Yoko Ono was freakier, Patti Smith was more soulful, but Debbie Harry offered a little magic as she transformed herself into Blondie in front of the audience at Grey's Legends of Music seminar. As she left the interviewing chair to walk to the microphone, she pinned up her hair, put on a long platinum wig, and took off a black T-shirt to reveal a low-cut gold cocktail dress. Her a capella rendition of "Heart of Glass" was unvarnished and moving. With her cheekbones and eyelashes, she definitely had a Marilyn Monroe, "Happy Birthday Mr. President," vibe.
But most of all, she was honest. Interviewed by Tim Mellors, CCO and vice chairman of the Grey Group, who tended to go on tangents, connecting her to the Beatles, Andy Warhol, and British punk, she talked about New York in the late '70s and early '80s, waitressing at Max's Kansas City, and playing CBGB's. "We worked for beers, pretty much," she said.
"That's when the Bowery was really the Bowery," she said, speaking of the location of the now-closed CBGB's, a downtown club where Blondie's band and the Ramones got their starts. "It was surrounded by flop houses and awful hotels and missions. It was pretty strict economic times. Everyone says we’re in a recession now. I don’t what they called it then but there was no money."
Encouraged by Mellors to talk about her own icon status, she said, "it was a fun period. We were very lucky to get in on it, change was exciting. it changed fashion, it changed music. it changed opinions. at the time what was very funny was that in the U.S. , New York was not a popular place. No one wanted de to come. They were afraid of New York."
Now that CBGB's is closed down (Harry joined other musicians in playing benefits to help raise money to keep it open) Mellors asked if it was a place that sold Pastrami. "It's a clothing store," Blondie said.
In the end, after singing, she put on her leopard fez and sunglasses and left. Maurice Levy followed. He did not sing.