iN LOS ANGELES - May 31st-June 13th 2005
Vol. 8 - Issue 8
2005 L.A. Pride Entertainment Schedule advert
Pages 82 & 83
BY JACKIE BEAT
Whether with her influential band Blondie or solo, veteran rock vocalist Debbie Harry has fascinated us for nearly three decades. We catch up with the icon to discuss her career, the current music scene, and gay pride.
Picture me, little Jackie Beat, in my childhood bedroom in Scottsdale, Ariz., practicing my best stages moves while singing "One Way Or Another" by Blondie, using my sister's hairbrush for a microphone. Now picture my mom walking in and freaking out at the sight of her gayer-than-gay son as he pranced and pouted like Blondie's lead singer, Debbie Harry. Okay, it never happened. Oh, the singing part did, but my mom never freaked out. She was a huge fag hag and actually loved that fact that I was gay. God only knows how many hours I spent pretending to be Debbie Harry, the smoldering New Wave Marilyn Monroe I adored as a child. Imagine my excitement when I got the opportunity to talk to her recently about her upcoming performance at L.A. Gay Pride!
Jackie Beat: The last time I saw you was in New York, backstage at my final Fez show when [former drag queen and now party promoter] Formika dropped his pants and revealed his new ass implants. You seemed completely unfazed. Does anything ruffle your feathers or have you seen it all?
Debbie Harry: Well, I've certainly seen that end of it! No, I guess we all have our final areas of vulnerability, I suppose, don't we? Let's hope so anyway.
JB: You are the quintessential New York girl. So tell us what you like about Los Angeles.
DH: I love to go to Los Angeles to see my friends from New York who have moved there! I've done some work in Los Angeles. I've done some records out there and of course a few little film things. It's always an adventure and it's good social life. It's the kind of social life that's a little different than New York. It's a little more relaxed and a little more cafe oriented. I don't really like the driving. You end up spending at least half your day on the road and that sort of gets on my nerves, especially if you want to cover a lot of ground. In New York you can cover a lot of ground so quickly, so easily.
JB: Yeah and now it's not just that traffic is annoying on the freeway, but you can get shot for no reason at all. You don't even have to flip anybody off!
DH: Not even driving badly, you can get shot?
JB: Oh, yes! At least in New York they kill you for a reason.
DH: (Laughs) Let's hope it stays like that!
JB: Tell me, how does it feel to be a gay icon?
DH: It's shocking how it all happened, but a girl's got to do something!
JB: Have you seen any drag queens dressed as you?
DH: I don't know if I've ever really seen any drag queens dressed like me except for in some vague way. I don't think I've ever seen anybody really going full out to look like me.
JB: So maybe they're not really "doing" you, but they've obviously been inspired by you?
DH: Yeah, in those little cocktail dresses.
JB: Things have changed so much and we've come so far that I sometimes wonder if Gay Pride is still really necessary. If you could say one thing to some gay kid out there in some small town who's maybe feeling scared and alone what would it be?
DH: Hmm, that's a deep one! I don't know, "Keep the faith," I suppose. It's sort of an old reliable one. Just bide your time. You will have a better time of it if you can survive getting through high school. I think that people who survive getting through high school that aren't particularly at the top of the heap usually have much more interesting lives in the long term, so there's always that to think of. People who are superstars in high school, usually that's it for their lives. Those of us who didn't do much in high school, who were sort of hanging on and just getting through, seem to have a much better time as adults.
JB: I saw an amazing picture of you and Christopher Makos at an Interview magazine party at Studio 54 taken in 1980. Everyone was bisexual in 1980 - especially at Studio 54. Be honest, were you involved in any girl-on-girl action you'd like to 'fess up to right here and now?
DH: I think at that time, I actually wasn't. I think that I was pretty monogomous and I was in that long term relationship that I had with Chris [Stein of Blondie] and we had such a good time together. So I don't think I had any bisexual relationships at that time. They were before that an after that.
JB: I see! A friend and I were listening to music recently and we had a discussion about how if unique, legendary voices like yourself or Cyndi Lauper or Chrissie Hynde were on American Idol today it's possible you all wouldn't even make into the top 12. What do you think of American Idol and/or the current state of pop music?
DH: Cyndi Lauper would win! It's kind of scary, but I think that they are trying to make American Idol a bit more personal. Some of the arrangements they've done of songs have been better, have improved, but for the most part I think the material is - what am I trying to say? - it's ridiculous. It goes from the ridiculous to the sublime. It's sort of in this one little area. I know that once in a while they do pick out a song and they do a special arrangement and I find that particularly charming and entertaining.
JB: Do you like any current bands or singers in particular?
DH: I listen to Top 40 radio. I listen to my friends from the city. I like this band Opti-Grab. Of course I like Peaches. That Peaches is so well established now!
JB: Speaking of music, the world-famous CBGB is closing. Any last words?
DH: Horror! It's just so shocking. Everyone should run down there and take a lot of pictures because it's terrible when something like that happens. Although it did happen to the Cavern and a lot of other clubs over the centuries. And now Fez. They come and they go. I guess you just have to go with the flow and wait for the next one to open. Hopefully something will. It's had a terrific run when you think about it. Clubs don't really last over 30 years usually, so it's quite a long run. Kudos to Hilly [Kristal, owner and founder of CBGB] for being such a patron of the underground music scene and being such a father figure in a way. That's not an easy thing to do, but somehow or another he had this weird temperament and he could handle it. I think we were the lucky ones to have a place like that. Really, really lucky. I mean, it was like going to school. I've always said that it was sort of like going to music college in a way. Not only did we get to play, but we got to play in front of an audience - even if they were completely drunk or stoned, it didn't matter.
JB: "Fade Away and Radiate" is one of my all-time favorite songs. What's your favorite song?
DH: I hate my songs! (Laughs) I refuse to select. It's awful. I'm not a list type of person. I suppose I should have a list made up and hang it everywhere I go and just say, "Oh yes, okay, now let's go down the list..."
JB: Finally, as one of the all-time most stunning women to ever walk the earth, can you give me just one quick, sure-fire beauty tip?
DH: For me the best beauty tip is - and I learned this from years on the road - water, water, water!
Debbie Harry will perform on the Main Stage at Christopher Street West on Saturday, June 11 at 9:10 p.m. For more information, visit www.lapride.org. For more information on Harry, visit www.blondie.net.