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‘Supposed To Be Questions About Fucking Punk Man’: The Debbie Harry Interview

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To mark the 20th anniversary of the excellent read Please Kill Me, The Uncensored History of Punk, by Gillian McCain and Legs McNeil, this is one of the first interviews Legs did for the book with Debbie Harry. The writer and the Blondie lead singer met at the Moonstruck Diner in Chelsea.

 

Blondie singer Debbie Harry (l) with her husband, guitarist Chris Stein (r)

Blondie singer Debbie Harry (l) with her husband, guitarist Chris Stein (r)
Date: 01/05/1982

 

LEGS: Can we start with Eric Emerson. Can you describe Eric?

DEBBIE: Sort of blond and sweaty, unpredictable, wild, charming, very smart, crazy, self-destructive, talented, obnoxious when he was too loaded which was often…

LEGS: Was he an inspiration?

DEBBIE: To me?

LEGS: Yeah, or Chris [Stein]?

DEBBIE: Oh, I don’t know, they lived together, you should ask Chris that.

LEGS: Because Eric seems to foreshadow what comes later with the kind of Warhol-drag-Jackie Curtis thing; all these crazy types seemed to set the stage for punk, would you agree with that? I mean, the sense of humor, being in the John Vaccaro plays…
DEBBIE: I guess so. I don’t know, it seems like there was the whole crew from the West Coast, too.

LEGS: Tomato [Du Plenty] and…

DEBBIE: Yeah…

LEGS: Angels of Light.

DEBBIE: Yeah, all those guys. I think that that was more immediate, because those guys were really more powerful and popular and in the limelight in the late 60s.

LEGS: Did you see the Angels of Light when they came to New York?

DEBBIE: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah.

LEGS: Can you describe it?

DEBBIE: It was just a huge drag show, and funny and done well and had a lot of people in that turned up later as solo artists—Sylvester and I guess [Potassa de] Fayette was in it, too; I’m not sure, maybe Fayette wasn’t in it. But it was sort of that crossover period between glitter and I don’t know what it was, ha ha ha. Crossover between glitter… I guess Alice Cooper might’ve been a precursor as much as anybody, really. Eric was continuing on to do gigs and stuff then but he wasn’t really doing his glitter thing as much. That was kind of earlier.

LEGS: It was.

DEBBIE: Yeah, I mean he was always throwing glitter around.

LEGS: Do you think he was affected by the Jackie Curtis/John Vaccaro stuff? Because from what I understand of the John Vaccaro plays they were complete glitter.

DEBBIE: Oh, I don’t know, maybe they all got it from him because Chris always says he was the first glitter person.

LEGS: Eric?

DEBBIE: Yeah. I mean, he used to just smear it all over his body and run around and do insulting things to everyone, he was like the enfant terrible or something. I mean he was just really totally mad and insulting. He was great.

LEGS: Were you around when that thing went down with the Velvet’s cover… first album… back cover…

DEBBIE: The back cover?

GILLIAN: There was a picture of Eric Emerson in the collage and then he was threatening to sue because there hadn’t been any release forms…

DEBBIE: Ha!

GILLIAN: And then the album had to be pulled from the record stores for a while.

DEBBIE: Oh, what a bad boy.

[PAUSE TO ORDER LUNCH]

Warhol paints DEbbie Harry on an Amiga Commodore computer in 1985

Warhol paints DEbbie Harry on an Amiga Commodore computer in 1985

DEBBIE: I don’t have much to say really…

LEGS: Yes, you do.

DEBBIE: I don’t really and I’ve forgotten a lot. I fell on my head a few times.

LEGS: Then let’s start with Max’s. How did you get the job there?

DEBBIE: I applied, ha ha ha. To Mickey Ruskin, in person.

LEGS: And what did Mickey say? Was he nice?

DEBBIE: No, he was a horrible person. He was always uptight and insulting and rude and condescending and he hated people, and I don’t blame him.

LEGS: Did you like Mickey?

DEBBIE: Yeah, he was my kinda guy. Not especially but I sort of understood after a while why he was like that… you know, anybody who runs a restaurant like Max’s, my god, what a madhouse! I mean, it was really quite a scene. But you know, he certainly had his favorites and after you got to know him he became friendlier.

Bettie Ringma and Debbie Harry at CBGB

Bettie Ringma and Debbie Harry at CBGB

LEGS: Did you like working at Max’s?

DEBBIE: As much as anyone can like waitressing. It was a fun place to work. The time went quickly because it was so busy and I made lots of money.

LEGS: Did you meet everybody you wanted to meet? Were you fascinated by the Warhol crowd? The drag queen crowd?

DEBBIE: Not especially. Some of them were nice, some of them were just real bitchy, most of them were very cliquish at the time because they were so hot. I was more afraid of them because they came in so late at night and they were so wild and I was such an asshole, you know… I was such a… I didn’t really know anything or anybody so they were kind of scary.

LEGS: Did you wanna be in a band at that time? Had you been in Wind of the Willows already?

DEBBIE: I had already, yeah. I wasn’t sure that I liked the music business at that time, so I had sort of dropped out of that and I really didn’t know what I was gonna do. Actually, what I did was, this guy picked me up and took me to Hollywood, to his mansion in Bel Air, that’s how I ended my life at Max’s.

LEGS: What did you do in Bel Air?

DEBBIE: I didn’t like it there, either; it wasn’t me. So I came back to New York. I mean, is this my biography or what? What is this?

LEGS: Yeah… everybody’s …

DEBBIE: Supposed to be questions about fucking punk, man.

Debbie Harry of Blondie, Press Photo Chrysalis Records/USA (1979)

Debbie Harry of Blondie,
Press Photo
Chrysalis Records/USA (1979)

LEGS: When did you meet the Dolls and David [Johansen]?

DEBBIE: Let’s see, Mercer Arts Center. And Eric [Emerson] again was playing there through all of this. I mean, in a way it was a shame that he died because he just survived so many incarnations and periods and so many tough situations. He really was a great survivor. And he made beautiful children, ha ha ha.

LEGS: And a lot of ’em.

DEBBIE: Yeah.

GILLIAN: How many does he have?

DEBBIE: Four, five.

LEGS: Tell me about meeting the Dolls, when you saw the Dolls at the Mercer…

DEBBIE: …instant love at first sight.

LEGS: Like a party on stage?

DEBBIE: No, it was like a performance, but they were also… they were just like a really… they weren’t really very punky, they just stood there and were either just blind drunk or stoned or just without being stoned they were stoned, staggering around in those huge shoes and trying to play, you know, it was very funny, it was the best thing that David… of course, swishing around like god knows what. It was just funny, the whole thing was funny but it was great and everything was clever about it and colorful and they were good.

LEGS: And it just worked, and the songs were great, too.

DEBBIE: Yeah, the songs were great, the performance was fresh and uninhibited. Yeah, so it was cool.

GILLIAN: Did you think they were gay?

DEBBIE: I didn’t care. I really didn’t care, I just thought they were hilarious and wonderful and I went to every show.

LEGS: Is that where you meet Chris [Stein] or are you already together with Chris at this point?

DEBBIE: No, I didn’t meet Chris until ‘73.

LEGS: Did you start going out with David at this time?

DEBBIE: Not really. We were just intimate strangers.

GILLIAN: Good answer.

Deborah Harry of the rock band Blondie visits David Bowie backstage at the Booth Theater where he is starring in "The Elephant Man," Nov. 1980. (AP Photo/Nancy Kaye) Ref #: PA.8802797

Deborah Harry of the rock band Blondie visits David Bowie backstage at the Booth Theater where he is starring in “The Elephant Man,” Nov. 1980. (AP Photo/Nancy Kaye)
Ref #: PA.8802797

LEGS: What did you think of Johnny [Thunders]?

DEBBIE: Johnny, oh he was very passionate. I mean, there was no other life for him, you know, he was totally–this was it, this was his purpose in life, and he was fulfilling it and he was great. He was what he was and that was it, and no question.

LEGS: A great rock & roll guitar player.

DEBBIE: Yeah.

LEGS: And of rock & roll, and living rock & roll.

DEBBIE: Yeah.

LEGS: Remember when they came back from L.A. and Sable comes back with him?

DEBBIE: Sort of. I mean, it wasn’t…

LEGS: It wasn’t an important day in your diary…

DEBBIE: No, it wasn’t a big… that was a little bit later on. I mean, at the time he was going with Janice and then when they started really working a lot and touring, I sort of lost contact with them. I guess by then I had sort of started working on my own bands and because when I first met them I wasn’t doing a band. And they were touring and I guess Billy [Murcia] had died… I had been to see them with Jerry [Nolan] and the change was really not what I expected. They really changed the delivery; made their music less playful and more really…

LEGS: … hard driving?

DEBBIE: Yeah, yeah. Really changed the music a lot.

LEGS: Did it change them?

DEBBIE: Oh, I don’t know. I think the changes that go on is from sort of deciding that you can’t live without being a rock & roll star or musician or whatever and then what actually happens to you as you learn about the industry and become more of an adult. It’s just like growing up in any other way, I suppose. But it’s––––I think that that is what changes you.

LEGS: … not as much fun, maybe, when you find the harsh realities of life and the music business?

DEBBIE: [silence]

GILLIAN: She’s not answering.

LEGS: … not that one.

rock stars in their underpants debbie harry

DEBBIE: I think that growing up and accepting reality and accepting responsibility like that some people can roll with it and others reject it completely and whatever else. I mean, the length of time people really withstand the pressures of being in the business and realizing that they’re either equipped or not equipped to deal with it… I mean, look at the number of people that have been in bands and now are not, you know what I mean, it’s…

LEGS: … most of ‘em.

DEBBIE: Most, yeah. So that speaks for itself, don’t ask me for a fucking answer. Prick. I didn’t tell the story about you leaping over the fucking…

GILLIAN: Let’s hear it.

DEBBIE: Ha, he does a leap frog in front of Phoebe’s, over the parking meters, and dives head first into the cement and everybody in Phoebe’s heads turned because his head made such a noise when it hit the pavement. I mean, he went BAM like that, we thought he was dead.

GILLIAN: Just imitating Iggy.

DEBBIE: Yeah. Remember that?

LEGS: Yeah, I have the scar…

GILLIAN: Have a little egg on your head?

LEGS: I did I think, I was pretty drunk, so…

GILLIAN: …and then it’s easier to pick up girls.

LEGS: Yeah, because scars…

GILLIAN: So describe what Legs was like.

LEGS: No, we don’t need this.

GILLIAN: We haven’t asked that question, I realize we’ve missed that question.

DEBBIE: Aww.

GILLIAN: He was pretty cute, wasn’t he?

DEBBIE: He was really cute.

GILLIAN: Look at him.

DEBBIE: Yeah.

GILLIAN: Just wanna take him home and take care of him?

DEBBIE: Yeah, except that you had to bring the other one with him, you know, Holmstrom, I mean forget it. The two of ‘em, one was okay, one or the other, but both of em, eeeek. In spite of all of Leg’s shortcomings, he did a lot of stuff; he really covered a lot of… you were really active.

LEGS: Yeah. We did… we worked hard.

DEBBIE: Yeah, we worked your asses off. And what was really funny about it was that it was almost as if we were the children of the military and a lot of us were and we worked like military people, we had this …

LEGS: Drive…

DEBBIE: Yeah, this drive and this obsession and this… I mean the amount of work that we put out and the hours that we kept was absurd, nobody does that, nobody works like that…

LEGS: …now. Always had to be somewhere and show up.

DEBBIE: Yeah, and doing all these things, it was mad, really. And I mean really well Chris [Frantz] and Tina [Weymouth] were… but a lot of the people grew up on army bases and travelled around from base to base.

debbie harry

LEGS: That brings us to, Anya [Phillips]. She’s a big part of the book, can we talk to her?

DEBBIE: Talk to her? AANNYYAAA!

LEGS: When did you meet Anya for the first time?

DEBBIE: I don’t know, I met her so long ago, I mean I met her probably… ‘74, ‘75. When did she show up, had to be ‘75, yeah. I met her as soon as she appeared because there were no other girls there, believe me. It was mostly guys and the few women that were there that didn’t really know that they were women. No, we all had our day. Roxy was there, Anya was there, Lydia [Lunch] arrived, I was there, there was a really tall girl there.

GILLIAN: Sylvia [Reed]?

DEBBIE: Sylvia showed up later.

LEGS: Yeah, I think Anya sent for her; she was from Taiwan and went to high school with…

DEBBIE: Really, Anya imported Sylvia? I knew that they were good friends.

LEGS: Their high school dream was to go to New York and Anya was gonna marry a rock star and Sylvia was gonna work for Anya… and things happened a little differently.

DEBBIE: Yeah, but close.

LEGS: Yeah.

DEBBIE: Oh god.

LEGS: Can you describe Anya?

DEBBIE: Anya was great, very sarcastic, great sense of humor, dry, terrific dresser, very pretty…

GILLIAN: How’d she dress?

DEBBIE: Like a whore.

LEGS: Yeah. Ha ha ha.

GILLIAN: What stilettos and slips and stuff?

DEBBIE: Oh yeah, tight little things with, you know…

GILLIAN: …garters?

DEBBIE: You know how she dressed.

LEGS: Yeah, and this great bone t-shirt made out of chicken bones that said FUCK on it.

GILLIAN: Oooh, did she make it?

LEGS: Did she or was it from Malcolm [McLaren’s] shop?

DEBBIE: Maybe. Maybe that was a Malcolm thing.

GILLIAN: But no girls were dressing like that, she was the first, right?

LEGS: But she had the attitude, it was not only dressing like a whore…

DEBBIE: I don’t think she was the first?

LEGS: …being funny, you know.

DEBBIE: I think we all were sort of dressing like that with the high heel shoes. Well the stilettos, we always wore the stilettos, I mean that was our thing.

LEGS: Anya kind of defined the attitude would you say or no?

DEBBIE: She had a sense of organization and sort of an overview. She was a great businesswoman. I mean she just like looked around and she had a sort of a more organized perspective.

GILLIAN: Maneuvering.

DEBBIE: Yeah, she wasn’t an emotional wreck, let’s put it that way, ha ha ha. You guys, I feel like I’m at the shrink.

GILLIAN: Purge!

DEBBIE: I don’t wanna purge, I’m just having a salad.

G/L: [laughter]

DEBBIE: It wasn’t that funny.

Debbie Harry and Lester Bangs, Coney Island in 1976.

LEGS: Do you remember Malcolm [McLaren]?

DEBBIE: Yes I do. I remember Malcolm and the funny story about Malcolm was that one of the Dolls had an apartment on like 13th street or 12th street and I was over there for some reason and all of a sudden this station wagon pulls up in front of the house—a rental—and Malcolm starts opening up the back of the thing, pulling out rubber dresses and platform shoes, selling them on the street. And everybody’s running out there, help, help, help… and… well, he’s just muttering in that, you know, his Irish?

LEGS: So was he selling them on the street from the tailgate?

DEBBIE: Yeah.

LEGS: Did everyone run down to buy them?

DEBBIE: Well, we did.

GILLIAN: Did you know who he was?

DEBBIE: No. But we found out.

GILLIAN: Just a random spot, he parked the car?

DEBBIE: Well, no, I guess Janice knew and she arranged it, or something, or just whoever’s apartment it was, he knew there would be people there who were gonna buy the shit. There was a limited market in those days.

LEGS: …for rubber dresses? Did you buy anything?

DEBBIE: Oh, I couldn’t afford anything at that time; it was expensive. At least for me it was.

LEGS: Was it soon after that Malcolm started managing the Dolls?

DEBBIE: No, I think that was much, much later, much much later. The Dolls had already recorded a couple of albums by the time Malcolm picked ‘em up and this was like early, early on, so he was well aware of what was going on New York.

LEGS: Did you like Malcolm?

DEBBIE: I didn’t feel anything particularly about him; we didn’t pay much attention to one another.

GILLIAN: What did you think of his fashions?

DEBBIE: Oh, I loved them.

GILLIAN: But he looked kinda goofy, didn’t he?

DEBBIE: Oh, I thought he looked great. I mean, Vivienne got her hands on Malcolm.

GILLIAN: Oh you think she copped his…

DEBBIE: Oh no, no. She did, she did him, I mean, she was the brains behind all that style. She’s the designer, she’s a great designer and I don’t think Malcolm is a designer at all. And she dressed him and she might’ve encouraged him, he may have had a certain flair, I can’t really say. But I think that she definitely inspired him to heights of better dressing.

LEGS: Connie [Ramone].

DEBBIE: Connie, oi, oi, oi. All of a sudden Connie appears. I don’t know, all of a sudden there were more girls… oh no no, Connie came quite early, didn’t she? She was there with the…

GILLIAN: Arthur [Kane].

DEBBIE: Where’d he meet her, in L.A.? Or was she dancing in New York?

LEGS: I think she was in Times Square.

DEBBIE: Don’t ask me about Connie, although we did hit it off.

LEGS: You did?

DEBBIE: She never tried to stab me.

GILLiAN; Yeah, you have all your fingers.

DEBBIE: I do.

LEGS: Were you surprised when you heard the story that Arthur…

DEBBIE: No, because they always had violent, drunken free-for-alls that I heard about and witnessed and she was insanely jealous.

LEGS: When Connie hooked up with Dee Dee did you think, now there’s a couple?

DEBBIE: Ha ha ha. I just thought, trouble, yeah. She never stabbed Dee Dee, did she?

LEGS: Yeah! In the ass, don’t you remember that?

DEBBIE: Oh, ha ha ha, that’s right.

LEGS: …with a broken beer bottle.

DEBBIE: Right, right, right.

LEGS: Yeah, and he couldn’t sit down for a while. Poor Dee Dee.

DEBBIE: Poor Dee Dee. Well, there you have it.

LEGS: Was Connie and Dee Dee kind of the forerunners to Sid [Vicious] and Nancy [Spungen], do you think?

DEBBIE: I don’t know. There’s always been couples like that.

LEGS: But Nancy wanted so much to be in a couple like that, did you get that feeling?

DEBBIE: She was really wanting a lot of attention.

LEGS: She was also a sweetheart.

DEBBIE: But Nancy was much smarter; Nancy was actually pretty smart, very bright. Very bright girl but emotionally messed up.

LEGS: Do you remember meeting Nancy for the first time?

DEBBIE: I don’t think I ever spent any time with Connie when she wasn’t completely fucked-up or such an idiot that she seemed like she was fucked-up. Nancy had definite, you know, she would go out and get wrecked but before that she was conversational, I mean she was really intelligent and interested in a lot of things. Are you just saying yes to please me or what?

LEGS: No, because she used to let us take showers at her place on 23rd street.

DEBBIE: Yeah, I know, right over here.

LEGS: Yeah and the Punk magazine office was on 10th Avenue.

DEBBIE: Oh, so you could shower there.

LEGS: We didn’t have a shower in the Punk office so she was like great during the day. She would make me scrambled eggs; she was really nice.

DEBBIE: She was a doll.

LEGS: Oh, no I’m not trying to make you happy… what, I am, I take that back.

GILLIAN: He can be very antagonistic.

DEBBIE: I’ve been around.

LEGS: Remember meeting Nancy for the first time or when she shows up, she comes to follow the Dolls, no?

DEBBIE: I don’t remember that. I thought she showed up much later like ‘75, ‘76, and she was dancing, but who knows.

LEGS: Anya got her the gig dancing, because Anya seemed to get people the gigs…

DEBBIE: I never really associate Anya and Nancy. I never really put them together. Anya was around much, much before Nancy. I don’t think Nancy showed up until after punk had really been publicized and there was a real scene happening; she wasn’t there in the early days. Anya was definitely there in the beginning.

LEGS: Anya worked in that bar on White Street?

DEBBIE: Did she?

LEGS: Manage it or strip there? Yes, because Eileen [Polk] told me about going with her father and they went down to watch Anya strip one day.

DEBBIE: Really? Down on White Street? Maybe it wasn’t White…

GILLIAN: Not the Baby Doll?

DEBBIE: Mightabin there.

LEGS: Not the Baby Doll.

DEBBIE: No?

LEGS: Was it…?

DEBBIE: Oh, I don’t know anything about that.

LEGS: Didn’t you guys play some bar…

DEBBIE: Yeah, but that was a place that…

LEGS: On Wall Street?

debbie-harry-sexy playboy bunny

DEBBIE: Yeah, but that was just like a straight bar—shark bar—you know, guys would come in at lunch time and drink as much as they could and then run back to work. It didn’t have a night scene except for like a few hours and then it was really nothing. And there was no topless, there was no dancing or anything like that. The only reason I got gigs in there was because I worked there as a bartender. And yeah, it was only for like a couple hours, like early on.

LEGS: Were they Blondie gigs or were they… they were Blondie gigs, okay. How much did you get paid? How come we couldn’t come down and drink there if you were working…?

DEBBIE: Other guys did. John [Holmstrom] used to always come down.

LEGS: Why didn’t you tell me?

DEBBIE: And so did whatshisname, Elliot.

LEGS: Kidd?

DEBBIE: Yeah, a lot of guys used to come down there.

GILLIAN: You were too drunk, they wouldn’t let you in…

DEBBIE: I don’t know, I don’t know why.

LEGS: Thanks, Debbie. I coulda drank for free. I woulda brought in a lot of business.

DEBBIE: I only did it to keep Fred Smith in the band and then he fucking quit anyway.

LEGS: Were you pissed?

DEBBIE: Yeah, I was pissed. I was pissed at all of them.

LEGS: All those Television guys?

DEBBIE: All of Television, all of Patti; Patti Smith and Fred.

LEGS: Why were you pissed at Patti?

DEBBIE: Cause she copped/dropped/talked to him.

LEGS: She did?

DEBBIE: Yes.

LEGS: Are you still pissed at her?

DEBBIE: Uh uh.

LEGS: She talked him into going to Television?

DEBBIE: Yeah.

LEGS: Bad Patti.

DEBBIE: Boy, did he make a mistake, ha ha ha.

LEGS: Ha ha ha!

GILLIAN: Now, that’s going in the book.

LEGS: Yeah! Do you remember Patti from Max’s?

DEBBIE: Max’s, no. I probably saw her around Max’s, but I was more a follower of like Lou Reed’s and sort of straight rock bands at the time, not the poetry scene. I adored Janice Joplin and people that were actually recording and playing around.

LEGS: When were you aware of Patti? When she does CBs? From Television gigs?

DEBBIE: No, I was aware of her doing stuff with Burroughs and doing those St Mark’s [Poetry Project] things.

LEGS: Ever go see…

DEBBIE: Yeah, yeah.

debbie harry stage

LEGS: … because she opened for Gerard [Malanga]. Were you at that one?

DEBBIE: I went to see her at, I’m not sure which I went to see.

LEGS: … with Lenny {Kaye].

DEBBIE: Yeah, and I thought it was great, I was really impressed. Really, really great. And shortly thereafter she started working with a band and then she came down to the scene, but she wasn’t really at the scene in the very beginning, she was sorta in her poetry-cum-acoustic kind of world. More of an art world, I guess, yeah.

LEGS: Remember when she starts going out with Tom Verlaine?

DEBBIE: Errr, not exactly, no, do I lose points now?

LEGS: Yeah. Did you know about that?

GILLIAN: Well, why else would Patti be trying to persuade…

DEBBIE: I thought you were asking me the day, of course I remember she was going out with him.

LEGS: Oh.

GILLIAN: It’s impressionistic. Not factual.

DEBBIE: I see.

GILLIAN: Anecdotal.

LEGS: It’s a fresco.

DEBBIE: Yes, I remember. I remember it well, the look on their faces when they were caught kissing behind CBGB’s, whoa!

GILLIAN: What was the look?

DEBBIE: Tom blushed and Patti went, “Fuck off.”

LEGS: Ha ha ha.

DEBBIE: How’s Joey? Did you talk to Joey?

LEGS: I’ve talked to, well, I’ve talked to Joey throughout the years. I have like twenty hours.

DEBBIE: Wow.

LEGS: Yeah, I have a lot of Joey, and the Ramones I have…

GILLIAN: Too much, almost; way too much.

debbie harry blondie

DEBBIE: What else do you wanna know?

LEGS: This is good. Aren’t you having fun?

DEBBIE: Yeah, I’m getting worried though, I’m starting to worry.

L/G Why?

DEBBIE: Because I don’t remember everything.

LEGS: You don’t have to, this is good, just your impressions are fine.

GILLIAN: We don’t need facts. That’s already been documented, we want stories.

LEGS: Did you ever confront Patti, you know, hey man why are you telling Fred to leave our band and go into Television for?

DEBBIE: No, she didn’t really ever talk to me much. She and Lisa Robinson were very… I think they didn’t think I was up to their standards or something. We weren’t very friendly at all, ha ha ha, especially when she came into my drum audition. For some reason she showed up and I was auditioning drummers or bass players or something, and all of a sudden she comes walking in the room, and I had Clem [Burke] there and she said, “Hey, you’re pretty good, what’s your name?” I just thought… I said, “Patti, I’m working with this guy.” She says, “Oh, oh, oh…” Like “Uh.” You know, instead of, “Oh pardon me,” like she had never done anything. And of course Chris had a few things to say.

LEGS: What did Chris…

DEBBIE: I don’t know, something that was funny but insulting, you know, which she liked.

LEGS: Ramones. When do you see them for the first time, at the rehearsal space on 30th street?

ramones-flyerDEBBIE: I just remember the signs, oh no, yeah right, “they don’t want to but they will.” I guess that came later. I guess we saw them in a showcase somebody, oh I know, I guess it was whatsisname, Tommy, that we saw on the street, he said, “I’ve got this band, we’re doing a showcase, you should come by.” So we went by. And it was great; it was hilarious. And fun. And Joey was always falling over…

GILLIAN: Drunk or…?

DEBBIE: No, no, no.

LEGS: Just awkward.

DEBBIE: He’s just so tall and he was so ungainly and this stage was the stupidest thing, it had like a staircase up the front and then this platform and Joey couldn’t see very well, he doesn’t see very well, he had his shades on and he just was standing there singing, all of a sudden he was like this, WAAAA, and he was like lying face down, down this flight of stairs. Ha, ha ha…

LEGS: Did someone pick him up?

DEBBIE: Yeah, typical. They push him back up and kept on going.

LEGS: Ha ha ha. Did you like CBs right off?

DEBBIE: Well, we had been going there for quite a while and there were always these—they had these drag queen friends—Gorilla and Tomato, who did all these comic sketches that were great. That was so much fun.

LEGS: See the play where Arturo plays the nun who wants to be the most famous virgin in the world?

DEBBIE: Yeah, it was great. And Fayette played Babs the stunt girl, oh god, that was a scream, that was so good, they were just great. I don’t remember all the stuff that they did but they were so funny.

LEGS: Think that was kinda leftover– that aesthetic would you say?

DEBBIE: I don’t know if it was a product of that as much as something that ran parallel to that and it was definitely much less traditionally gay, and very, very sacrilegious and counterculture.

LEGS: And outrageous?

DEBBIE: Yeah. You know, very sick humor those two, and clever. Just clever.

LEGS: Don’t you think that drag queen humor kinda set up the humor for punk? Don’t you think they all kind of stole it from… because you had to be funny.

DEBBIE: No, I don’t, I don’t think so. I think it’s a combination of drag queen and Lenny Bruce, because Lenny Bruce was totally irreverent and drag queen humor tends to be a little bit too…

LEGS: Bitchy?

GILLIAN: Campy?

DEBBIE: Yeah, and a lot of it isn’t really funny; some of it is. But a lot of it isn’t. A lot of drag shows are just totally boring.

debbie-harry club singing

LEGS: Can I just pause for a minute, will you go…

DEBBIE: Will you go?

LEGS: I just have to take a drag.

DEBBIE: I’m leaving in ten minutes.

[Legs leaves]

GILLIAN: Whenever he does that I draw a blank, you can take over, ha ha ha.

DEBBIE: Well, he stops the machine.

GILLIAN: No, he didn’t.

DEBBIE: Oh right.

GILLIAN: So Anya used to have tea parties?

DEBBIE: She used to have everything. I mean, she had dinner parties, tea parties, people would sit around and… the thing about those parties was I would get there so early and everybody else would come really late, by the time they got there I’d be so tired of sitting around waiting that I wouldn’t have anything to say, and I would just sit there and be totally bored but sometimes it was interesting.

GILLIAN: What you would go early to help her set up?

DEBBIE: No, I was just a neurotic person that always goes on time to places, and I’m always early, or pretty much on time. And definitely that was not the way to behave. Look… oh no, it’s paper, I thought it was lettuce.

GILLIAN: Remember Sylvia [Reed] from then?

DEBBIE: Yeah Sylvia. When Anya moved on to St Mark’s Place and she started having those little things, all of a sudden Sylvia was there and she acted very subservient to Anya and…

GILLIAN: …subservient?

DEBBIE: Yeah, Sylvia was acting very shy and you know, very much under Anya’s jurisprudence, or something like jurisdiction, but very sweet and very nice. I had no idea what she was like for many years, really, because she was so quiet. But she was always nice, we always got along well, and I had no idea she was just so smart. I mean, she really is equally as smart as Anya was; little brain trusts there.

GILLIAN: She was going to college?

DEBBIE: Was she? I have no idea.

GILLIAN: Yeah, classes and CBs at night, but what she said in her interview was that Anya was like, what are you going to these classes for?

DEBBIE: Oh, I thought she was a dominatrix.

GILLIAN: I don’t know. Is it true Anya had her diary roped from the ceiling in the bathroom?

DEBBIE: Roped?

GILLIAN: Yeah, noosed, hanging down…

DEBBIE: Her diary what?

GILLIAN: I heard she had her diary sort of noosed from the ceiling so when you sat down on the toilet it was like right in front of you.

DEBBIE: Where, in her apartment? I never saw that.

GILLIAN: [MUFFLED]

DEBBIE: Oh, she mighta done that especially for Legs.

GILLIAN: Possibly.

DEBBIE: She really was creative. I don’t know, we just had a good time together. She was so cute, and so sneaky, it was wonderful, ha ha ha. Yeah, she was always like sort of fiendish and thinking sort of naughty, evil thoughts.

GILLIAN: Mischievous?

DEBBIE: Yeah, it was really fun and she would act out on them, too, which was even more fun. And then oh, one time we went down to this convention in Wilmington, Delaware called the Sleaze Convention and we wanted to meet John Waters and Edie the Egg Lady and all these people. And that was a lot of fun, that was sort of fun, so hot there, god.

GILLIAN: Did you guys throw water on Legs?

DEBBIE: Down there?

GILLIAN: When he was in bed with some chick?

DEBBIE: Did we?

GILLIAN: He says you did, maybe he made it up.

DEBBIE: Oh, yeah. I’m sure we did. We had nothing better to do.

GILLIAN: So was it a little… you go meet this people… like a…

DEBBIE: It was in this room in this loft and it was the Sleaze convention, I don’t know who organized it or anything. There was John [Waters], there was Edie and these things with Rondo Hatton on them, ha ha ha.

GILLIAN: And what was the Egg Lady?

DEBBIE: You don’t know who Edie the Egg Lady is???

END OF TAPE

COPYRIGHT ©2014 LEGS MCNEIL AND GILLIAN MCCAIN

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  • Imperial Survivor

    “Blondie singer Debbie Harry (l) with her husband, guitarist Chris Stein (r)
    Date: 01/05/1982”

    They were never married.
    Both are marginally talented proving that just about any hack act can also be in the R&R HOF