Q Magazine - April 1999
Cash For Questions
Words: Steve Malins
Photographs: Hugo Dixon
She escaped a serial killer but not P.D.James. She slightly resents Madonna and is not - repeat "not" - a lesbian. She's been fondled by James Woods and alarmingly will use the phrase "Woof! Woof!" Meet the people,
Debbie "Deborah" Harry.
"It's sort of like a lapdog, isn't it?"
chuckles Blondie's Debbie Harry, tugging at a black
furry hat recently acquired in London. "I was
just wearing it in a shop and Chrissie Hynde's fucking
fur song came on and it made me feel really guilty...
We have already seen Debbie Harry once today. Twenty
minutes ago, in the middle of West London's King's
Road, Harry had the hat half-pulled over her eyes and
her black collar up, looking like a bewildered shopper
ready to head off in 10 different directions at once.
It was only the sight of Blondie's keyboard player
Jimmy Destri parked on a pub bench with an Our Price
bag, that alerted Q to the fact that the legendary sex
bomb-turned-new wave matron was only an arm's length
The same air of skittish curiosity impresses at
Chelsea Harbour's Conrad Hotel, where in a few minutes
Harry points out Damien Hirst's boat on the quay,
reveals that she's reading Irvine Welsh's Ecstasy, and
holds forth on the junkie population of Sydney's
King's Cross district, sharpening each subject with
quick East Coast humour and a soft, batty laugh.
Overall, she comes over like a genetic cross between
Marilyn Monroe and Andy Kaufman. Almost 20 years since
Heart Of Glass was Blondie's first UK Number 1 single,
and on the eve of their latest single, Maria,
repeating the process, Debbie Harry is still
What was it like being a Bunny Girl?
It was an interesting experience. I made some
money, but I never viewed it as a career.
Did your real parents try and get in touch with you
once you were famous?
Charlie Beaumont, Blackpool
No. I don't think they know who I am, and I don't
know who they are. My adoptive mother died last year,
and she's the person who gave me all the stuff that
made me the person I am. I can see if you were
desperate and lonely you might feel that search and
reunion would be necessary... but I've had a good
I was told that you were once in a car with Ted
Bundy (notorious US serial killer). Is this true?
Melissa Moloney, Dublin
It was a scary moment in my life. I'd just thought
I'd gotten away from some lunatic and then years later
I read a piece in Newsweek which described the modus
operandi of Ted Bundy and I realised that it was the
man I'd been in the car with. Basically I was in an
area of New York where there weren't cabs - way over
on the East Side in Alphabet City. It was in the
early-'70s and I was wearing these very high platform
shoes and having a hard time walking. I even took my
shoes off and was walking barefoot and that was just
as bad. I couldn't get a cab and this man kept
circling and coming back, saying, Do you want a ride?
I kept saying no. About the fourth or fifth time he
came back and I realised I wasn't going to get a cab
so I got in the car. When I got in it was very hot and
I realised the windows were all closed except for a
fraction. I looked down to open one and there were no
handles. Then I stared around the inside of the car
and it was completely stripped out. I remember the
hackles on the back of my neck standing up. He smelled
awful, he had this incredible odour. So I wriggled my
arm out through this little crack and opened the door
from the outside. I don't know how I did it, but I
saved my life.
When did you last take heroin?
Stephen Parkin, Jarrow
Not since 1984. When Chris Stein (ex-partner and
Blondie guitarist) was very sick I did some heroin
then. I took it in the late-'60s, then not at all
through the Blondie time. When Chris got ill, I was
very stressed out. But I never dabble, ever. When you
take habit-forming drugs then you usually have a
habit. These people who claim they're dabbling, it's
just bullshit. I was quite low and made the decision
to go into therapy.
What's the story behind your feud with Patti Smith?
Derek Carrell, Dublin
I don't have a feud with Patti Smith. I made some
joking remark fairly recently about me and Patti being
lesbian lovers and I don't think some people saw that
as humour. There was a bit of rivalry between us in
the late-'70s. Patti was very competitive and she was
much higher up in the food chain so the fact that she
was concerned by me was a bit surprising. She probably
didn't take anyone very seriously except herself.
We're on much better terms now, but we're not lovers.
I swear I'm not a lesbian.
Did your first manager Peter Leeds rip you off?
Mandy Hodge, Reading
He made us distrust one another. He told the boys
they could all be replaced, I was the only one that
was important. From then on they were always a bit
afraid of what might happen. His method of management
was divide and conquer. But I can't say that he went
into the cash drawer and took the money.
There was an ad in the British music press in 1977
of you in a "seductive" pose and the
tag-line, "Wouldn't you like to rip her to
shreds?" Did you have to deal with a lot of
misogynist crap like that?
Pamela Tandy, Wrexham
Yes. Probably at the time I was very unused to that
kind of sensationalism but you get hardened to it.
It's press, as they say in the business. But
journalists didn't used to go on about my breasts the
way they do these days when they're writing about Geri
Spice Girl or Madonna. So I think I had it easy.
What was the best time in Blondie?
Angie Pearce, Birmingham
Probably the night we were in Milan and Mike
Chapman (Blondie's producer) happened to be there, so
he says, and that was the night we found out that
Heart of Glass went to Number 1 in America.
We're always hearing stories about Chris Stein's
health. What was actually wrong with the poor feller?
Roger Yeots, Lincoln
He had a disease called pemphigus vulgaris. It
comes from stress. They didn't know whether it was
genetic or viral and it was kind of rare. Until the
invention of steroids it was terminal, so I'm very
happy that steroids were around to cure him. We
couldn't do Blondie without Chris. He was the one who
initiated most of the groundbreaking musical things we
did and a lot of the time he was the one who had to
fight to push them through, and it took its toll on
Why weren't Frank Infante (Blondie's rhythm
guitarist) and Nigel Harrison (bassist) not invited
back to the newly re-formed Blondie?
Derek Culshaw, Wigan
Frank was not in the 1982 version of the band. He'd
already left. Nigel was considered and asked but he
said that he had a career working at the record
company, Interscope. I think I saw Nigel once or twice
in that entire period between us splitting up and
getting back together again. At present they're both
suing us, saying that they are entitled to money made
from the name. We're fighting and that's all I can
Koo Koo: nice artwork, shame about the album?
Patricia Rush, Hackney
Piss off. I love that record. The mix is bad but
the material is great. But Chrysalis didn't want me to
have a solo career, and right after Koo Koo was
released, Ebony & Ivory came out with a big push
on black and white doing it together, and they
completely missed the boat because Koo Koo was exactly
the same thing. Only Chic (Harry's collaborators on
Koo Koo) were so much smarter, they were a parallel to
Did you feel usurped by Madonna?
Louise Lawrence, Scarborough
Yes, in her early days when she was doing her
Marilyn thing and being very blonde, she clearly took
over my territory. That was upsetting because I really
didn't know what to do and I was so down and out at
that point. In retrospect I think she caused me a few
problems at my American label, Warners, because they
were so heavily involved in Madonna it affected the
level of promotion I got from them. And for the
record, I'm not having a lesbian relationship with
Why did you change your name to Deborah for a bit?
Jessica HOwells, Walcot
Because my real name is Deborah and I'm much older,
more sophisticated person now, heh, heh. Actually I
just got sick of Debbie because it sounds so cute and
I wanted to make a break between Blondie and my solo
career, so I called myself Deborah. It didn't work,
God damn it. I never said to my friends, Call me
Deborah now, no. Most of them call me schmuck.
Did you have to be very careful when having
"relations" with Chris Stein, since he was a
Oliver Sargent, Dundee
Take it and shove it...
Chrysalis Records: were you humped or did you jump?
Stuart Murdoch, Mauchline
Woof woof! It wasn't all bad with Chrysalis, they
did a good job on promoting Blondie and introducing it
in such a way that our reputation has remained. We
still exist today because of the way they marketed us.
They sometimes made us change things, like we had a
great cover - for Plastic Letters, I think - we shot
it out in LA and I didn't have a dress so I just took
a pillow case and I stripped gaffer tape on it, made
me it into this little white dress with gaffer tape
all over it and I had my hair all sticking out. They
just said, Too punk, and we had to re-do it.
Are you currently in a relationship?
Gary Bell, Colchester
I am not having a lesbian relationship with anyone.
Are you honestly back playing again because you
enjoy it so much, or do you really need the money?
Stephen Rudd, East Yorkshire
We always want the money. Working for money is a
good thing, it's what we all do because it's survival.
But there was a lot more to it than just wanting the
money. EMI were putting out yet another Best Of
package, so we went to them with the idea of us giving
them two new songs and to try and upgrade our deal
because we were working on a percentage decided in the
late-'70s. Initially, the UK record company were very
interested and we did a couple of tracks with Nick
Rhodes and Warren Cuccurullo from Duran Duran but then
EMI closed in the States and the deal fell through. So
we took it to Capitol but they said they didn't like
the material and weren't interested. One of the songs
was a blatant attempt to link up with the Studio 54
movie project and the other one was a ballad. Anyway,
we all got to know each other a bit and it sort of
grew from there over a two-year period.
Do you feel bad about the way you've treated Gary
Valentine (original bassist) over the years. Or is he
Olga Darrow, Poole, Dorset
Dear oh dear. No, I don't feel bad about the way
I've treated him. Gary wanted to leave Blondie, and
he's gotten money from his publishing and his shares
of the Blondie business. In fact I think it helped pay
for his Masters Degree and now he's a freelance
writer. I think Gary's fine. We invited him back into
the band when we started working with Duran Duran
because he was our obvious first choice but it just
didn't work out musically so he's not part of the
current line-up. But he's not insufferable; he's
funny, he's cute.
Playing live again, what Blondie single do you like
performing the most?
Jason Leatherbarrow, Liverpool
Rapture. It was our tribute to Grade B sci-fi
movies but you'll have to ask Chris about that. I
wrote the pretty toe-to-toe part, he did the fucking
Man From Mars bits.
We're expecting a baby on April 15, have you got
any suggestions for names?
Maria & Kent Harris, Twickenham
If it's a girl Eurydice. If it's a boy Orpheus.
What did you think of the Hay-On-Wye literary
festival you attended in 1998?
Keith Ogden. Brecon, Wales
It was great. I got to meet P.D.James, queen of
mystery. We played a good Jazz Passengers gig there.
I'd never been to that part of Wales before.
Are there any more film roles in the pipeline, and
which do you consider your best and worst films?
Darran Markey, Oswestry
I have one on the way called Six Ways To Sunday
that was shown at a film festival here back in
November. I think my best one is Videodrome or
Hairspray. People have asked me if I actually burned
myself with a cigerette in Videodrome and I can't
believe it. It's all fantasy, kids. The worst one is
Phone Sex, a TV movie starring James Russo.
Potentially it was good but it really didn't turn out
Do you regret not having children?
Suzi Scoones, Oxford
Yes. It's a long story. I'd rather not go into it.
What has been your all-time high and your all-time
Joe Cushnan, Worksop
The low point was when Chris was sick after the
break-up of Blondie. A personal high-point was when I
presented a Grammy Award to Rickie Lee Jones and my
co-presenter was George Burns, whom I've always
When I was about 15 a schoolfriend of mine showed
me some nude pictures of you in a men's magazine. I am
now 33. Does that make you feel old?
Jim Brakell, Ellesmere Port
Not especially, no. I think I'm very fortunate in
that I went through my "old" phase when I
was in my twenties. I used to feel very old then, and
now I don't think about it very often. If I do it's,
Oh, God, when am I going to start to really look bad?
When am I going to turn to a pile of rot? But most of
the time I'm busy and happy with what I'm doing and,
well, lucky me.