Sunday People - 18th March 1984
Pages 22 & 23
The once explosive sex queen of rock keeps a tearful hospital vigil
For the love of one man.. Debbie Harry today, tragic and alone
By BILL HAGERTY
SHE'S almost forty and looks it. She's fat and faded and her face suggests that the world is crumbling. For her it is.
The rug has been pulled from under Debbie Harry's life.
She was Blondie, an international sex symbol and the leader of the hugely-successful rock band that bore her name. She was vulnerable too, and touchingly reliant on the great love of her life, Blondie guitarist Chris Stein, four years her junior and her strength for almost a decade.
Now their lives are shattered. Stein lies seriously ill in New York's Lenox Hill hospital. While doctors struggle to interpret his disease, Stein grows weaker by the day. He appears to be wasting away.
Debbie Harry camps out at the hospital, rarely returning to their opulent Manhattan home.
"My career, my home, my music mean nothing to me now," she says. "All I want is for Chris to get well..."
We first talked in a rundown, top-floor, New York apartment early in 1977. Blondie had kick-started like a big motor bike in Britain. America had yet to catch on.
She was stunning in a black sweater, jeans and boots. One of the sexiest women in the world, then and there.
Stein was intense. "I want to influence people," he said. "I want to go on television and talk to the kids."
"You're a jerk," said Debbie. Nicely.
When you talk of chequered careers, Debbie's is a giant draughts board.
Adopted, she grew up in small town America. She was a waitress, a Playboy bunny, a small-time singer and a hanger-on when times were really rough.
When success came, she was ever-aware of the pressures that were part of the package.
"I'm a sex symbol, but I think I'm the first sex symbol who's in control of herself," she said. "People compare me to Marilyn Monroe, but they're wrong. Monroe was a victim and I'll never be a victim."
Stardom sat uneasily upon her shoulders.
When Blondie fell apart at the height of the band's success, she switched to films in the critically blitzed, near-porno Videodrome and subsequently took to the stage in Trafford Tanzi, a one-night Broadway flop.
It didn't really matter to her.
"I don't know if I could survive if I didn't have Chris to go home to at night," she said.
"Marriage? We're already married in the biggest sense of the word. We're a couple, a partnership, a corporation.
"I'm in love with him and I'm very emotional and jealous. It's terrific!"
She smiled sweetly, back then in 1977, and cuddled Chris and said: "When he was born the doctor held him up and said, 'Hey, look at this one, he's gone already.'" They both laughed.
And now she shops in the supermarket and pays the bills and sits by the side of a bed at the Lenox Hill hospital and hopes.
No more glamour. No more glitter. Lots of heart.