Vol 9 - No.6: June 1979
Photographer: Barry Mckinley
Hair: Harry King
Make Up: Sandy Linter
Styling: Wendy Goodman
Comments: I'd been looking for a copy of this
publication on ebay for a few months then one
appeared and I fought to get it! The front cover is fantastic, a real piece of pop-art history.
by Glenn O'Brien
DEBORAH HARRY is the singer in a band
called BLONDIE. In recent weeks one of their songs,
HEART OF GLASS has been the number one hit in
America. It's been a hit in the discos, too.
Although, as Debby points out, it's not a disco song
but "crossover," and few songs have
crossed over so far, so pleasantly. Right now the
group is in the studio recording their fourth album
with producer MIKE CHAPMAN breaking more genre
barriers. The big dance cut so far is more funk than
"disco," EAT TO THE BEAT. Aside from
having a number one single here, Blondie has been
going gold and platinum all over the world for some
time. In fact, America's been about the last place
to catch on. Most of the teenagers in the world know
that Blondie is Debbie, guitarists CHRIS STEIN and
FRANK INFANTE, keyboard player JIMMY DESTRI, base
player NIGEL HARRISON and drummer CLEM BURKE. Chris
Stein is also Debbie's roommate and songwriting
partner. Debbie has also been getting more and more
involved with movies lately. She's had two singing
cameos in films by AMOS POE, and recently completed
work on a major role in UNION CITY, a film by MARK
REICHERT which should be coming soon to a theatre
near you. I interviewed Ms. Harry at her penthouse
apartment, high above Manhattan's Fashion Avenue,
and then at the recording studio where she's working
on the latest BLONDIE album.
GLENN O'BRIEN: I've seen alot of posters of you
DEBORAH HARRY: Yeah, a lot of them are bootleg. So if any of the people who made them
are reading, we're
starting to sue you, so get ready. You can't take pictures of me and then
without paying me. So get it straight. We know who you are. We have your
address. Our lawyer knows how to reach you and you will be gotten to, believe you me!
GLENN: I think Farrah Fawcett made a lot of money
suing people who put out unauthorized posters.
DEBBIE: I think she won over a million dollars
GLENN: Do you have any fantasies of things you'd like to buy if you got
really rich? Aside
from a home in Virginia Beach.
DEBBIE: Well, I do have fantasies of buying a helicopter and a lot of machine guns, but I don't know if
I can do that. I'd like to have a lot of weapons, grenades and things. And I
want to have a solar energy machine. And I want to have a sunken garden with a
glass roof. I guess that's about it for now. I have a few other wants but I
can't remember them now.
Chris wants to get a car, but I don't know if it's a good
idea with the gas crisis.
GLENN: I don't think you have to worry about it. If
Americans can't get enough gas they'll overthrow the government. If they
couldn't run their cars and boats they'd revolt for gasoline.
DEBBIE: It's not only that, it's everything.
There would be no heat, no electricity, no plastic
records. I mean, I'd be out
of business, too. Oil makes plastic.
GLENN: Maybe they can figure out how to
recycle it for a few hundred years.
DEBBIE: You mean just turn in your old plastic?
GLENN: Yeah, they already do melt down records and
press them again.
DEBBIE: Well, I feel much better now. Now that I know
my records can be
GLENN: What's the best place Blondie ever played?
DEBBIE: One of the most interesting places was the Banquet Room of the
Ambassador Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand. We did four shows there, with two thousand
people at each show. Bangkok has a really weird electrical system. I'm not an
electrical expert but there's no ground in it, or something like that. Like if
you're watching TV in Bangkok, at six o' clock suddenly the pictures come in
really great because all the businesses have shut down, so the TV gets more
electricity. That means that there's live electricity circling through the cables
looking for an outlet. All of a sudden it could shoot out anywhere. Chris could be
playing guitar. . .
GLENN: And the brewery would shut down and. . .
DEBBIE: . . .We'd get really loud. The same thing happens in Belgium. Thailand and
Belgium both bought their electrical systems from the same company. And one time we
played in Marseilles with live electricity on stage. The electrical stuff was
really ancient and there was no ground so there were huge tree lights - live
- hanging on both sides of the stage and we were in the middle. It was
wild. In Thailand, I think we were the second rock group to play there since the end
of the war. But they got a P.A. that was really great. And they had about
fifty or seventy-five men setting up the P.A. and it took them three days because
they had never done it before. There were hundreds of wires and every time there
was a mistake they had to totally disconnect the system and start over since
none of the wires were marked. I like it there. The people are really nice.
Really sweet. It was eye-opening. The people are really pleasant and it's a
very sensual place. Because of the climate and the art - all the
temples. And there are lots of flowers, heavily scented flowers. The air is real
GLENN: I saw Emmanuelle 2. It really made me want to go there.
DEBBIE: Oh, yeah. I didn't see it. Do you think it's a good idea to make porno movies?
GLENN: No. I think there should be movies that are sexy or have sex in them, but I
don't like pornography.
DEBBIE: Because it's dumb?
GLENN: I think it fucks people up. All
those sex magazines. (Chris Stein enters)
CHRIS: They all suck.
GLENN: Right. All those straight business guys, part of the reason
they're the way they are is from jerking off to Playboy for twenty years.
DEBBIE: Is that what they do with them?
GLENN: Yeah, that's what they're for. Right Chris?
CHRIS: It's true. I find I myself have a fixation with photographs.
DEBBIE: I can vouch for that.
CHRIS: It's from being brought up on photographs
before you can have girls. That's all it amounts to.
GLENN: But they get hooked on pictures, because
they're usually of better girls than the jerker-off can
DEBBIE: I have a lot of twisted thoughts about it. I wish everyone just
took it for granted about sex. It should be more public. If there were two bears in
the woods fucking and another bear came along, the only reason the third bear
might get in the way would be if it was horny and if it wanted to fuck, too.
But it would probably just look and think, 'There's two bears
fucking' and just keep on walking.
GLENN: Well, I think lowering the age of consent to
thirteen in New Jersey was a great idea. It might give boys a better
chance to get girls before magazines. That's when they get hooked, in junior high.
DEBBIE: The thing is, I know there's sexual interest and curiosity and
stimulation from about the age of six or seven on. It's just denied. No one has ever helped
develop this sexuality or sensitivity. They're just told to control it. That's
as far as it goes. It's never looked into it. I think cancer is the result of
repression of natural processes and lack of natural functions and correct
CHRIS: I think the problem is . . . . (inaudible)
GLENN: Thomas Dewey? The great educator.
CHRIS: No, promiscuity. People shouldn't get married
till they're thirty and they shouldn't get laid until they get married. Didn't it
ever cross your mind that if you'd waited until you were twenty-four or
something until you got laid you would have enjoyed it more the first time?
GLENN: No. Debbie, how did you meet Chris?
DEBBIE: I met Chris at the Beauburn Tavern at the
second Stiletto's show. He came there with Eric Emerson and Elda. She used
to go with Eric. He was sitting in the shadows yet I could feel his piercing gaze
upon me throughout the whole show. I kept staring at him because I couldn't see
his face. All I could see was this long dark hair. And then we met
later and he
joined the group and I've been working with him ever since.
GLENN: Was Chris in a group when you met?
DEBBIE: No, he used to play with Eric sometimes, but
he wasn't in a regular group. Tom Verlaine had approached him to play in his
group but he didn't want to. Then he joined the Stilettos. I guess that was in
GLENN: When did Blondie start?
DEBBIE: In the spring of 75', I guess.
GLENN: Why did you start Blondie?
DEBBIE: It was Chris and my idea. We really didn't
have any exact ideas about what we were going to do. But we got to a point in
the Stilettos where we were getting some notoriety, and some following and some
press, and then we started not getting along on business and
after a while and we broke off on our own.
GLENN: Didn't you tell me once that Holly Woodlawn was
in the Stilettos?
DEBBIE: That was something else. That's how I got into
the Stilettos. I had been in a folk-type group, and I had
dropped out of the scene, and then I started going to a lot of Dolls' shows. That
was around 71' or 72'. Then in 73' I was living in New jersey, and one
was in Max's and I ran into this girl who used to go out with Sylvain when I was
hanging out with the Dolls, and I said, "Oh gee, I hear you've got a
girl trio." and I gave her my phone number and told her to call me when she was
going to play because I really wanted to see the group. I had been thinking about
doing something in music ever since I had stopped doing folk rock. I
thought, "Wow, this is girls doing something and
that's really cool."
Because hardly any girls did anything in those days, nobody did
fucking shit. So I
pursued her. And the group broke up. And that group consisted of Diane,
who used to
go out with david Johanssen, and Holly Woodlawn and Elda. So I went to see
Elda and she said she knew another girl with a fabulous voice, so we called her
up, her name was Roseanne, and the three of us got together as the
Stilettos. We did our first show entirely on our own, and then Roseanne brought Tony
Ingrassia around. I think MainMan had just about met its demise around that
time. So Tony started to direct us, and choreograph us, and teach us method acting
applied to singing, which was very gruelling! We used to work out butts off,
and sing for hours until our throats were raw. It was incredible; it was
just like going to school. He was real intense about it. I still have to respect him
for that. I would get mad at him, but it was stimulating to get that mad.
GLENN: Did the Stilettos have regular musicians?
DEBBIE: We never had steady musicians. Sometimes we worked with Tommy Miami,
sometimes with Jimmy Miami. We
worked with a lot of different musicians. Maybe forty or fifty. Chris was our
only steady musician. We played a lot of gigs at Kenny's Castaways, at
Mushroom, at clubs that no longer exist. We really paved the way, you know. We
really got the the New York scene going. The only other group from that time that
still exists, sort of, is Television. The popular groups then were Street Punk, and
Palace or maybe it was Castle . . . .
GLENN: And the Hariots of 42nd Street, and Teenage
DEBBIE: Those were the happening groups at the time.
The Dolls were doing their communist shows. It was really fun.
GLENN: So Debbie, tell us about your new
film that Mark Reichert directed.
DEBBIE: I don't even know what it's called.
GLENN: I just read what it's called in People.
DEBBIE: I know, but I wasn't sure for them either. Tuxedo something, or Union City. They're
taking it to Cannes. But I haven't seen the movie yet, so I can't recommend
that anyone should go to see it, unless they want to see the people that are in it
make fools of
themselves, that's all I can say. But the camera work is
GLENN: Do you make a fool of yourself?
DEBBIE: Yeah, I'm sure I do.
GLENN: You're a housewife?
DEBBIE: Yeah, a young housewife who doesn't know
what's happening. All she knows is that she wants a man to love her. That's
all she wants.
GLENN: Her husband?
DEBBIE: Her husband is crazy.
GLENN: So she wants another man to
DEBBIE: Originally, she wanted her husband and she
works at it. She always cooks his dinner and does his laundry and makes
the house look nice and everything, but he goes down Tatty's bar all the time and
gets loaded. And he gets crazy. He gets nuts. And in those
days nobody went
to psychiatrists, nobody knew anything, especially girls.
GLENN: What year does this take place?
GLENN: Who plays your husband?
DEBBIE: Dennis Lipscomb. He's a very good actor. He helped me a lot. He taught me
he doesn't know.
GLENN: Isn't Taylor Mead in it?
DEBBIE: Yes, Taylor's in it. He plays a drunk. He's very funny. I really laughed a lot.
GLENN: Is it a comedy or a thriller or what?
DEBBIE: It's not really a thriller. It's a weird
story. There are all these little plots happening at the same time, that somehow or
other all link together at the end. It's not a thriller in the
true sense of the
word, more of a who-dun-it.
GLENN: How did you like dressing for the Fifties, did
it take you back?
DEBBIE: I'm not that old.
GLENN: I know you were a baby, but I thought you
might remember. Like open-toed shoes.
DEBBIE: Well I certainly don't remember it from a fashion point of view. I was always wearing second
hand clothes. We were really broke then. And my mother wasn't really into
culture at the time, so it wasn't really driven home to me what the Fifties were
like. The only thing that struck me from that period was that my mother used
to wear this hat that was shaped like a clam on the top of her head. But in the
movie the styles aren't what we think of as Fifties. Early Fifties' styles
were more like the Forties. The real Fifties look didn't come in
In the film my hair was real flat. I started feeling like a clam after a while.
My hair had to be flat and parted and in all these neat little curls and this
stuff. It was alright. (Messenger arrives)
DEBBIE: It's from the movie company. "Dear
Deborah . .. etc, etc. . . . . Union City." Oh, they're
calling it Union City. Great. I like that name. I was going to write a
GLENN: Package contains a thin dark tie covered with plastic pins
representing. . . .
DEBBIE: Bathroom accoutrements. Fixtures. Sink and a soap dish.
Medicine chest and towel rack. A bathtub. A toilet with a way overhead tank and no
chain. A pitcher and a stool. On a skinny tie. Maybe I should wear this to the
Mother's Day party celebrating Joan Crawford.
GLENN: Yes, that would be perfect. Joan was a
stickler on bathroom cleanliness.
DEBBIE: I know she washed her hands a lot, but don't we all?
GLENN: Well, we've touched briefly on your film career
. . . let's go back.
DEBBIE: Yeah, well my film career is so brief that you
have to touch on it briefly. Otherwise is disappears. It just goes away.
(In the studio)
GLENN: Do you get nervous before you go on stage?
DEBBIE: I get excited. Sometimes I have doubts. I always scream before I go on,
'I don't want to go. No! No! I don't want to do it!' But I do it anyway. I just
have to say that. It's like part of the ritual.
GLENN: Do you watch the group that goes on before you
or hide out?
DEBBIE: Most of the time I check em' out; check out
the audience. Everybody says, 'Oh you're not supposed to look
at the audience.' I always look at them.
GLENN: Do Your shows vary much?
DEBBIE: No. They vary in terms of energy - depending on how tired we are. That
happens to all rock groups. Sometimes you have these incredible stints of
seven gigs or more in a row, with travelling during the day. It's really hard.
Plus that, everyone goes out at night and wrecks themselves.
GLENN: Do you know any good hangover cures?
DEBBIE: Yeah, Golden Seal. Get real good capsules of
Golden Seal, mix em' with a little Ginseng powder. Actually about five of those caps.
It works great.
GLENN:I make tea with it.
DEBBIE: I can't stand the taste of it. It's too bitter
for me. Do you like incense?
GLENN: No. It reminds me of church, or hippies.
DEBBIE: Are you Catholic?
GLENN: I have been.
DEBBIE: Well, that's it.
GLENN: I like some of the more nonsectarian scents, though.
DEBBIE: I always take it with me on the road. And I always bring a package of miso paste,
a thing of sea salt and Golden Seal. I always have those things on the road. They
save my life.
GLENN: You seem pretty health oriented. Chinese vtiamin vials,
your new peanut butter machine.
DEBBIE: I have to concentrate on eating good
food because when you're working crazy hours, like when you're on the road or in
the studio, it's hard to eat right. We've been getting food from one of the delis
around here that is poisonous. So last night I ordered two
containers of pea
soup, and the pea soup arrived filled with soggy croutons, which I don't
anyway. So the soup was ruined to being with, but then I ate the container of
soup. And after I ate one container I belched, and I got sick from this belch,
because I realized what I had eaten. And I couldn't eat the second container. So
today my resolve was to go to the health food shop and buy really good food and
make every little bit that goes in count. (Mike Chapman, Blondie's producer
MIKE CHAPMAN: Debbie, could you call Bruce and find out where Clem is,
because, if Clem's dead we ought to know. Maybe he died in his sleep last night.
CHRIS: Of old age, he's really almost sixty years old. (Pause trying to find
GLENN: What do you do in your leisure time?
DEBBIE: I haven't had too much leisure time since
about 77'. But I do a lot of different things because I have
leisure time at different hours. Like I have leisure time now in the
about midday. Today I planted flowers. I had little sprouts that I had sprouted
and I planted them, and I swept off the terrace, moved the chaise lounge on
to the terrace and moved two pieces of the couch into the bedroom, and got some
stuff from the cleaners. Real exciting, huh? But sometimes my leisure hours are
reversed, from about 1AM to dawn. I'll go to see groups or to free parties. Like I
went to the free party that was held after the Barbarians show at Trax. I saw
Sylvia Miles. That was it. I also like to go to that club I like,
the name of
which I won't mention. I walk around, go shopping. I haven't gone to the movies
a long time. I watch TV a lot. I like cable TV. I'm always running into Ugly
George on the street. I do a lot of photo sessions. And now I'm doing a lot of
our business. I like to go to the studios when other people are recording. I lig
GLENN: You what?
GLENN: Oh lig! What sign are you?
GLENN: What are the other ones?
DEBBIE: Which other ones?
GLENN: You know, rising moon . . . .
DEBBIE: Sun in Cancer, Moon in Cancer, Scorpio rising.
GLENN: Who is the famous actress who used to live in the apartment you live in?
DEBBIE: Lillian Roth.
GLENN: She wrote, I'll Cry Tomorrow, right? Have you
ever seen her ghost?
DEBBIE: I sometimes see flashes of light, but nothing
really. Sometimes I do feel that there's a presence there, but I've never come
into contact with it.
CHRIS: She's not dead.
DEBBIE: Yeah, she's dead. But it could be anybody. It doesn't have to be her.
GLENN: Do you play any musical instruments?
DEBBIE: No, not really. I have a trumpet now that I blow into
sometimes and I try to accompany Walter Steding. But I've been playing a little
bit with Blondie, too. I played on a whole tour around the world - I used to
blow the trumpet on Cautious Lip. I carried the stupid thing all over the
world, to Australia, to Thailand, to Japan, Europe, all over the place. I
the sitar for a while, but not very well. It was sort of a mistake. I took piano
lessons for two weeks.
GLENN: Did you ever write the music to any of your
DEBBIE: Sometimes. I wrote the music to Little Girl Lies. Mostly I don't write
tunes, but little lines that are expandable. They're not total musical
compositions. Little Girl Lies was a total composition. Chris developed the chord
changes and the figure in the beginning. I think it's really necessary to write
with an instrument. You really have to play a piano or a guitar.
impossible even on a bass guitar. You have to play an instrument that you can
make chords with. You can only hum one note at a time. It's really difficult to
think in terms of hearing more than one note at a time unless you're
actually hearing it. It's not easy to envision a sound.
GLENN: What are the first songs you remember from your
DEBBIE: The Lollipop Tree. I think Burl Ives sang it.
Frog Went a Courtin'.
GLENN: Sometimes you do funny songs in concerts,
oldies. What are you doing these days?
DEBBIE: Most recently we did Get It On or Bang a Gong
whichever you want to call it. I think Troy Donahue was
the original artist to perform that.
GLENN: Oh, uh, you mean Markie? Marc Bolan?
DEBBIE: Yes. Just testing to see if you were awake,
Glenn. Yeah, Marc Bolan.
GLENN: Well I know both of them well. Oh, no, they're
dead aren't they?
DEBBIE: No, Troy Donahue's alright. Now he plays swarthy
roles. Character parts. He must be an interesting
character. He had that big boat, right? Was that his TV
GLENN: No, he played a cartoonist who lived on Malibu
DEBBIE: Wasn't his boat the Kon Tiki?
GLENN: No, you're thinking of Gardner Mckay in Adventures
in Paradise. It was the Tiki.
DEBBIE: Sorry, Troy.
GLENN: The Kon Tiki was Thor Heyerdahl's balsa raft on
which he drifted from Peru to Easter Island.
DEBBIE: Sorry, Thor.
GLENN: And I think I was thinking of Tab Hunter. You
should do the theme song of Adventures in Paradise. It
had great drums.
DEBBIE: Yeah. I always liked the music from one of the
King Kong movies, too. Actually, I think it was Mighty
Joe Young. It was very interesting music. In the scene
where all the lions were in the cages, in the club. Not
the song where he held the piano on his head. A different
GLENN: Who are your favorite movie stars?
DEBBIE: I don't know if I really have any favorites. I
like a lot of them. Who's your favorite?
GLENN: I couldn't say.
DEBBIE: There are all these different areas of
specialization. That's it. You have to be a specialist
nowadays. There's no other way. I was an artist for a
long time, but I was always into being a general
practitioner. I did a little of this and a little of
that. And nothing got me anywhere. You have to
specialize. If you don't specialize, it takes you until
you're about fifty years old before anybody notices that
you're doing anything at all.
GLENN: That's exactly how I feel.
GLENN: No, diffused. What else did you used to do?
DEBBIE: I used to paint. I painted portraits.
GLENN: Do you think stopping that helped you succeed as a
DEBBIE: No, it's more of a commitment. You have to
specialize. If you were a painter and a rock and roll
musician and weren't established in either - to be an
artist today you have to be as much a businessman to
succeed, you have to spend an equal amount of time doing
business as you spend doing your craft. So if I had to
spend equal time doing paintings, and equal time going to
galleries and doing art business and equal time making
music and equal time going to record companies, or to the
publicist or to the lawyer, forget it. It would take four
times as long to do all that stuff. Unless I had a
patron. That's why Leonardo da Vinci was successful. He
had the Medicis, right?
GLENN: Where are they now?
DEBBIE: They still own everything.
GLENN: I guess so, I wonder who they're patronizing?
DEBBIE: I think they own the Vatican, in fact. This is
getting too political. We don't want to step on any toes.
It's bad enough that you admitted being a Catholic.
GLENN: Did you have a religious upbringing?
DEBBIE: Oh sure.
GLENN: In what faith?
DEBBIE: Episcopalian. No incense. No confession.
GLENN: Not too mystical, but good hymns.
DEBBIE: Good hymns, and not too mystical actually, but I
really am a mystic. I don't know where I got it from.
GLENN: You're not a typical Protestant. I hate to say
that there is a typical Protestant.
DEBBIE: There is.
GLENN: Protestantism is great business training.
DEBBIE: It teaches you to be real pragmatic. Then you
start to wonder about God. Then you just leave the
church. A lot of Protestants don't go to church. But it's
very social, very community supportive. But I think that
G-O-D is like the answer to a formula for creating life.
Or some kind of energy or anti-gravity. It's like the
answer to an equation and it's become mythical over the
years. But at one time we all knew what it was. I don't
know when it was exactly, but that was the ancient
knowledge. It's become diffused as it was handed down and
turned into myth. Just like the stories of Ulysses. I
really wish that the great library of Alexander never
burned down, because we'd all be in better shape today if
we had all those books. You know who burned it? Marc
Anthony. The Romans did it. They wanted the power and
they had it for a long time.
GLENN: They're still in power.
DEBBIE: They're still in power. They burned the fucking
library. It really pissed me off. And I'm not the only
one. I was at the Nova Convention and saw a poet perform
this really great poem about the great library of
Alexander. I could hardly understand a word he said
because he had a really heavy accent, his name was Dr.Oz
or Dr.Wizard, or something like that. Anyway, I was
really shocked because I had always felt that way, and he
was up there raving about it. I have to agree. They
fucking blew it.
GLENN: Do you think there's a mystical element in rock
DEBBIE: There is. It has to exist. It must be there.
GLENN: Have you seen it lately?
DEBBIE: I don't know. Have you?
GLENN: I don't know. Maybe Chris has.
DEBBIE: I think, actually, that rock and roll is a
misconception. It should no longer be a term for music.
GLENN: I should have said music.
DEBBIE: In music the mystical element is definitely there
all the time, and one can see it. When it comes to rock
and roll, when it comes to any kind of industry, it's not
there. It's not there. So it's a battle between the two.
Music. Industry. But yet one exists off the other. It's
really weird. Really weird. It's much the same process as
what's happening now all over the world, this...
devolution, I guess. I don't want Devo to think I'm
ripping them off but....
GLENN: Actually devolution is one of the big words in The
New York Times' political pages....
DEBBIE: The planet is eating itself; everyone's eating
themselves out. It's like burnout time.
(A loud, distorted electrical guitar. America the
Beautiful comes from the studio.)
GLENN: It said in People that you were thinking of
doing a disco version of the Star Spangled Banner.
DEBBIE: It could be a huge hit.
GLENN: Bigger than Join the Navy? Didn't Jimi Hendrix
record Star Spangled Banner?
DEBBIE: Yeah, it was on the Woodstock album.
GLENN: Did they ask you to play at the new Woodstock?
DEBBIE: Of course not.
GLENN: I was thinking that this should be the Summer of
DEBBIE: Yeah, let's have a lust-in.