One of the most iconic bands to ever walk this earth is Blondie. They used their pop-punk style to rule the music world in the late ‘70s. Some of their most memorable hits, like Hanging on the Telephone, Heart of Glass, and Atomic are still being covered today in nightclubs all around the world. The group has been killing it for decades, and their newest single, Fun, came out in 2017.
One of the founding members of the group is Debbie Ann Harry. Many people thought the starlet was a solo act named Blondie, but the group tried to change that. Harry began her career as a Playboy Bunny but has really skyrocketed since. In addition to her musical success, the former model spread her Hollywood wings and embarked on an acting career.
Here is what you probably didn’t know about the blonde from Blondie.
On July 1st, 1945, Deborah Ann Harry was born in Miami, Florida. Her parents were high school sweethearts, but by the time they welcomed their daughter into the world, the romance had ended in heartbreak. In fact, their relationship started to crumble apart shortly after their daughter’s conception.
It’s not uncommon for celebrities to have a good “rags to riches” story, and Deborah Ann Harry was no exception. The iconic singer was eventually adopted by Richard and Catherine Harry of Hawthorne, New Jersey, when she was three years old. Like many adopted children, Harry saw the parents who raised her and loved her as her real parents; biology didn’t mean much to her.
Very little information is out there about Harry’s biological mother. We know that she was a concert pianist, but that’s basically it. It looks like her daughter inherited that musical gene. Although not much is known about her mother, we do know a little bit about the singer’s biological father.
As you can imagine, Harry’s father had some dark reasons for putting his daughter up for adoption. First of all, he was already a married man with a family of his own. Clearly, she is better off without him; no one deserves to grow up with a liar and a cheater. When Harry was four years old, her parents told her she was adopted. Apparently, her birth name was Angela Trimble.
New Jersey gift shop owners Richard and Catherine adopted their daughter when she was only three years old, and, by the time she was four, she knew she was adopted. She loved her parents, but naturally, she grew up wondering about her biological parents: What they looked like, what they acted like, and why they gave her up.
In her fantasies, she would daydream that Marilyn Monroe was her real mom. Harry loved and looked up to the blonde icon. Once she gained success, the singer turned her dreams into a reality… well, sort of. She bought one of the dresses that Monroe famously wore in The Seven Year Itch.
But First, a Selfie…
One night, when Harry got home, she discovered a horrifying sight. Her entire apartment had burned down. Harry reacted the way any reasonable person would. She decided to put on her treasured Marilyn Monroe dress and decided to get up and have a photoshoot right then and there.
She posed in the burnt husk of her destroyed kitchen. Nowadays, taking pictures in every given situation is basically a rule. I mean, how can you prove your house burned down if you don’t get a selfie with the fire? Harry’s reaction to the fire proves she’s just like us. I mean, I would be freaking out, but this might be a healthier outlook, seeing the good in every situation.
This may come as a huge surprise, but Debbie Harry was the first “rapper” to have a number one single. The blonde beauty made friends with early hip hop pioneers, such as Grandmaster Flash and Fab Five Freddy. As a tribute to the exciting new style, Harry wrote the song Rapture and explicitly mentioned Flash and Freddy in the song.
Maybe Harry became a huge punk rock icon as an adult, but in her teenage years, she sported a completely different look. She was the epitome of the all-American high school girl. She was a cheerleader in high school and a singer in her church choir. Cheerleading and singing gave young Blondie anxiety. She didn’t think she was good at either of those things.
When Harry Meets Hefner
In 1965, Harry graduated from New Jersey’s Centenary College and moved to New York City, where she worked a string of jobs. She was a server at Max’s Kansas City and a secretary at the BBC’s New York office. It was after that that Harry became a Bunny at the Playboy Club.
During this time, Harry was starting to focus on her musical aspirations, but it took a little while until she found the right place. Surprisingly, her first band was a folk group called The Wind in the Willows, named after the classic children’s book. The group even recorded an album together for Capitol Records before splitting up. Blondie was headed towards bigger and better things.
Red Heads Have More Fun
This one may shock you. Although Harry is obviously known for her signature blonde hair, the singer is actually a natural redhead. When she was a teenager, she started bleaching her hair and never stopped. It suits her really well and, ultimately, became what she is known for.
Harry joined a rock n’ roll group named the Stilettos, where she met a certain someone who would change her life. Soon after, Blondie was in a romance with the band’s guitarist, Chris Stein. After the Stilettos broke up, the musical couple decided to start their own band. They found a drummer, Clem Burke, and a bassist, Gary Valentine. The rest is history.
Her signature style was certainly a strong element when it came to the punk rock singer. Her bleach blonde hair, unique outfits, and makeup was all part of her image. But she always loved makeup, even when she was a teenager. Unfortunately, everyone has issues with self-image, including beautiful celebrities like Debbie Harry.
In her book, the singer explained how she experimented with makeup in high school because she didn’t like how she looked. Harry claimed that “an oval face was considered beautiful. Not a broad round blob-like mine, which earned me the nickname Moon.” Obviously, she is a stunner, and those dumb high school boys missed out.
Debbie Harry’s first solo album KooKoo was released in 1981, and it sold over 500,000 copies! It included a cover by HR Giger – the guy responsible for designing the creepy aliens for the Alien franchise. Anyway, KooKoo became a controversial record rather quickly. The cover showed Harry’s face stabbed with pins, and it was shocking for the London Underground. They wouldn’t even let her record label put up posters.
It didn’t take long for Blondie to become a popular act in the New York punk and new wave circuit. She was playing at clubs such as CBGB and Max’s Kansas City alongside other popular groups like the Voidoids, Talking Heads, and Television.
During one of those incredible show moments, The Ramones earned their first gig by opening for Blondie; they were still called Angel and the Snake. However, it wasn’t all glamour… Harry didn’t get along too well with everyone in the scene, despite the fact they were some of the only females in punk at the time. Unfortunately, Harry and Patti Smith weren’t on the friendliest terms.
Patti Smith even tried to betray Harry by trying to steal members of Blondie to join her own band. According to Harry, the rival songstress told her that “there wasn’t room enough for two women in CBGB’s.” Yikes! Is anyone else getting Katy Perry and Taylor Swift vibes?
Making It Down Under
She was very much a charter member when it came to New York’s punk and new wave scene. However, Blondie’s commercial success happed in Australia… and it was almost an accident. Basically, a local music video show put on their video for In the Flesh. As it turned out, it was the B-side to the actual single that they wanted to play, X-Offender. Ultimately, the song made it to number two on the Australian charts and helped Blondie earn a UK audience as well.
Finally, Blondie scored a major hit on our side of the world with Heart of Glass. The hit reached number one in the US charts, but that came with a little controversy for the band. Due to their disco-influenced sound, many of their punk fans thought they were selling out.
In her music video for Heart of Glass, you can see the singer wearing a dress designed by Stephen Sprouse (no relation to Dylan and Cole). Throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s, most of Harry’s stage outfits were created by Sprouse. You would think the duo met at some cocktail bar or fancy gala, but that wasn’t the case. The duo met because they were neighbors! Small world.
Speaking of her iconic (and unique) sense of style, the singer once made worldwide headlines when she decided to wear a dress made completely out of razor blades. Ouch! That sounds painful. But, yeah, Lady Gaga, what do you have to say about that?
Harry believes she had an encounter with notorious serial killer Ted Bundy. She was hitchhiking and claimed the man who picked her up resembled the murderer. The singer said that as soon as she got in the car, she noticed that the window rollers and latches had been removed and the man started driving erratically.
Thankfully, Harry managed to escape. She slipped her arm through the crack in the window and opened the door from the outside. Phew! That was a close one! It was certainly a scary situation, but the singer later acknowledged that it wasn’t Bundy after all. He had never even been to New York.
American Gigolo Single
Blondie scored a major hit with Call Me in 1980. The song was originally written by Italian disco auteur, Giorgio Moroder, for Stevie Nicks. Blondie’s version of Call Me came from the American Gigolo soundtrack. The single was nominated for a Grammy and a Golden Globe and stayed at #1 for six weeks. Despite being her biggest hit, the song wasn’t featured on any of Blondie’s studio albums.
Pop art icon Andy Warhol was Harry’s friend and occasional collaborator. Warhol painted a series of portraits for the singer, and, in return, she showed up on the first episode of Andy Warhol’s Fifteen Minutes, Warhol’s short-lived MTV series.
French Kissin’ in the USA was Blondie’s biggest solo hit and written by someone quite surprising: Chuck Lorre. Lorre is a television producer, better known for creating the Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men. I didn’t know he writes songs too. It looks like he is a double threat.
Like many other stars who embark on a music career, Harry also dipped her toes in the acting world. She decided to tackle the silver screen and currently has an impressive 60 credits to her name. The most memorable is her role as Nicki Brand in David Cronenberg’s 1983 movie, Videodrome. Clearly, her talent exceeds music.
Singer Turned Actress
When it came to the role of Pris in the sci-fi film Blade Runner (1982), Harry was the first choice. However, the producers backed out at the end and reconsidered. The part ultimately went to Daryl Hannah. Throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, Harry appeared in a number of movies, such as the original version of Hairspray.
In 1993, she was a voice actress for Elizabeth in the video game Double Switch. In 2002, Harry lent her voice once again to the video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, as the taxi controller. Her most recent movie parts were in River of Fundament (2014), and Bad Reputation (2018).
For Your Eyes Only
Blondie was asked to write the theme song for a James Bond movie; that’s a true sign that you made it. The band’s song (and the title of the spy film) is For Your Eyes Only. However, it was rejected, and Scottish singer, Sheena Easton, performed her song instead- also appropriately titled, For Your Eyes Only. Blondie’s version of the song was featured in the band’s 1982 album, The Hunter.
In 1983, the singer left her comfort zone once again when she appeared in a Broadway play alongside Andy Kaufman. The play was called Teaneck Tanzi, and it didn’t go as planned; it was a total disaster. The show was canceled after just one performance.
Blondie Is a Group!
Initially, Harry and Stein called their band Angel and the Snake before changing it to Blondie. The name was inspired by all the catcalls Harry received as she roamed around the big apple. However, the name change came back to haunt them. Many people started to assume that Harry was a solo act named Blondie.
Understandably, the group was frustrated, and in 1979 they decided to start an awareness campaign to address the issue. The sold merchandise that read “Blondie is a Group.” I don’t know if it actually worked because many people still think it’s a nickname. I mean, before I learned about the band, I thought Blondie was a solo act.
Too Much to Handle
After almost two decades together, Harry and Stein came to a devastating decision. In 1989, the couple who had gone through so much together went their separate ways. Not everyone is meant to be together, but it was the reason for the breakup that was truly heartbreaking.
In addition to his illness, Stein was drowning in drug abuse and money troubles (thanks to the substance issues). In the end, it was all just way too much for the musicians. However, they did last a while if you compare them to other couples in the industry. On the bright side, the ex-lovers remained friends. The duo even collaborated on Harry’s solo albums.
The Blonde from Blondie
Harry brilliantly described her image as the blonde in Blondie. She explained that she always thought of it as her alter ego, “a woman playing a man’s idea of a woman.” She decided to take the idea of “an inflatable doll” and combine it “with a dark, provocative, aggressive side. I was playing it up, yet I was very serious.”
Blondie reunited with their wonderful fans in 1997, after 15 years apart. They were working on No Exit, the band’s seventh studio album, which was a commercial and critical success. The single, Maria, made it to #1 in the UK, and Harry, who was 53 at the time, set the record for the oldest female singer to have a #1 single in the UK. She even beat Cher!
The band is known for a lot of things, and one of them is their sense of style. If you look at earlier pictures of Debbie Harry, you’ll notice her wearing a zebra printed dress. The outfit quickly became famous, and people bought posters of her wearing it for large chunks of money as Blondie memorabilia.
Well, as it turned out, the “dress” was just a pillowcase that the singer found in the garbage can. She was short on cash, so she got creative and turned it into a dress. As we saw from the razor blade dress, Harry has an interesting sense of style. She literally turned trash into an iconic outfit.
Good Girl Gone Bad
Considering she is known for her rocker image, it may be surprising to find out that the punk princess started singing in her church choir. I guess that doesn’t mean much because she also worked for Playboy. She had a lot of hobbies and interests before she ultimately chose to pursue a career in music. We mentioned how her high school activity was cheerleading.
However, the singer admitted that she wasn’t a very good cheerleader, and the sport actually made her “very anxious.” The singer confessed, “They had me twirling and dropping the baton for the bending over aspect. I was there for the pervert fathers. Looking at my underpants!” At least she can joke about it now.
Cool Your Jets
Harry was involved in the creation of a stimulating invention. She was once sharing a hot tub with magician Penn Jillette and mentioned that there has to be a way to rearrange the jets in a hot tub, in order to make the hot tub experience a little more exciting for women. Jillette got to work immediately.
He got a patent by 1999 for his “Jill-jet,” a “hydrotherapeutic stimulator.” But bathing seems to generally be one of Harry’s passions. Back in 1979, she was featured on the cover of Wet, a “gourmet bathing” magazine. I could use a gourmet bath right about now; it sounds so relaxing.
Age Is but a Number
Even famous people have strange things happen, and Debbie Harry is no different. The singer revealed that she had experienced eerie psychic episodes. She claims that the first one happened when she was a child when she heard voices in her head, explaining complex math to her. Crazier things have happened. I mean, Elvis Presley claimed aliens contacted him telepathically.
Despite the voices in her head and long career, Harry looks great! Especially for her age (75 years old at the time of this article). In 2012, photographers and paparazzi were trying to take her picture in New York, believing she was Lindsay Lohan. At the time, Harry was 66, and Lohan was 25, so that’s quite the compliment.
Still Rocking It
Although she is pushing 80, Debbie Harry is still killing it; she’s not only a solo artist but still a member of Blondie. It’s been over a decade since her most recent solo record came out, 2007’s Necessary Evil. However, Blondie released three albums since 2011. That’s impressive. You don’t see many 75-year-olds rocking the stage.
Blondie’s most recent album is Pollinator (2017). The album featured collaborations with Charlie XCX, Dave Sitek, Sia, and Johnny Marr. The lead single from the album Fun made it to #1 on the US dance charts. It was the band’s first #1 hit since their Atomic remix topped the charts in 1995.
Hey Punk! Pay Your Taxes
In the ’80s, Harry quickly discovered that even though she should have been on top of the punk rock circuit, she was at the bottom. Harry was officially bankrupt, and the superstar’s clothes, cars, and home were repossessed in order to offset her substantial debt. The singer claimed that she isn’t sure how exactly she got into this whole mess.
Although she doesn’t really know how this happened, the singer revealed that whenever she and the band were hanging out with important people in the music industry, or even just friends, they unknowingly racked up a massive bill of unpaid taxes. This is why you should always pay your taxes, folks! It will come back to haunt you.
The single which followed Heart of Glass was another smash hit, but there was a dark secret behind it. The song One Way or Another was based on Harry’s unfortunate experience with a stalker. It was actually an ex-boyfriend in New Jersey that stalked the singer, and he even threatened her with a gun.
In 2019, Harry revealed that she went through another terrifying encounter in her early career. A strange guy walked over to her and her bandmate Stein, threatening them with a knife. The man then broke into the couple’s apartment and stole all their guitars. But that wasn’t even the worst part; the man proceeded to assault Harry in the worst possible way.
Through Thick and Thin
In 1982, Harry’s entire world came crumbling down. Her partner Chris Stein got sick with an extremely rare autoimmune disease. To make matters even worse, the illness was going on at the same time as the release of The Hunter, the band’s sixth album. As we know, bad things come in three, and this situation was no different. Let’s just say, luck wasn’t on their side.
The Hunter, unfortunately, did not live up to its expectations. To be fair, it didn’t have much of a chance. Stein was way too sick to tour, and Harry, of course, took a break to take care of him. The band decided that they should probably break up.
The singer has come a long way since her Playboy days. Harry’s music career is better than it has been in years, and she started focusing more of her energy into writing. In October 2019, her memoir, Face It, was released by Dey Street Books. In the book, Harry gets candid about some of the darkest moments throughout her life.
For example, the singer spoke about how she coped when Stein was at the peak of his illness. She admitted that she found comfort in a pretty dark place: heroin addiction. It took time, but, thankfully, she eventually defeated her drug dependency and found healthier coping mechanisms to help her through difficult times.