When Debbie Harry of Blondie recently traveled to England for a music tour, she gave a great, long interview to the Daily Mail there. Amongst chat about days as a Playboy Bunny, her relationships, her early gigs with famous rock stars, is the below bit about a young woman on her own in Manhattan. She apparently lived through the real-life(?) urban fright tale that all of us young women in the city crossed our fingers would never happen to us.
I bet Debbie would have a great First Apartment New York City (FANYC) story to share!
How I survived heroin, a serial killer and losing all money – to play Glastonbury… at 68: Debbie Harry on her amazing career
She may be 68, but Debbie Harry’s famous cheekbones, blonde hair and pouty lips still spell sexy – loud and clear. She’s one of rock ’n’ roll’s great survivors, but her astonishing 40-year career with Blondie nearly ended before it began when she jumped into the back of a car driven by a serial killer.
‘It was the early Seventies, maybe ’72. I was trying to get across town to a party. It was two or three o’clock in the morning and I was staggering around on huge platform shoes.
‘This car kept circling around and some guy was offering me a ride. I kept refusing, but finally I took the ride because I couldn’t get a cab.
I got in the car and the windows were all rolled up, except for a tiny crack. And this guy had an incredibly bad smell to him.
‘I looked down at the door to crank open the window, and there were no door handles and no cranks. Then I started scanning the inside of the car and there was absolutely nothing.
‘The inside of the car was completely stripped and the hair on the back of my neck just stood up.
‘I wiggled my arm out the window and opened the door from the outside. I don’t know how I did it but I got out.
‘He tried to stop me by stepping on the gas and spinning the car but it sort of helped me fling myself out. I fell out and nearly got run over by a cab.
‘Afterwards I saw him on the news. Ted Bundy: responsible for at least 30 homicides. I could so easily have been one his earliest victims.’
* * *
‘When Blondie first made it big, I figured we could get five years out of it, maximum. I had no idea it would turn into such a journey.’
She left suburban New Jersey in the mid-Sixties, and arrived in New York with vague dreams of stardom, but it would take her more than ten years to make a mark.
Pre-Blondie, she dabbled in painting, took a stab at singing in a folk-rock group and even worked for nine months as a Playboy bunny girl.
Along the way she dabbled in heroin. Her fortunes began to change in the spring of 1974, when she met guitarist Chris Stein, who became her boyfriend and creative partner in Blondie.
They emerged from the downtown New York punk scene, along with The Ramones and Talking Heads, but it would take four years for Blondie to make their international breakthrough with the album Parallel Lines, which spawned a slew of timeless hits including Heart Of Glass, Sunday Girl and Hanging On The Telephone.
‘Fame didn’t hit me all at once,’ she says. ‘It crept up on me. It was only when we first toured the UK in 1977 that I realised something was stirring.
‘We were supporting Squeeze, who then had Jools Holland on keyboards. The first town we played was Bournemouth.
‘I’d never travelled abroad, so that little seaside town seemed impossibly exotic to me. We had no idea we had any kind of following in the UK, so we were totally unprepared for the crazed reception we got.
‘The energy coming from that crowd was like nothing I’d ever experienced. It was beyond my wildest imaginings.’
Was there a downside to being in a punk band?
‘Well, I could have done without the spitting at gigs. It was meant to be a compliment but I didn’t like it.’