If contemporary social movements were to evaluate the life of 77-year-old Debbie Harry, the lead singer of the group Blondie, they would call her a “survivor” in a second.
She experienced abuse, rape, heroin addiction and was on the verge of becoming one of the victims of serial killer Ted Bundy.
Sometimes Harry herself realizes that her life stories sound more like a fictional script for a horror movie than real events, but she vows that everything she shares about herself is true.
“All my life I have been violent and unreasonable. I have been guided by my animal instincts. I have a natural tendency to exaggerate and unconsciously believe that, like cats, I have nine lives. But what can I say? We all make mistakes and learn from them. If I could If I could go back in time, I would have done things differently,” Harry says in the promo video for her latest documentary Blondie: Vivir En La Habana.
The tape is dedicated to the punk rock band’s first and long-planned tour in Cuba, and in it the members of Blondie share their impressions of Havana and go back in time to the year they became a global music sensation.
When their band hit the charts, Debbie Harry was 31 – relatively old by industry standards at the time – but she maintained her optimism that it’s never too late to become a pop icon.
After working for several decades as a waitress, Playboy bunny and vocalist of various underground groups, in the second half of the 70s Harry met guitarist Chris Stein, the two became a couple and formed Blondie.
A year later, their joint song Hearts of Glass reached number one in the UK music charts and their album Parallel Lines went platinum with over 40 million copies sold.
Life seems to be sorting out for Harry, who has been haunted since childhood by the feeling that she is never in the right place and with the right people.
Abandoned by her parents when she was 3 months old and adopted by a devoutly Christian family in New Jersey, Angela Trimble, as Debbie Harry was born, has spent her entire conscious life asking herself the question, “Who am I?” and the success of Parallel Lines was about to answer her with “The Next Big Name in Music”.
However, the idyll is abruptly interrupted. Like many other musicians of the 70s and 80s, Harry and Chris Stein left their finances to their own devices and only realized something was wrong when the US authorities came after them for unpaid taxes in an amount they could not afford. Within days, the breakthrough band with one of the highest-grossing albums declared bankruptcy.
Harry and Stein are forced to sell their house in New York, much of their equipment and even their clothes to pay off the authorities. But that’s not the worst that happens to them.
A few months later, Chris Stein was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that kept him in the hospital for months, and pressed by the circumstances, Debbie Harry turned her back on music and found a job that could pay his medical bills. At the time, both were addicted to heroin, and in her book Face It Harry wrote that she often brought drugs to her husband in the hospital.
“I think the doctors and nurses knew he was shaking all the time, but they were closing their eyes because it was reducing his pain,” the Blondie singer says in her autobiography.
Although their band has been on the back burner for a while, after Stein’s recovery they are back in the studio. In those years, being super popular, then losing everything and trying to climb to the top again was not unusual, so Blondie were confident of repeating their old successes until another accident occurred.
One night, returning home from a concert, Debbie Harry and Chris Stein are attacked by a man who threatens them with a knife and forces them to let him into their apartment. The attacker ties up Stein, rapes Harry and steals their home camera as well as their guitars.
“I don’t think I was hurt as much by the rape as by the theft of the guitars. I remember being very angry and completely powerless. What could I do? There was no way to get revenge. I went to the police, but they treated me like I was crazy. They decided I was lying. Chris, who is more rational than me, advised me to forget and move on,” says the performer.
A few years earlier, she was again wanted by the authorities for an attempted kidnapping by a man she recognized a decade later as serial killer Ted Bundy after the press published his photo.
According to Harry’s memories, Bundy, guilty of a total of 30 murders, met her in the early 1970s while trying to catch a taxi. He stops his car next to her and offers to give her a ride, and she agrees. Sitting next to the driver, however, she notices that the door on her side has no handle.
“I panicked and he noticed. He tried to turn the corner quickly, but I reached through the half-open window and opened the door from the outside, landing directly on the street. Some say Bundy was in Florida when they tried to be kidnapped in New York. But I don’t care what people think. I know what happened,” says the singer.
At 77, Debbie Harry is like a never-ending encyclopedia of stories. Certainly much more voluminous than a documentary can cover. And while she doesn’t always enjoy reminiscing about the past, with movements like #MeToo gaining momentum, she’s convinced that even the darkest events in life are essential.
“When I look back, sometimes I’m like, ‘God, what a fool you were.’ , Harry thought.