How Blondie’s Debbie Harry Learned to Deal With Superficial, Demeaning Interviewers

Unpro­fes­sion­al, obnox­ious, rude, bor­ing, bullying—all adjec­tives that can apply when mid­dle-aged men com­ment inces­sant­ly on a woman’s looks, when that woman has met with them to talk about her career. The cringe-fac­tor is mag­ni­fied a thou­sand­fold when it’s broad­cast over air­waves, or fiber and 4G. The actress­es and singers who have endured such abuse in front of audi­ences spans the his­to­ry of radio and TV.

Blondie’s Deb­o­rah Har­ry got the treat­ment. Sub­ject­ed to “years of super­fi­cial, tedious, and demean­ing ques­tions from jour­nal­ists,” notes doc­u­men­tary pro­duc­tion com­pa­ny Pub­lic Inter­est, she final­ly “devis­es a bril­liant way to turn inter­views on their head.” The video above pulls togeth­er a mon­tage of inter­view clips in which both male and female talk­ing heads start near­ly every con­ver­sa­tion with Har­ry by refer­ring to her as “a rein­car­na­tion of Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe” or some­thing to that effect. She is vis­i­bly annoyed but keeps her cool, which a cou­ple inter­view­ers take as an invi­ta­tion for near-harass­ment.

Some might claim the crude inter­est in Harry’s looks was jus­ti­fied, giv­en her ear­ly per­sona as a punk-rock pin­up, but note that most of the inter­view­ers nev­er get around to talk­ing about the music—the rea­son we know and admire her in the first place. Instead, one British TV pre­sen­ter fol­lows up the Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe ques­tion (if it can be so called) by ask­ing if Har­ry is “think­ing about going into mar­riage.”

The ques­tions aren’t always lech­er­ous but they are always inane. Har­ry is clear about one thing. It’s an oblig­a­tion; she’s there to sell a prod­uct. How does she turn the tables? A stuffed ani­mal mas­cot, a few well-placed “can you believe this shit?” looks at the cam­era, and a flat-out refusal to answer any ques­tions about Madon­na, for a start. Lou Reed and Bob Dylan get cred­it for being some of the cranki­est inter­view sub­jects in rock and roll, but Har­ry had more rea­son than either of them to hate this part of the job.

See how she han­dles it, and for con­trast, read an inter­view she did with Bill Brew­ster in 2014, when Blondie released the reunion album Ghosts of Down­load. Brew­ster keeps the focus on the music, and she seems total­ly thrilled to get the chance to talk about it.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear Deb­bie Harry’s Stun­ning Ethe­re­al Vocal Tracks from “Heart of Glass,” “Call Me,” “Rap­ture,” and “One Way or Anoth­er”

Watch Iggy Pop & Deb­bie Har­ry Sing a Swelli­gant Ver­sion of Cole Porter’s “Did You Evah,” All to Raise Mon­ey for AIDS Research (1990)

Blondie Plays CBGB in the Mid-70s in Two Vin­tage Clips

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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  • Tony says:

    Way to go, Deb­bie!! Too many inter­view­ers think that: 1) their audi­ence is more inter­est­ed in lis­ten­ing to them than to the inter­vie­wee; 2) they know more than the inter­vie­wee; 3) they can con­duct an inter­view with lit­tle or no prepa­ra­tion; and 4-…) any of myr­i­ad oth­er inter­view mis­takes.

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