Obvious History: Did Debbie Harry have a near-fatal brush with Ted Bundy?
In collaboration with @velvetcoke, Obvious History is a weekly series which unearths forgotten moments in pop culture’s past, where the famous and the fascinating collided.
In 1972, when hitchhiking didn’t always lead to certain death, Blondie frontwoman Debbie Harry climbed into a stranger’s car on New York’s Avenue C in the East Village after failing to hail a cab. Behind the wheel was a well-dressed man with gorgeous, curly dark hair.
Her original account of the potentially fatal event was detailed in a newspaper published in 1989. “This was back in the early ’70s,” she said. “I wasn’t even in a band then … I was trying to get across town to an after-hours club. A little white car pulls up, and the guy offers me a ride. So I just continued to try to flag a cab down. But he was very persistent, and he asked where I was going. It was only a couple of blocks away, and he said, ‘Well I’ll give you a ride.’”
“I got in the car, and it was summertime and the windows were all rolled up except about an inch and a half at the top. So I was sitting there and he wasn’t really talking to me. Automatically, I sort of reached to roll down the window and I realized there was no door handle, no window crank, no nothing. The inside of the car was totally stripped out.”
She also noticed there was a hole where the radio and glove compartment should be. She felt unsafe and decided she had to get out—and fast. To escape, she thrust her arm out of the window and opened it up from the outside. “As soon as he saw that, he tried to turn the corner really fast, and I spun out of the car and landed in the middle of the street.”
Harry had only reached Avenue A—two avenues over. Later, she realized that she had been in the back seat of serial killer Ted Bundy’s car—or so she thought.
“It was right after his execution that I read about him,” she said. “I hadn’t thought about that incident in years. The whole description of how he operated and what he looked like and the kind of car he drove and the time frame he was doing that in that area of the country fit exactly. I said, ‘My God, it was him.’”
In the time since, the rumor that she took a late night joyride with Bundy has been debunked. Bundy was never known to be in New York, and wasn’t abducting or killing women until at least 1974. Harry herself even admits that the car she was picked up in didn’t match Bundy’s Volkswagen, which later went on display at the Alcatraz East Crime Museum.
“I’m pretty sure that it wasn’t [Bundy’s Volkswagen]. It didn’t have the same dashboard. It was squarer,” she told RuPaul on an episode of his podcast RuPaul: What’s The Tee?.
Harry only wanted a ride because after a night out, her shoes made it difficult to walk. “I had on max platforms … max!” Harry recalled. “I was way over by Avenue C and Houston. In those days, there was broken glass everywhere. I couldn’t take my shoes off to walk. I tried, that was impossible. So I kept trying to get a cab.”
Her near escape may have ended up nightmarishly different, but it’s almost certain the infamous killer wasn’t chauffeuring Blondie to a late night afterparty.