Attitude - December 2002
Question master: Paul Flynn
WHERE YOU ASK THE QUESTIONS
We've waded through the mountains of mail you've sent us and only picked the juiciest questions for Debs have made it through. Blondie bombshell, fashion icon, crazee ladee, it's the atomic Deborah Harry answering your questions.
Deborah, nee Debbie, Harry - Blondie goddess and fully iconic pop personage - has a purse sitting on the table in front of her. The button badge fashion moment of last year has clearly not passed her by. For on this purse, bold as brass, for all to see, is a nickel-sized badge emblazoned with the legend 'R'n'R Whore'. This is perfectly Deborah. The kind of badge one might hope that Deborah Harry sported on her purse. Or, indeed, anywhere.
The rest of Deborah is just as impressive. The cheekbones that could cut diamonds. The perfect application of kohl. The unholy collusion of platinum blonde and jet black hair, swooping right across the forehead. The skinny black trews and the white panther print ankle bootees. She looks fucking hot. Hotter than, by rights, a 57-year-old with a life as spikily well-engineered and stooped in white hot funk, rock, rap and pop classics ought. There are a few marks round the edges and a few questions that phase her. Her only inquiry, as Attitude barrages her with the postal sack that awaited her arrival is, "are people really interested in this stuff?"
Yes, Ms Harry. They most certainly are.
May we begin?
"Hey, you'd better."
Q: What do you think of the endless remixing of your songs? Did you approve of the Beautiful remix project?
Clive Evans, Sheffield
A: I think it's inevitable. I feel that we were sort of excluded and that didn't make me feel too good, but eventually we demanded approval and got to listen to various treatments. It's different when it's a sample on a hip hop record, like the Foxy Brown thing (Foxy sampled Rapture on her 1997 smash I'll Be) because I think that's an homage, it's a genuinely beautiful thing. We sort of did that early on ourselves, but in a much more subtle way.
Q: Have you seen the new Broadway production of Hairspray?
Scott, NYC, via e-mail
A: Yeah, I went to see it. I thought it was good, for a Broadway show. They've cleaned it up a little bit and made it... nicer. It made me pine for Divine. I think the best part of the whole thing is that John Waters had a film called Desperate Living, which was so extreme, and now he has a show on Broadway. I mean, the difference between those end of the spectrum... what more can I say? I guess it just goes to show you that anything can happen. Times have changed. Is the girl who plays my part any good? Yeah. She's different, you know? Everyone is different and they've allowed a little bit of personal interpretation and personality for the actors. Harvey (Fierstein, playing the Divine role) is so different. It really made me miss Divvy. I was curious to see what the message was, and it seems to be more about fat people than breaking colour lines. I don't suppose I should use the word fat, should I?
Q: How do you rate Atomic Kitten's version of The Tide Is High?
Michael Harris, Tottenham
A: I think it's very poppy, and, um, I don't really want to rate it. I think it's more in the tradition of the Spice Girls. It's fine. I can't help but want to congratulate John Holt for writing such a beautiful song. I've always thought it was an amazing song - especially the vocal harmonies on the original.
Q: What was it like having a cameo in this Christmas' Absolutely Fabulous and can you please dish the dirt on any of the cast members?
Patrick Blackburn, Brighton
A: I don't know how much I can say. There's a gagging order on it all. We can't let anything slip. It was fun, a bit of a dream come true. It's a wonderful show. There should be more people like Patsy around. Genuine eccentricity seems to be disappearing because there is so much information and everything is communicated, there's no mystery or chance to be a little bit weird cos everything is so out of the fucking closet. Part of the eccentricity is being in a kind of closet. Anyway, I fully approve of Absolutely Fabulous.
Q: Why did you decide to do Videodrome? Is David Kronenberg utterly twisted and do you usually go for alternative roles?
Martin McCarthy, Dublin
A: I love David Kronenberg and I thought that the film had a real interesting premise. I loved the idea that somebody was giving me the opportunity to be in a film, and the film was irresistible to me. He's a real creative thinker and not afraid to go into the darker areas of Freudian thinking and beyond. He's very good at exposing what people are afraid of in those dark corners. He definitely makes you gasp.
Q: Did you write the Fab Five Freddie rap on Rapture? If so, what were you on and why was the man from Mars eating cars?
Chris Dunn, via e-mail
A: He had a healthy appetite? I don't think I was on anything when I wrote it. I wrote it with Chris, we were both doing sci-fi songs for every record like Attack Of The Giant Ants and we watched all those movies together. It's homage to that. I don't think that it's genuine or really great rapping, but some rappers have told me they really like it. It was our tribute to rap and we were honoured to be a part of that.
Q: What was the last CD you bought and did you like it?
Matt Green, Yeovil
A: I don't usually buy them, I'm lucky! I like Eminem and I saw the Foo Fighters and I thought they were really hot. I think it's great that more rock bands are happening now, and there's this trend for personal angst which obviously I love.
You once sang, 'Here comes the 21st Century - it's gonna be much better for a girl like me.' Were you right?
Simon, via e-mail
A: Hmmm, yes! Do I have to explain? How was it better? In the media and the arts there was much more acceptance of woman in general and in particular transexuals. I think there's much more openness. In that respect women are definitely gonna benefit. It's more common over here because you've had so many artists like Dame Edna that have been major. That have really been accepted. In entertainment generally it's becoming much more popular.
Q: I saw you at the Andrew WK gig in New York. Did he rock or did he suck?
Lucie Gonnord, Holloway
A: Did he suck? I guess he did do some rocking, but I felt that it was basically one song. The material doesn't really stray, it's all very similar. It starts at such a high pitch it can't really go anywhere. Do I think he's hot? He's not my cup of tea really. I met him and he's really nice. The gay guys I was with were really turned on.
Q: Who is Rip Her To Shreds about?
Keith Harding, via e-mail
A: Rip Her To Shreds is a combination of personalities. It can't be pinned down on one person because it wasn't about just one person. And I would have to include myself amongst them. That song was very self-deprecating - it was scathing about some other creature but it was scathing about myself as well. It's a take off about the whole bitchiness thing. We can all be a bitch every now and again.
Q: Did you cut yourself on that razor blade dress you wore at the Q Awards a couple of years ago?
Alice Shaw, Chelsea
A: I always cut myself when I put on that razor blade dress! It's a Michael Schmit and I love it. He spends hours blunting the razors on a stone, otherwise it would obviously be impossible to wear. The thing that catches you when you put it on is the corners because it's so angular, but once it's on it's great fun to wear. It's terribly comfortable when it's on, very flexible, like wearing a snake's skin. It's very cool.
Q: Maria was a huge hit here, but not in America. Why do you think that is?
Colin Shephard, Liverpool
A: Pop isn't as strong or as big in the States, it's more popular over here. I was actually against it as a single in the States, I really wanted one of the more dramatic ballady things to go out, and I was right. Oh sure, I was pleased with its success over here. It was quite amazing. It's a pretty song, it's got that old nice doo-wop feel to it.
Q: I read a couple of years ago that you'd given yourself up to the idea of being single forever. Do you still stand by this?
Mike Young, via e-mail
A: I don't know where that came from, that came from nowhere as far as I'm concerned. I'm not with anybody now, no. I have no objection, it really just depends. If I meet somebody great, then that's fine.
Q: What's the rudest thing you've ever done on stage in your career? And what's the rudest thing you've ever seen on stage as a member of the audience?
Justin, via e-mail
A: Oh, I've never been rude on stage, my god! I can't remember. Is there anything that's really rude? To me murder is rude. Being on stage and being nasty is all about entertainment as far as I'm concerned. You're not insulting anyone personally. I mean, if you're dealing with someone face to face and you spit on them or you insult them, that's different. I guess when that 2 Live Crew were having all that live sex on stage that was pretty rude, pretty outstanding. Walking off stage and leaving an audience is probably the rudest thing in entertainment.
Q: Do you know that on the remix of Celine Dion's last single (I'm Alive) she's actually sampled a bit of your UK and US 1979 chart topper Heart of Glass?
Doug, via e-mail
A: Really? Celine Dion? Hmmm. I hope she's paying!
Q: Are you surprised that a contemporary rave band hasn't covered I'm on E from Plastic Letters?
Louis Holmes, via e-mail
A: Maybe. It wasn't written about ecstasy, that's for sure. I guess it was E for England, E for energy, E for empty. Anyway in America ecstasy is X so maybe it should be X Offender that's recorded by a rave band. Is it true there's a new drug around now? (Attitude explains at some length the current fashion for experimental psychedelics available over the Internet). Gee!
Q: What do you think of George Bush?
Nick Martin, Manchester
A: Ha! I read something that Martin Amis said yesterday in the paper that it would be a miracle if he could learn to speak the English language, and we all feel like that, really. It's really, really embarrassing that he can't articulate very well. I think that he and his family are notoriously connected with political favouritism and corruption. And the drugs in south America? And now everything is connected with oil...
Q: What's your favourite club ever and why?
James Shaw, Leeds
A: Ever? Jackie 60 (famous Meatpacking district transgendered emporium). There was a level of complete instanity and madness. I just felt very much at home there and I had a lot of friends there. It was always very comfortable for me, it wasn't like I was on display and it wasn't touristy. Nobody ever bothered me. I liked CBGBs, Studio 54 a little and I loved to go to was a place called Squeezebox, which was a night at a club called Don Hills. That was also a great party. It had a Rock'n'Roll gender bender vibe. There are little parties here and there now that I still enjoy, one on Monday nights which my friends Theo and Sean do called Mullet which is funky.
Q: I love the cover of your first solo album Koo Koo with spikes going through your face. Did it hurt?
Adam, via e-mail
A: Oh please, what is this obsession with me cutting and hurting myself? Yes, I've had terrible headaches ever since. It's all artwork, dear. It's a photo that he's airbrushed. HR Geiger (the artist) is a very talented man and he drew all those things and made them look like one thing. It's a very subtle, wonderful piece and I don't think he's ever really been given the credit for his talent and creativity.
Q: Did coming to fame later than a lot of people do better equip you for it?
A: No, I don't think so. I think ambition balances it out. I think that the people that do succeed and have fane are tremendously ambitious, they're so focused that it's dangerous to get in their way. People can become ruthless and are prepared to do anything. Some people may not consider that dangerous, but I think in terms of a well-rounded character and as a vision of what life or personality is, it sort of closes down a lot of... possibilities. Sure, I thought I would be famous but now I look at that and I think, well, so many other people think that too. It's a way of getting through. In this world success is a very valuable commodity. But you really have to keep in touch with yourself.
Q: What's the worst job you've ever done in your whole life?
Andrew Collins, via e-mail
A: I had two jobs that I really didn't like. I used to clean this woman's house but that was when I was really young, and then later on when I was in high school I got a job in a redemption centre for S&H green stamps, and that was completely humiliating. The people who came in there and wanted their merchandise were really demanding about it. Maybe they thought they were getting something for nothing and they had to be aggressive about it, but it just seemed that everybody was so mean.
Q: What do you think is the best vocal on a record that you've ever done?
A: I don't know, I would have to look at the list. I'm always sort of surprised when I hear them. Some of it's good and then I think, 'Oh, how did that get through?' I'm fortunate in that respect. I like a degree of stability and regularity but I really appreciate change and growth and I strive for it. So I always feel like I get better and that's enough for me as a matter of fact.
Q: The phrase 'gay icon' is over-used and lots of people are called it, but I think you deserve to be called one. Do you agree?
A: I'm very embraced by gay men and gay women. The idea of me is very appealing to gay people, I think. I also think lyrically there's a freedom in some of the songs, and it gives people a carte blanche to express themselves and be whoever they want to be.
Q: Who did Barry White hit on at the recent Vanity Fair cover shoot you were in and were there any diva tantrums involved?
Ian Walsh, Coventry
A: Erm, no-one to the best of my knowledge. We were all very psyched about meeting one another and it was a very difficult shoot to do because it was very hot. The weather was very warm, it was in the mid-90s. Barry White didn't really hit on anyone cos he was trying to keep cool - he had on a suit, a top-hat and a vest. He was so dressed up and it was so hot. I don't know if I was excited about meeting anyone in particular. I knew Shirley Manson from before, when she was with Goodbye Mr McKenzie. As a matter of fact they opened for us in Scotland. I just thought she was absolutely wonderful and terrific and she's gone on to do so well. I was really interested in meeting the whole line-up. I wanted to meet Eve, J-Lo and I think I've met Gwen before. It was an interesting line-up.
Q: Did you sleep with Joey Ramone or was it just a photo opportunity?
James Masterson, Doncaster
A: Oh yeah, that was a photo opportunity. I have absolutely no idea what they're talking about! So, yes, it was a photo op, darling.
Q: Do you still have any friends from childhood?
Sarah, via e-mail
A: A friend of mine called Melanie, we've known each other since we were four years old. She's a painter, she's continued doing her art and stuff and I still see her every once in a while. She doesn't live in NY, she lives far away. They're not actually a continual everyday part of my life but I do have connections with my past.
Q: Can I still get the Wind In The Willows (Debbie's band in the 60s) album?
Phillip French, London
A: I suppose if you look under rocks or something, or in a bin maybe. It was a sort of folk-rock album. A kind of sweet, saccharine kind of things. I wasn't really a writer on that. In fact the reason I stopped doing that was because I wanted to do something that was tough. I have a tape of my next band, The Stilettos, somewhere. It was very, very funky and very camp. It was really predicated on entertainment and being in your face, it wasn't really about music. Who were the other Stilettos? Elda Gintile, Rosie Ross and Amanda Jones took Rosie's place after a while. Elda named us. She came up with that. She told me she had a group and it was called Pure Garbage. She said to me one day 'You gotta come and see our band, Pure Garbage' so we swapped numbers and when I called her she was like, 'Oh, the band broke up' so I said, 'let's make another one' so we put it together and that was it. But later on, years later, when I was being managed by Gary Kurfurst, I told him that we had a band called Pure Garbage and then he ended up managing Shirley Mansun. I don't know if he ever suggested it to her or where it came from, but I thought it was quite a good sense of synchronicity or something. It's always fascinating to me how those type of things happen, I don't know whether it was something direct or just something in the air, you know. Oh we didn't make any money from the band. Are you mad? I was working in a beauty shop in Jersey.
Q: In the Warhol Diaries, Andy mentions that you got rich from doing a Gloria Vanderbilt jeans ad. Exactly how rich it made you?
Jon, via e-mail
A: I can't exactly be sure when it was, maybe 1980. It was something that Shep Gordon did. At the time personalities and jeans were a big thing, and all of a sudden I had this ad campaign all over TV and it was for a lot of money, I'm sure it was around $200,00. At that time it was a lot, probably not compared to what people get nowadays. I guess I must've owned a pair, but I can't remember. I wasn't really into personal names or signature jeans.
Q: What happens next?
Mark Hunter, Letchworth
A: Well, the tour over here is next. INXS is playing which is kind of strange, but they write good material and it should be an interesting show. Then after that I'm going to take a little break. I'm thinking I'd like to go to Mexico. I've never been there. Then come back and get to work again. At first when we got back together as a band it was a little weird. I had very mixed emotions but it was very rewarding hearing the band sounding like itself, and that it was still there. And, you know, we were still the same assholes that we always were.
Blondie's Greatest Hits is out on Chrysalis now. Blondie play London's Wembley Arena with INXS on 18 Dec (Tel 0208 902 8833). Blondie: From Punk to Present, published by Musical Legacy, is out now.