mind. “A Shoulder To Cry On” became my personal lifeline. I listened to it constantly with an obsession and when the self-titled debut album “Tommy Page” hit the Sam Goody record shelves, I snatched it up, admiring the somewhat androgynous beauty of a man on the cover. What happened after, changed my life.
“Tommy Page”, the album, debut album was deeply fascinating to me. I gravitated naturally to the pop house groove of “A Zillion Kisses” as I was also into the NYC Latin freestyle music scene which was non-existent in my hometown. Artists like George Lamond, Sweet Sensation and Lisette Melendez were only made known to me through my friendship with a cool New York City transplant named Cathy who moved back home to Oregon. She schooled me on all the new, hip freestyle music from the East Coast, which in some ways crossed over into pop through the likes of Tommy Page, Debbie Gibson and Expose.
But it was the music from “Tommy Page” debut album that really struck a chord in me. Songs like “I Love London” became a prophetic anthem and was the first ever trigger in me seeking out the one true place on Earth I call my spiritual home – you guessed it, London. The hypnotic beats of “Turning Me On”, “Love Takes Over” and “African Sunset” were songs that became my daily soundtrack whilst album closing track “Minetta Lane” was a song that truly defined what I thought real love would feel like – when I eventually found it. When dreaming about holding hands with my dream guy, the soundtrack in my mind was always “Minetta Lane”. There was no doubt that Tommy Page’s music defined who I was 100% at the time. There was something quite gay about it too that was only visible to me at the time – it was very subtle, not obvious. I daydreamed on long road trips in my car what it would be like to be friends with Tommy. I was smitten too with Tommy, I’m not gonna lie. He was my teen dream supreme and he was mine, no one knew about him around me – he was my special artist. Whenever I needed a little lift or when I felt particularly alone, I just popped in the grey and black translucent cassette into my car stereo and drove around for hours with my thoughts, hiding my sexuality, but revelling in this music that defined me.
As it happened, Tiffany (my female pop queen supreme who I feel equally loyal to – listen to this dream duet) became a household name along with New Kids On The Block – both of which dominated the teen music scene. Tommy Page went on tour with both of them – what a lineup! Eventually The New Kids collaborated with Tommy on the smash-hit single “I’ll Be Your Everything” which shot straight to number one on the Billboard Hot 100. I remember being in the car when I heard Rick Dees break the news that Tommy had the number one single in America and I was AMAZED. I was proud that Tommy instantly had overnight success. He deserved it. What immediately followed was his second album “Paintings In My Mind” which saw the release of another New Kids collab with “Turn On The Radio”. The epic single “When I Dream Of You” was a stunning piece of pop that I couldn’t get enough of either – it was dramatic and haunting. Other strong tracks on “Paintings In My Mind” like “I Break Down”, “Till The End Of Time” and “Don’t Walk Away” were bold and kept the passion very much alive for my obsession with Tommy Page’s music and his hot career on the uprise.
It wasn’t soon after Tommy’s Billboard success that he set out on his own headlining tour with Latin freestyle acts Linear and Sweet Sensation. The tour came to The Washington State Fair and I knew I had to be there as a card carrying member of the official Tommy Page Fan Club. I didn’t give a hoot about anything to do with the fair, I just knew that I had to be close to the action and try my hardest to get backstage and meet Tommy himself. And we’ll, I did. Perhaps it was because I was the only boy in a plethora of screaming girls that made me stand out to the tour manager behind the chain-link fence, separating us (the screaming fans) from “them” (pop royalty). I remember the tour manager telling me Tommy would really want to meet me, a real fan, as opposed to the clamouring girls who only knew him because of The New Kids. That made me feel especially over the moon, despite the evil grimaces I got when I was bestowed a backstage pass around my neck and ushered into Tommy’s domain. I mean hey – it pays to be a member of the fan club. Before meeting Tommy I got to hang with the guys from Linear too who were very funny, devilishly gorgeous too and I was a fan of “Sending All My Love” and of the freestyle scene they represented, so you can imagine, we had a blast. And then, it happened, the tour manager came and guided me to Tommy’s dressing room. And, there he was, in front of me. I was in awe. We had a great little chat and I was of course painfully shy at first but opened right up once Tommy started chatting to me. I remember him signing my tour book and he messed up the spelling of my name on the cover, so he made a point to sign the inside cover too. This double-signed tour book is one of my most prized possessions today.
Some might argue that the few years of basking in the shadow The New Kids was the twilight of Tommy’s music career. Some actually called him “the sixth new kid” but to me, Tommy’s music was more than just those two New Kids penned tunes. His third album “From The Heart” saw Tommy mastering his craft of ballad genius with “Whenever You Close Your Eyes” with legendary Michael Bolton singing backup. Tommy also wrote the song with iconic pop songstress Diane Warren who embraced Tommy’s talents. Tracks like “Under The Rainbow” and single “My Shining Star” always managed to brighten my days. I remember Tommy appearing on the American Music Awards too which was probably the last time he was in the mainstream media spotlight. From there I continued to follow his career as Tommy turned his attention to the Asian market who were the biggest consumers of his brand of pop. Tommy Page WAS the epitome of the phrase “big in Asia” where he continued to release another four albums, duetting with popular Asian female vocalists and continuing to release more singles and videos. This part of his career was where I became obsessed with finding these albums on eBay where I paid anything I could to get them imported to me.
Fast forward a few years through the grunge rock, hip-hop and Nirvana eras and straight through my indie-alternative college years. The sound of Tommy Page’s music certainly wasn’t en vogue any longer but to me, Tommy Page remained my favourite male vocalist of all time – my loyalty never died or wavered. When I graduated from college in Rhode Island and headed out into the real world with a degree in Marketing to find my way, I told myself that I would do it as a honest young gay man and live my life truthfully.
Armed with self confidence and a hunger for success in media, my friends and I took took the bus from Boston to New York every other weekend with X tablets in tow, dancing our asses off in places like Twilo and The Cock to the sounds of DJ Junior Vasquez as our soundtrack. We were still of that Generation X work hard, play hard mentality and we revelled in every second of it. On a random night out at Splash, I was partying with my friends and that’s when I saw Tommy Page again, just hanging out casually on the sofas with a friend. Well, needless to say, I rolled up on him, very confidently and re-introduced myself, recalling our encounter backstage on tour all those years ago to which he said he actually remembered it. Tommy and I quickly clicked again and continued to be merry for the rest of the night where I brazenly outright asked Tommy if he was gay. He laughed and said “Yes of course, are you?!” We both laughed at this considering we were in a gay dance club after all. I actually felt sorry for Tommy’s friend as he probably felt like a third wheel in this unexpected banter of super fan and pop god. I asked his friend “Does this happen to you every time you hang out with Tommy and he laughed and proclaimed “Noooooo!” as he was quite shocked at how famous his buddy actually was to me. It was all good innocent fun and the night was just amazing. I swear I wanted to write a book after that night when Tommy told me so many secrets about who is gay in the industry, how “Minetta Lane” was about his dog and how hard it was at the time to be an out male pop vocalist. Probably the best kiki of my life.
Tommy also told me that night he was working on a dance album in the vein of Whitney Houston’s “It’s Not Right, But Its OK” and that he wanted to send it me once it was done. I literally was just about to move from Boston to London at the time so I gave him my work address. After I got to London, my work forwarded me the package from Warner Bros Records which contained Tommy’s amazing “Ten Til Midnight” album – one of my favorites to this day. “Ten Til Midnight” saw Tommy being more seductive and trading in the pop balladry for more serious, dance-floor ready tracks, like his remake of “Right On Track” by Breakfast Club. I still have the packing slip from that package as a memento from when my favourite singer, personally sent me a little package of his work. This is all way before I became a known music blogger too so you can imagine how stoked I was to get this new CD by my favorite artist in the mail. The packing slip also had Tommy’s work email on it, so I emailed him to say thanks and for a few years we had a nice email thread going where he told me about how he reinvented himself as a music industry executive working in A&R and who he was trying to help launch. I sent him some early music blogs I did too and he was very encouraging to me to keep at it.
And that dear readers is how I came to know and respect the man that is Tommy Page. I never really got the chance to know him deeper as a friend, I am still very much a die-hard super fan, but I can tell you that Tommy Page was ever so generous with me and he had a heart of gold. I’m so devastated to learn about his suicide at 46 years old and I wish I could have been there as a shoulder for him to cry on just like his music and songs did for me all those formative years growing up.
I keep reading the same news reports that he suffered from depression and that saddens me. He seemed like he had it together, was super humble, ambitious and generous with his time. To me, he just didn’t seem like a depressed person, but that goes to show you that just about anyone can be suffering in silence and if we notice the signs, we need to take the time and help our friends through the dark times. It’s a shame that we lost someone so talented, so well-respected and loved – this is really quite apparent on the outpouring of social media and people mourning the loss of Tommy Page. I lost my shining star, my ultimate role model and a spiritual friend on March 3rd 2017. I lost him to a deadly, silent killer and there was nothing I could have done to prevent it. But Tommy’s death inspires me to listen to my friends more, be there for them and don’t let the insignificant day-to-day hustle and bustle of our busy lives stop me from listening to any of my friends who need my help. It’s a vow I’m making now for myself so that I know I can help my friends if they need it in the future.
Thank you Tommy Page for your music, your soul, your heart and for being you. I see myself in your spirit and hope that I can one day follow in your footsteps and continue to help promote new talent on bigger platforms in this world and return the gift of music and light you effortlessly and graciously brought into my world shared with us.
Tommy Page – we love you. You may be gone, but you will not be forgotten. Rest in peace my friend.
Your spirit will continue to live on.