The Ticket - Daily Mirror Friday 7th
CURSE OF THE
Written by: Gavin Martin
AFTER SUCCESS AND PERSONAL TRAUMAS, DEBBIE HARRY
AND BLONDIE HAVE SOMEHOW SURVIVED. BY GAVIN MARTIN.
It is now more than 30 years since New York art
student Chris Stein met former beautician and bunny
girl Deborah Ann Harry and became the oddest couple in
pop. He was the nerdy, bespectacled amateur
photographer and guitarist, she was the vivacious
Marilyn Monroe-influenced glamour queen who simply
oozed sex appeal and had a voice to match.
Blondie, the band they formed, revolutionised pop
in the '70s and early '80s. Debbie was the sort of
female sex symbol who'd never been seen fronting a
real rock band, and she and Stein had the guts and
ingenuity to merge their punk rock roots with disco,
reggae and rap.
This combination spawned classics such as Heart Of
Glass, Atomic (she was the original pop kitten) and
Hanging On The Telephone. Their sales surpassed 40
million and everyone from Madonna to The Strokes owes
them a huge debt.
Their 1999 return with the No 1 single Maria
underlined Blondie's incredible knack for survival.
Like any group who have lasted three decades, they've
had their run-ins with drugs, suffered management
problems, seen their popularity dip and band members
But what makes Blondie a little different is that
for the first decade of their career, Chris and Debbie
were lovers. The relationship ended in 1986 after
Harry had nursed Stein for three years as he fought
the potentially fatal skin condition Pemphigus
Debbie pursued a solo career, became an
increasingly respected actress and changed her name to
Deborah. She admits to "a few intimacies"
since their split, but it was Chris who got married
and settled down. Now 53, he has just become a proud
father for the first time, to a three-month-old baby
Harry and Stein are sitting together on the sofa of
a swanky London hotel suite, here to celebrate the
release of their eighth album. The Curse Of Blondie.
Ignoring the name change, Chris still calls his former
partner Debbie. And although 58, Harry still has
enough beauty, magnetism and stage presence to be the
envy of performers young enough to be her
granddaughters. But she must find it odd still working
with the man who was once her lover.
"It's always been strange, right from the
start," grins Debbie, and Chris signs,
"That's one way to look at it. She always has a
But why did they split up? They admit they had
talked about having kids, so don't they regret not
making a go of it?
"It was a difficult period," admits
Debbie. "We actually should have gone into
therapy or counselling and maybe we would have
weathered that storm. We worked very hard for a long
time without any breaks and I think I was probably
having some minor nervous breakdown. Or maybe it was a
Although she was already in her thirties when she
became a pop icon, Harry says fame hit her hard.
"People these days become famous so
young," she frowns. "I was probably keen to
be famous when I was that age too, but fame to me
meant getting a sense of worth or satisfaction.
"But it really was just a lot of work always
being propelled at a faster rate - an unnatural rate -
trying to keep up. It was like being marched straight
into the sea, always facing deadlines and so on."
Although she's now hailed as the woman who started
a rock'n'roll sexual revolution, reaction wasn't
"It was a double-edged sword and sometimes it
worked against us," Debbie says. "I think I
was totally innocuous compared to all the exploitation
that goes on today. Christina Aguilera enjoys the way
she looks but some of the girls are styled in ways
that maybe they don't feel that comfortable with. I
can't be judgmental about any of it because that is
very hard on the brain."
Both Chris and Debbie admit the current album and
tour are a chance to claw back some of the money they
never got during their heyday. But what they did
experience was all the sex, drugs and rock'n'roll
action New York had to offer.
Dead junkies such as Sid Vicious's girlfriend Nancy
Spungen and Dee Dee Ramone were among their friends,
and they hung out with art literary legends such as
Andy Warhol and William Burroughs.
"The drug experience was edifying and
illuminating, but the other side of that is that it
was habitual and destroys brain cells," says
Debbie frankly. "Did I have a drug of choice?
Well, I chose a lot of drugs!"
Chris thinks that there should be research done
into the mind-expanding possibilities of LSD, and
Debbie was once a willing guinea pig. "I had
revelations on LSD about the size of things,"
says Debbie. "You realise that your relative
importance in terms of the universe is really small. I
don't do drugs now because I eventually found I'm not
interested. I'm glad I learned that and I'm also glad
I took drugs. I can only speak from my own
One day she may even write her autobiography. So
could we expect any juicy revelations?
"If I'm candid and I can remember
anything," she laughs.
While Stein is bringing up a baby, Debbie still
lives alone in New York. She enjoys performing and
acting more than ever, as well as fighting the ageism
which she says is fife, particularly in the music
When at home, she likes riding her pushbike around
the city, taking her dogs for a walk and spending time
So is it like Sex And The City when her posse hit
"Nothing is like Sex And The City," she
says. "Unless it's four gay guys having a weekend
together," laughs Chris.
But when I raise the subject of having kids, Debbie
looks glassy-eyed. She devoted so much of her earlier
life to her career and looking after Chris, does she
regret not finding time for motherhood?
"In some ways," she replies, "but at
the time I wasn't really ready to be a parent. I am
now. I could handle it quite well, but I don't think I
could have back then."
Realising it's a sensitive subject, Chris jokes,
"If you put a note on the internet a whole lot of
them will show up."
But then Debbie snaps out of it. After all, she's
meant to be a tough survivor.
"I don't feel frustrated," she says.
"If I want to have children I can always adopt.
Or I can go out and steal them. I'm sure there's
someone who would give me theirs."