HX Magazine - 9th April 2004 - Pages 22-23-24 - Issue 657
Text: Gregory T. Angelo
Photography: Michael Economy for HX
Inimitable icon Debbie Harry discusses "Good Boys," bad girls and
the hex that has haunted Blondie for years.
"The children of the night - what sweet music they make."
The quote, of course, is from the famous handiwork of Dracula author Bram
Stoker, speaking of his nefarious Nosferatu circa 1897, though he might as well
be referencing enduring Blondie frontgal Debbie Harry, circa 2004. Long before
her shoot to global stardom in the 1970s, the platinum-capped punk princess was
a staple of New York's witching hour, working her one-of-a-kind glam and
stomping her stilettos across the stages and sidewalks of Manhattan in bands
such as Wind in the Willows and (appropriately enough) The Stilettos.
Even today, most every downtown denizen has run into the boisterous blond at one
time or another: whether slinging drinks at yesteryear's legendary fete Jackie
60 (demanding "What's in that?" to a patron requesting a vodka on the
rocks), cavorting at Tuesday-night hot spot Beige with Toilet Boy rocker Miss
Guy, or painting the town back in the day with departed avant-gardist Andy
Warhol. Truly, if ever there was a "Child of the Night" who
unquestioningly earned the title, it is Debbie Harry.
Somewhat surprising, then, is Harry's admission to identifying more with the
sunrise hours than the debaucherous pitch of Gotham's late-night darkness.
"I like the morning," she confesses. "That period between 4am and
10am is a really great time for me. I do well in those hours."
It was in that quiet solitude of day's first light that Harry penned most of the
tracks for Blondie's latest album, The Curse of Blondie. The title of the
group's eighth LP of original material is a self-deprecating in-joke between
Harry and bandmates Chris Stein, Clem Burke, Jimmy Destri, Paul Carbonara, Leigh
Foxx and Kevin Patrick regarding the ups and downs that have plagued Blondie for
years. "We were counted out any number of times - believe me," Harry
explains. Hogwash, you say? Consider the fact that irreconcilable in-fighting
snuffed the group at the height of their fame, that a 16-year hiatus polarized
the band between 1983's The Hunter and their 1999 reunion CD No Exit, and that
group co-founder Chris Stein was sidelined for years due to a harrowing battle
with the often-fatal genetic disease Pemphigus.
And with four years of music biz B.S. suspending The Curse of Blondie in
artistic limbo, it's difficult to dismiss Harry's insistence as occult nonsense.
"We had completed most of the writing and recording back in 2001; it was
the business side of things that took this record such a long time [to be
released]," Harry says of Curse's red tape wrangling. "It was really
frustrating - and a little scary."
Musically, rather than running from the jinx, The Curse of Blondie sees the
group staring down their demons with an evil eye that would make Bram Stoker
jealous: Tracks such as the eerie lullaby "Songs of Love" and the
playful creepiness of "The Tingler" (itself a nod to 1960s B-list
horror flicks) prove that Harry and her cohorts still have what it takes to
churn out the brand of catchy, genre-defying jams that have allowed Blondie to
endure for the past 30 years.
The disc is spearheaded by the single "Good Boys," a hook-heavy, synth-driven
track with a classic disco edge bound to draw parallels with Blondie's 1979
smash "Heart of Glass." Remixes on the cut's European release from
hometown heroes The Scissor Sisters and dance music pioneer Giorgio Moroder only
enhance inevitable comparisons.
"Good Boys" is also Harry's contribution to this year's Divas Live
concert to be held April 18. It's not hard to see why the suits at VH1 invited
her to participate in the broadcast: Her siren-like stage presence, innate knack
for career longevity and penchant for style make Harry a natural choice for the
popular event. Being dubbed with the "diva" moniker, however, isn't
something the Hawthorne homegirl feels at ease with. "When they asked me to
do the show, at first I said, "What!?" Harry confesses. "I felt a
little strange about it."
But perhaps Debbie Harry is a diva - and an empress among them, at that. Today's
crop of posturing pop chicks is notorious for turning a cold shoulder to their
homo fan base, acknowledging their queer devotees only when the proverbial PR
machine deems a one-off club appearance necessary to appease the masses. In
refreshing contrast, Harry's has always mingled with New York's gay hipsters,
years before - and years after - her Blondie celebrity. "I guess my initial
exposure [to the gay community] was back in the day at Club 82," the Jersey
girl recalls of the now-shuttered Fourth Street transvestite hang. "When I
grew up, the big thing to do on prom night was to go to Club 82 - of course, my
first time there was not on prom night!" Harry laughs, and continues to
discuss her bond with gay cluture: "It's sort of mutual. From my point of
view, I just wanted to know people for who they were; [their sexuality] didn't
matter to me, and it still doesn't. I've always been really attracted to gay men
because I feel that, as a woman, I don't really want to be subservient or take a
back seat. I think gay men understand that." And why are gay men so drawn
to Harry? She utters a mischievous giggle. "Because I'm sexy!" Divas:
Still, Harry stops short of wagging a finger at this latest menagerie of
over-produced Top 40 hitmakers. "I can't be so judgemental," she says.
"I don't think Blondie was always perfect; we grew and got better with
time. I would encourage anyone who is really committed to persevere and have
some discipline. Keep going and..."
Her advice to music's next generation is cut short with a chuckle. "I feel
so corny saying that!" she laughs. She may speak with red-faced
embarrassment, but the conviction behind her words is genuine. And that driving
force continues to propel Blondie and the unstoppable Debbie Harry morning, noon
- and night.
The Curse of Blondie (Sanctuary) drops April 6. Debbie Harry performs on
VH1's Divas Live at 9pm, Sunday, April 18. Blondie will also perform as part of
A&E's Live by Request concert series Friday, May 7. For more information,
DEBBIE IS WEARING A CUSTOM DRESS BY HEATHRETTE. DOG, MODEL'S OWN. PREVIOUS
PAGE AND COVER: DRESS FROM SCREAMING MIMI'S. STOCKINGS BY AGENT PROVOCATEUR,
SHOES BY YVES SAINT LAURENT.
SPECIAL THANKS TO AKIMITSU SADO, AT-BEAM STUDIOS AND GUY
Aside from her abundant work as one of punk's enduring pioneers, Debbie Harry
has also made quite the impression on film. Presently, she admits to working on
two indie flicks: Reunion and Chris Romero's Patch. "The stories have to
have something meaningful, interesting and important to me," Harry says of
her criteria in choosing roles. Here's a sampling of some of her silver screen
Decades before the reality-TV buzz caught America's attention, left-field film
director David Cronenberg helmed this stark take on the mesmerizing effects of
an edgy pirated cable TV broadcast. In the flick, Harry plays a radio
psychologist with a masochistic side. Par example: She asks James Woods to slice
up her body after burning herself with a cigarette. Kinky!
Harry made her mark on John Waters' classic comic camp tale, playing Sonny
Bono's wife Velma Von Tussle. Her hair - which seemed to take on a life of its
own as the film progressed - should have gotten its own mention in the closing
Tales From the Darkside: The Movie (1990)
In this big-screen version of the popular 1980s horror TV show, Harry played the
role of Betty, a modern-day wicked witch intent on cooking Matthew Lawrence and
serving him for dinner.
The Fluffer (2001)
Deb played the saucy madam of a "gentleman's club" in this black
dramedy about the gay porn industry.