SHE WAS a girl who could sell ice to Eskimos!"
That's what a record producer said of Deborah Harry, in a documentary about the band Blondie and the making of their breakout album Parallel Lines.
This was on the Smithsonian Channel. It was the same night as the Princess Diana documentary we recently wrote about. (I guess I was in a "blonde" mood that evening.)
I'm not going to pretend I'm super-knowledgeable about Blondie's music, although it was hard to escape in the late 1970s and early 80s -- when I was a denizen of New York nightlife. But what was fascinating was the link this program made between Blondie and Manhattan -- the grimy, cash poor, sleazily glamorous Manhattan of that era. New York today is infused with money. It's safer, booming, cleaner. But many look back with cocaine-laced nostalgia to that era.
All members of Blondie were interviewed, along with the super-meticulous and controlling producer of "Parallel Lines" Mike Chapman. He drove Blondie crazy, but he helped put out a masterpiece. The intricacies of developing a sound, a song, the right beat, is pretty fascinating stuff! (Excellent narration by Kim Cattrall -- more blonde! -- helped keep me focused.)
And, of course, the woman upon whom Madonna and Gaga were built, Debbie Harry herself, was interviewed. Florida born, but a New Yorker in her soul, Harry remains beautiful, funny, wry; a tart-talking Damon Runyon tootsie.
When her original vocals were played -- without backup or instrumentation -- Debbie made a face and said: "Well, enough of that!" Actually, not enough. She has a true voice, and has kept that instrument polished and crystalline. (I saw her perform live once and at first could not believe she wasn't lip-syncing; she wasn't!)
Plus, I was interested to see Rolling Stone writer Rob Sheffield on this show. I have frequently quoted him in this column, especially his coverage of TV or celebrity culture. (He has a terrific piece in the current issue on Game of Thrones.) He's very cute and looks around 14- years-old.