In 2019 Debbie Harry – one of the most iconic frontwomen in rock history – released her long-awaited autobiography. And the Blondie singer certainly didn’t hold anything back. In fact, Harry dropped a number of bombshells in Face It, concerning everything from her substance abuse to an apparent near-miss with serial killer Ted Bundy. The songstress made a number of allegations about her fellow pop stars, too – and they’’ll likely leave you in shock.
Even in her mid-seventies, Harry still very much looks and acts the rock icon. And she continues to tour and record with the musicians who she first made her name with. Fans still seem to hold a special place in their hearts for Blondie, too: in 2017 the band peaked at number four in the U.K. with their 11th studio effort, Pollinator. What’s more, they also hit the road to promote the record.
Interestingly, Harry even made the news in 2018 for publicly opposing plans to build soccer pitches at her beloved Stevenson Park. Yes, the singer – alongside others – managed to inspire the local council in Middletown, New Jersey, to rethink the idea. But long before Harry was making headlines for her local politics, she was regularly in the news for very different reasons.
When Harry came into the world in 1945, though, she was given the slightly less rock star-sounding name of Angela Tremble. And she was awarded her more familiar moniker when she was adopted at the tender age of three months by her parents Catherine and Richard. Harry did reach out to her birth mom in her mid-forties, but the woman sadly didn’t want to forge a relationship.
After graduating with an arts degree from New Jersey’s Centenary College, Harry relocated to the Big Apple. There, she worked as a secretary, go-go dancer and waitress. The aspiring singer enjoyed a brief stint as a Playboy Bunny, too. And as the 1960s ended, Harry sang as a back-up vocalist for folk outfit The Wind in the Willows.
However, in the mid-1970s she took center stage when she performed alongside her future boyfriend Chris Stein in The Stilettoes. The pair later founded another outfit, Angel and the Snake, before forming the group that would eventually provide Harry with her big break. Named after the catcall that was constantly directed at Harry, Blondie soon built up a following at New York’s CBGB club.
And as their striking frontwoman, Harry was undoubtedly an integral part of the band’s success. With her bleached blonde haircut, flamboyant fashion sense and model cheekbones, she certainly looked the part. But her powerful voice ensured that she could walk the walk, too. Soon, then, Harry found herself being hailed as an icon of the punk movement.
However, when Blondie’s eponymous debut album hit the shelves in 1976, it was awarded little fanfare. But their 1977 sophomore Plastic Letters found a much wider audience, while 1978’s Parallel Lines launched them to superstardom. In fact, its lead single, disco classic “Heart of Glass,” even topped the U.S. Hot 100 – shifting around two million copies.
Happily, Harry and her bandmates continued to enjoy success into the new decade. Yes, the group scored further number ones including “Call Me,” “Atomic,” “The Tide is High” and “Rapture.” And this last tune – featuring graffiti maestro Fab Five Freddy – is often credited as one of the first mainstream hip-hop hits. Blondie also conquered the charts worldwide with albums Eat to the Beat and Autoamerican.
By this point, Harry had also forged a creative relationship with Andy Warhol. Indeed, the artist helped to immortalize the Blondie star with a series of striking artworks. And this came after a photoshoot at his famous studio The Factory. But Harry returned the favor by guesting on his MTV show: Andy Warhol’s Fifteen Minutes.
In 1981 the singer went solo with her LP Kookoo – produced by Chic’s Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers. The album proved a modest hit on both sides of the Atlantic, and it even spawned the U.S. Hot 100 singles “Backfired” and “The Jam Was Moving.” However, many stores decided against selling the record due to its provocative cover art: the album featured a series of skewers penetrating Harry’s face.
The next year saw Harry briefly return to Blondie when she recorded 1982’s The Hunter. But disappointing record and ticket sales – as well as Stein’s ongoing battle with the autoimmune disease pemphigus – caused the band to split soon after. Subsequently, Harry spent the majority of her time looking after her desperately ill boyfriend and ex-bandmate.
However, the Giorgio Moroder-produced single “Rush Rush” – and a leading part in a horror film – kept Harry in the spotlight. And in 1986 she issued her sophomore Rockbird, scoring a Top 10 U.K. hit with the single “French Kissin’ in the USA.” Then, a year later, Harry appeared alongside Alec Baldwin as the title character in comedy Forever, Lulu.
And it seemed that Harry had finally found her niche. That’s because she continued to alternate between the music and film worlds throughout the decade. For instance, she contributed to the soundtracks of Married to the Mob and Rock and Rule as well as appearing as Velma Von Tussle in John Waters’ musical cult classic Hairspray. At the end of the decade, the singer even scored another solo hit with “I Want That Man” – taken from her LP Def, Dumb and Blonde.
In the early 1990s Harry added to her filmography, too, bagging roles in Tales from the Darkside: The Movie and Body Bags. What’s more, she supported INXS at Wembley Stadium and recorded a fourth solo LP: Debravation. And the rock icon became a prolific collaborator, lending her tones to tracks by The Jazz Passengers, Robert Jacks, and The Heads. But it seems that the band that had first given her a taste of fame wasn’t too far from her mind.
Yes, Harry helped Blondie stage a glorious comeback. The original line-up hit the studio together for the first time since 1982 to record their belated seventh LP. And the wait proved to be worth it; 1999’s No Exit spawned a U.K. number one single in the shape of “Maria.” Subsequently, Harry remained just as busy in the 2000s.
After all, in the noughties Harry guested on albums by Andy Summers, Bill Ware and Dan Zanes & Friends. The singer recorded Blondie’s eighth studio effort The Curse of Blondie, too, and resumed her solo career with 2007’s Necessary Evil. And Harry also embarked on a global tour with another ’80s pop icon: Cyndi Lauper.
Mind you, the singer’s talents were utilized by a whole new generation of high profile musical names. For example, Harry appeared on Fall Out Boy’s Folie a Deux, and she also made waves when she shared the stage with Arcade Fire at the 2014 Coachella Festival. Then came a collaboration with Moby on an ode to the Big Apple with “New York, New York.” And if that wasn’t enough, Blondie released 2011’s Panic of Girls, 2014’s Ghosts of Download and 2017’s Pollinator.
Alongside Harry’s prolific music and film output, she has also been keen to use her celebrity for the greater good. For instance, in 2011 the singer announced that she would be devoting more time to charities that deal with endometriosis and cancer. She reportedly said to The Sun in that year, “These things are important to my life now. I have the privilege of being able to get involved, so I do.” However, it wasn’t until 2019 that Harry decided to release a tell-all book.
Yes, Harry added author to her list of many talents when she published her long-awaited memoir. And as you would expect from a book authored by such an influential rock star, Face It wasn’t your typical musician’s autobiography. In fact, Harry seemingly had no problem sharing everything about her professional and personal life – no matter how challenging the subject matter. Of course, being an autobiography she had a little help from a music writer: one Sylvie Simmons.
In the memoir, Harry addresses a range of hard-hitting topics, including being put up for adoption and her struggles with substance abuse. One of the book’s most shocking recollections, however, is when Harry describes being threatened by a stalker ex-boyfriend with a gun. And then there was the moment when she apparently had a close call with one of America’s most notorious serial killers.
Yes, Harry has repeatedly described how she very nearly fell victim to Ted Bundy in the 1970s. Furthermore, the memoir addresses the skepticism surrounding her claim. She writes, “My story has been debunked since, because Bundy is said to have been in Florida at that time and not NYC. But it was him.” But that’s not all: Harry then turns her attention to her fellow celebrities.
In fact, Face It features several salacious stories about the showbiz world. And Harry reveals that she has been flashed by two musical icons during her career. Blondie deems legendary jazz drummer Buddy Rich a “pervert” for his antics. However, Harry describes David Bowie’s habit of exposing his manhood as “funny, adorable and sexy.”
And Harry isn’t afraid to discuss her financial woes, either. For instance, the singer writes about a time in the early 1980s when she and her boyfriend Chris Stein received a huge unpaid tax bill. As a result, the couple ended up losing their townhouse in the Big Apple. Furthermore, Harry admits that she was even forced to hand over some of her wardrobe.
But let’s not forget the candid tales of Harry’s experiences with the New York drug scene in the late 1960s. For the singer claims that the various illegal substances were simply “part of your social life, part of the creative process, chic and fun and really just there. No one thought about the consequences.”
As you would expect, Harry hit the promotional circuit to publicize Face It. And the Blondie frontwoman was just as open and outspoken in these interviews as she was in her book. Indeed, in a chat with The Guardian in October 2019, Harry once again discussed her relationship with drugs – and heroin in particular.
“I don’t actually regret taking it, but I do regret the amount of time… it’s a time-consumer,” Harry said to the publication. “But I think at that point it was a necessary evil. To some degree, it was self-medicating. It was a rough, depressing time of life, and it seemed to suit the purpose – but then it outlived its benefits.”
Then Harry went on to discuss how she dealt with being objectified by men on the rock scene. She admitted, “I think we all have issues of self-esteem, and I’m not clear of that. I also think that because it’s my occupation – to be a performer and to attract attention and to appeal to sexuality – it’s sort of a given in showbiz.” However, the singer claimed that she often felt like “a bit of fluff” in Hollywood.
But as Harry went on to explain to the publication, “You know, in a way it was good, because I can sneak up on them unawares. I think times have changed in that respect. Women are serious wage-earners, and we create great things, and it seems clear to me that we can be supportive of one another regardless of what sex [we are].” But she did reveal that critics weren’t exactly helpful at the start.
For Harry continued, “There was a time in the earlier Blondie years when I was trying hard to perform, sing and write, and all of those contributions would be overlooked [by critics]. Sex sells, that’s what they say, and I’m not stupid: I know that. But on my terms – not some executive’s.”
Yet despite the various hardships that Harry has faced throughout her life, she still apparently feels that she’s been very fortunate. The star told The Guardian that while writing the book there were times when she thought, “God, you were such a fool. Why did [you] ever do that.” However, Harry ultimately views her life as successful, telling the interviewer, “All in all, I guess I’ve been very lucky.”
In fact, the singer cuts an optimistic figure throughout the interview. For instance, when referring to the incident where a jealous and armed ex-boyfriend broke into her flat, she said, “That was crazy, wasn’t it? I was just happy to get away from him and move on with my life. Fortunately, that’s when I met Chris, so that was one of the best things in my life – if not the very best.” But that’s not all the good luck that Harry had.
Yes, the rockstar continued to explain to The Guardian, “We’ve had a long run of great friendship and creative success. So, my God, I can’t ask for more.” And even though she admitted that the aging process can be difficult to deal with, she claimed that she’s now happier in her seventies than she ever was back in her pop star heyday.
At the same time, as Harry has gotten older, she has seen a number of the friends that she discusses in her memoir pass away. For instance, Joey Ramone, David Bowie and Andy Warhol are just three of the notable characters whom she’s outlived. And the singer told The Guardian, “There have been times when I’ve had to face mortality and, as a person with strong survival instincts, I’m blessed in that way.”
She continued, “I know that I’m really lucky, and the longer I live the more I know it, so it has led me to do things that are not about myself. We all make mistakes, but the thing is to learn from them. And make different mistakes.” So what was perhaps the biggest mistake of her career?
Well, Harry answered frankly as always: it was money. She told the publication, “[I regret] that I didn’t pay more attention to business, and that I was really only interested in making music and performing.” However, the singer also said she believes that by writing about her various personal and professional mistakes, she’s come to terms with them. And that also goes for emotional difficulties, too.
For instance, Harry reveals in her book that she’s suffered from a fear of abandonment because of her adoption. But the memoir appeared to have helped to some extent. “I think we all have a little area of clutter that’s nagging sometimes, and it’s often hard to get rid of,” she told The Guardian. “Maybe this is my purge. I think I’ve solved a lot of those problems that were hanging on, and I’m glad it’s sort of done.”
What’s more, the rockstar apparently enjoyed wallowing in nostalgia while writing her memoir. She said, “You look back and everything looks a little bit rosier, but it was a good time. It was a good time to be a young person. Everybody in the 1970s was living in squats and everything: it was kind of romantic.”
When asked about what she sees for herself in the future, Harry replied in typically positive fashion. She said, “I don’t know how much longer I’ll be working, but I enjoy it – it’s my life, and people still want to see me. I’m very lucky, and I think I know it more and more.”
And Harry also apparently feels similarly optimistic about the younger generation of female musicians who have followed in her footsteps. She told The Guardian, “It’s a radical change. I always admire young women who are so gifted [at] writing and performing. It’s wonderful and that’s an inspiration for me, even though I’ve gone over the hill, as it were.”