Daily Mirror - Wednesday 18th February 1987
Pages 14 & 15
VERDICT OF YESTERDAY'S POP SEX SYMBOL ON HER SUCCESSOR
'Jealous of Madonna?
No, I think she's cute'
Picture: Doreen Spooner
Article by Christena Appleyard - WOMAN'S EDITOR
As an international sex symbol Debbie Harry is a bit past her sell-by date. And like anything that's been in the fridge too long, Miss Harry is icy around the edges and cool to the core.
"Sure, everyone worries about losing their looks," she says, clearly objecting to the question. "Yeah, I make my living out of my looks so of course I worry more," she adds, even more reluctantly.
After four years out of the limelight Debbie Harry, one-time punk-sex queen of the group Blondie, is in London to launch her comeback.
And at 42, she still has the kind of face that most women would take out a second mortgage for. Shredded peroxide blonde hair melting into a flawless complexion and cheekbones that would dwarf the average pair of shoulder blades.
But from the neck down, sadly, punk has turned to chunk and Debbie's new figure verges on the 'mumsy'.
Past her best but also past her worst. Two years ago snatched photographs of her showed an overweight haggard woman who bore no resemblance to the streetwise sex siren who was hailed as the new Monroe.
"What period of not looking good?" she says, exploding at the mere suggestion.
"Who said I didn't look good?
"I don't think I had a period of not looking good," she almost shouts.
"That's PREPOSTEROUS. OK, I put on a little weight. That was from inactivity. I didn't like the feeling very much when I put on weight. I don't think anyone does."
Her appearance is clearly an ultra sensitive subject but Miss Harry believes she has it under control.
"I think I've got a pretty healthy attitude to it. I think I'm pretty fortunate to look the way I do. And I try to lead a clean life to stay this way. I don't smoke. I don't abuse my body.
"I eat a lot of salads and I avoid food with sugar.
"I wouldn't call it a diet," she insists. "I'd call it nutrition."
One of the reasons for Debbie's disappearance from the pop scene was that her long-time boyfriend musician, Chris Stein, developed a mystery illness that causes the skin to blister horrifically and fall off.
The story goes that Miss Harry nursed him back to health, became a recluse and gave up pop music.
"It's a misconception that I nursed him. I took care of him, sure, but it was psychological support. There's a lot of nonsense talked about me making soup for him.
"I did have to mush up his food for him for a while and I made him jello. He ate a lot of jello. But I didn't stay around all the time making soup."
But it was an experience that changed Debbie.
"There was a time when I thought Chris might die. That was obviously awful. But I was surprised I had the emotional energy to cope with it.
"That whole experience has made me more self-confident. I'm not as shy today as I was when I was Blondie. It helped me make a few decisions about what I want. And it has made me a better judge of people.
"But Chris's disease wasn't the only reason I stopped for a while. Things move so fast in the music business and you have to move with them. I just needed to take some time out."
Debbie Harry has grown into a rather clever and shrewd middle-aged woman. She's bright, but a lot of what she says is drowned in Manhattan chic-speak.
"Yeah, it takes a lot to faze me these days. Only very serious things faze me. Things like war and environmental problems."
What about the comeback failing?
"I don't think one approaches things with the idea of failing," she says curtly.
On the subject of her successor she is more generous.
"When I was younger I would have been jealous of Madonna. But now I'm more satisfied with myself.
"I also realised that it was inevitable that someone would come along in the same vein as me and be successful. I think she's very cute."
She sits waiting for the photographer to organise equipment - blue jeans, cowboy shirt with too many buttons undone and a bit of boob and white bra showing.
A detailed description is necessary because Miss Harry's comeback image is very carefully guarded.
A sabre-toothed PR lady monitors every move and allows only certain photographers to take full-length pictures of her.
And Debbie insisted on choosing the new picture of her that appears here.
Ask Debbie if there is an age limit on being a sex symbol and she loses her cool momentarily, muttering and stumbling.
Then she says: "I don't know. I don't have much perspective on that. Ask me in twenty years."
Then warming to the subject: "People don't stop having sex when they're fifty. As long as you're having sex and you're attractive to the opposite sex, it's OK.
"I'm a sex symbol because I PUT OUT. It's a kind of warmth, a kind of magnetic thing. It's something every woman can do.
"Why do I do it better than most? Because practice makes perfect." She laughs and moves over to the window to have her photograph taken.
The afternoon light pours down on the most beautiful face the music business has ever seen.
The sabre-toothed public relations lady watches and whispers the reason why Debbie doesn't have full-length pictures taken anymore.
"Her face is what it's all about. And anyway... most photographs would put five pounds on her."