In much of pop music these days, you are what you wear. Artists dress for success—or effect—as in the ivory-suited travoltismo of disco or the leather and safety pins of punk. But then there’s the curious, uncataloguable rig of Deborah Harry, 34, lead singer of the otherwise all-male group called Blondie. Debbie performs in miniskirts, spike heels, no bra and Barbie doll pout. Though a brunette ex-beautician, she does a purposely ineffective dye job. So just what are the New York group’s real roots—and intentions? Blondie aims to do nothing short of restoring the urban counterculture values that have vanished from rock during the current Malibu Mellow era. The group has also tried to fuse disco with the revitalized New Wave rock. As for its irresistible lead vocalist, she’s determined to become a multimedia feminist fatale.
In the record industry’s worst slump in 25 years, Blondie’s disco-esque Heart of Glass went platinum worldwide, and the LP Parallel Lines is pushing three million. Debbie collects only her one-sixth share of the proceeds, though she is co-founder and co-composer of the egalitarian group with its lead guitarist and her boyfriend, Chris Stein, 29. The romance and Blondie date back six years.
Debbie is trying to keep her emotional distance from the hustle and hype, which is not easy when movie scripts are being urged on her by both Mick Jagger and Carlo Ponti. Her stark blond chiaroscuro is electric onscreen, and Blondie is the first group ever contracted to perform a whole LP—its new Ear to the Beat—for videotape cassettes. Debbie herself has already starred as a New Jersey housewife in the film Union City. (She was typecast, having grown up in suburban Hawthorne, N.J.) She is also now singing as herself on Texas location in Roadie, a boogie rock movie starring Meat Loaf.
An ex-Playboy bunny who once had a heroin habit, Debbie identifies more with Marilyn Monroe, she admits, than with Patti Smith. Like MM, Debbie was adopted. And as she ruefully observed after the whirl began, “Success is harder to handle than no success at all.” But in the best definition of her modus operandi, Debbie proclaims: “I’m an escape artist.”