Enraptured: A Look Back at Debbie Harry

By
Photography Christopher Makos

Published September 21, 2012

Like a favorite pair of blue jeans, the cabaret was a place where people felt comfortable. To celebrate their 10-year anniversary, Hudson Jeans have adopted this free-spirited mentality with the launch of the “Hudson Cabaret” —a tribute to pushing past the boundaries and living a life free of inhibition.  Always a fan of self-expression, anniversaries, and bon-vivant,  Interview searched our archives for our favorite moments with the most rebellious and denim-loving subjects; those who stray from the usual rules of society and “let themselves go.”

“I’d be walking down the street with Debbie and she’d just turn it on and everyone would recognize her. Then she’d turn it off and they wouldn’t recognize her at all. She’d have these great ideas, like wearing Jayne Mansfield kind of high heels with the heels knocked off so that her shoes looked really elfin… and she’s still so beautiful. No matter how beautiful another person can be, Debbie will always be the most remarkable beauty. Because it’s like the sunshine to the moon, you know, the sun comes up and the moon is eclipsed. She is a goddess: She has a heart of gold and she is never unkind to people. She has this wonderful sweetness, too. She’s really smart and she doesn’t have to prove it to anybody.” —Tina Weymouth, the former bassist of ’70s and ’80s mega-band the Talking Heads, October 10, 1996.

As lead singer of the New York new-wave punk group Blondie, Debbie Harry has many claims to fame—she is one of the few women in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, one of the first pop singers to incorporate rap with her song “Rapture” (in the words of Fred “Fab Five Freddy” Braithwaite, Harry “introduced the idea of rapping to the mainstream public. She whet the palate”) and, somehow, made a disco song, “Heart of Glass,” into an ageless classic.

Harry’s influence, however, extends far beyond music; she is truly a pop-culture icon of individualism. Beautiful but rebellious, popular and punk, Debbie Harry remains a muse to artists and fashion designers, as well as musicians. Indeed, would we know the name of graffiti artist Stephen Sprouse had Harry not donned his cut-up clothing on stage at CBGB’s? And think of all the trends that has inspired—from No Doubt’s Rock Steady cover to Louis Vuitton’s LV graffiti bags. Here, we recall some of our favorite conversations with Harry since we first met in the late ’70s until the early 2000s, when Harry interviewed The Strokes for us.

AGE: 67

HOMETOWN: Miami, FL

GIRLHOOD CRUSHES: I liked all sorts of men, all different ages: Clark Gable, Cary Grant for some things, Dean Martin. [Blondalicious, June 1977]

MUSICAL TASTES: I liked more animalistic music like the Runaways. They’re great; not a put-on at all. The Cramps are good. An it’s really unfortunate because we’re working all the time now and we don’t get a chance to hang out in the scenes to see all the up and coming groups. Suicide, Al Suicide, now he’s interesting. You know you should check out Silver Apples. Now they’re a cross between Suicide, Underground, and Talking Heads. [Blondalicious, June 1977]

STARTING OUT: The first album was a big experiment. Everyone contributed to it. The thing in philosophy has always been Thesis, Synthesis, Antithesis, and that’s inevitable. [Blondalicious, June 1977]

REVIEWS: I always found it sort of disturbing to read stuff while I was doing shows—all of a sudden the things I’d read would flash in front of my face in the middle of a song and I’d forget where I was, and go [gasps]. Like shock therapy. [The Strokes, March 2002]

COINCIDENCE AND ESP: I don’t know if that’s ESP, but I think ideas are in the wind and connections are meant to happen. [Stephen Sprouse and Stephen Ashby by Debbie Harry, June 1990]

THE BUSINESS OF POP: I’m in this for the business or else I’d be out having a good time, right? Business is foremost for me right now. I’m not here to be a heavy freak-out artist or play games. I don’t want anyone running around spreading gossip about me. [Blondalicious, June 1977]

IGGY POP: His body is fabulous, way superior to those inflatos in Pumping Iron. It’s amazing the muscles he has delineating each of his ribs. He’s a very emphatic person in many ways. [Blondalicious, June 1977]

LOU REED’S “LOOK OF DEATH”: I don’t think he means it that way. I think the muscles in his face are just always very relaxed, and you know when you’re really relaxed, your face looks kind of serious… We’re acquaintances in a nice way, and I’ve seen him over the years. I like him. I think he’s great. [The Strokes, March 2002]