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People.co.uk - 13th July 2008
BLONDIE: I'VE HAD BAA-TOX
Black sheep jabs must be what keeps me so young and fit.. says DEBBIE HARRY Pop veteran on a bizarre medical boost and her long-time rivalry with Madonna EXCLUSIVE
By Garth Pearce
Debbie Harry is back in Britain with band Blondie on a mission - to reclaim her crown from Madonna as the Queen of Pop.
Back in the mid-1980s, Madonna ousted Debbie in the fame game when she took time out to nurse her then boyfriend and fellow band member Chris Stein through illness.
Now, at 63, Debbie is ready to fight back against the Material Girl who, at a mere 49, is 14 years her junior.
If energy and determination are anything to go by, it's going to be some contest. So just how has Debbie - who first started in pop 40 years ago - kept looking so young, when others of her age are picking up their bus pass?
She jokingly wonders if some black sheep cell injections which she had, half a lifetime ago, have finally done the trick.
"I had these cells injected in to me in my early thirties," Debbie reveals. "I read that the famous heart surgeon Christian Barnard was involved in a Swiss clinic researching fresh cell replacement.
"I went along to Switzerland to have a course of 11 injections, from the embryos of black sheep.
"They would take from the liver, glands, bone and whatever and make up these injections.
"It turned out that I was the youngest person to ever have the treatment. Whether that treatment lasted this long, I don't know. But I feel great."
She's also taking a tip from Madonna with work-outs at the gym. But she has avoided her rival's non-stop toning, to the point of unsightly muscles bulging in her arms and legs.
"When I am on tour, I have enough cardio work just on stage," says Debbie. "But I did have a work-out at a gym before our show in Helsinki, in Finland.
"Back at home in New York, I train about three or four times a week. I also love dancing. I am very fortunate and appreciate good health.
"I try and look after myself and don't drink much, apart from the odd glass of champagne."
Debbie had stacked up a succession of No 1 hits including The Tide Is High, Sunday Girl and Atomic, before she had to stop touring for boyfriend Chris's sake.
Madonna sneaked in to the void with her 1984 hits Holiday and Like a Virgin.
Her career then went in to overdrive, with Material Girl and Into the Groove.
By the time Debbie returned with Blondie in 1997, with Chris recovered from a potentially fatal skin disease, Madonna was the world's most successful female artist. Debbie says: "I had been performing all along, with one or two solo albums. But we could not get back with Blondie because of legal problems.
"We had publishing issues, messy record company deals, management problems. I think that is one of the things that Madonna was very smart about.
"She understood the business and made good business decisions from the get-go.
That is something she can be commended for."
Debbie admits she was "kind of shocked and not very happy" at Madonna stealing her thunder at such a critical time.
But she adds: "Madonna has been complimentary about me over the years and that compensates.
"She says that she listens to me for inspiration and I have to take that as a compliment.
But we are vastly different.
"I have seen her play. I think she is a very talented, very organised person and takes no prisoners. She puts on a great big show - a very showbizzy show." As for Blondie, they are now back on top form as they tour through Europe and take in Moscow and Tel Aviv for good measure.
Here in Britain, they will play the Motor Show Music Festival on July 28. It is one of 12 huge rock events, with bands such as UB40, Status Quo, Deep Purple and Meat Loaf performing on successive nights.
However, it's predicted that Blondie will surprise even their own diehard fans, for as Debbie says: "We sound better than ever.
"We are having a great tour and I can't remember enjoying myself on stage more than this."
Debbie lives alone these days. The irony is that long-term boyfriend Chris, now 58, eventually married actress Barbara Sicuranza in 1999. But Debbie is godparent to their daughter Akira and there's no feeling of resentment, as Chris still plays alongside her in the band.
"I never like to rake over the past," says Debbie. "I prefer to live for today and tomorrow, not yesterday. It is a life spirit thing not to think about regrets.
"I am writing my autobiography at the moment and it's very hard. There is so much to remember and I never kept journals.
"There are hours of story after story to tell. When I am sitting around with the band members, the stories and memories come out and I try to remember."
Debbie joined her first band, Wind in the Willows, in 1968. Did she ever think she would still be touring on her 40th anniversary in pop?
"I have always appreciated longevity," she says. "I never thought that rock 'n' roll was just for the young, even when I was young myself.
"I always respected the jazz artists and R&B performers who were around at the time, who were in their sixties or seventies at that point.
"Even the autographs I have asked for have been people like Jack Lemmon, Orson Welles and Lauren Bacall. I admire people who can survive and grow."
Debbie also admires young talent, whether the performers be singers or actors.
"I did the Today show in America with Lily Allen and she's lovely," she says. "I love her album, her wit and sense of herself. She has such an interesting voice. I do not think she needs my advice, because she is already terrific. There is so much talent out there.
"Look at the actress, Scarlett Johansson. We have talked and she is an exceptional girl. She is so young, but has a depth of understanding that goes beyond her years.
"It is the same with Kirsten Dunst, who was going to play me in a film.
"Face-wise, she could pull it off because we have the same sort of cheekboney kind of face.
"She is very sweet, with a warm personality.
"These girls are showing that there is a conveyor belt of talent out there that will be the next generation."
It is clear that Debbie has also won their respect. Kirsten Dunst - talented star of the Spider Man movies - told me late last year that, if the film on Debbie's life does materialise, it would be her "dream role of all time".
But, in the meantime, Debbie is winning rave reviews for the Blondie tour. The band play a string of their classic hits including Denis, Hanging on the Telephone, and The Tide is High.
There might be regrets in her long career, but Debbie refuses to dwell on them.
"Mistakes?" she says. "I have made so many damn mistakes that anyone with any sense would have walked away from all this years ago. But I can't let go."
People.co.uk - 13th July 2008