10 Surprising Facts About Blondie's Debbie Harry

Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

This year marks the 45th anniversary of the founding of iconic New Wave and punk rock band Blondie. And on October 1, singer Debbie Harry will release Face It: A Memoir, a collection of Harry-penned essays alongside interviews with the journalist Sylvie Simmons. In anticipation of many more juicy tidbits to come, here are a few facts you might not know about the blonde bombshell and her band.

1. Debbie Harry is a natural redhead.

In a 2017 essay for InStyle, Debbie Harry revealed that her natural color pulls red. “My own hair was strawberry blonde with a lot of red in it,” she wrote. “In the summer my highlights would really come out. I hung out with older girls at the municipal pool in Hawthorne, New Jersey, where I grew up. There was one girl in particular whose blonde hair I really liked. Her mother was a beautician, so I asked her about accelerating the highlight process.” The girl told her to mix two-thirds peroxide with one-third ammonia and comb it through her hair—basically, a homemade Sun-In. “It worked,” Harry said. As an adult, she’d go increasingly platinum, favoring at-home box dyes and becoming ever more adept at achieving ultra-pale shades.

Even to this day, Harry mostly continues to bleach her hair at home. “I’ve always liked doing my color at home myself because I can walk around and do things,” she said. “I used to take a bath while I had the bleach on my head, and at the end I’d just submerge. It may not have been the best method, but it was expedient. I get very antsy in a salon chair."

2. As a child, Harry used to daydream that her real mother was Marilyn Monroe.

Born Angela Tremble in Miami, Florida, Deborah Ann Harry was adopted at 3 months old by New Jersey gift shop owners Richard and Catherine Harry. She learned that she was adopted at age 4, and said it gave her a sense of freedom. "They explained it to me in a really nice way," Harry told the Independent. "It made me feel quite special somehow. I sometimes attribute my, uh, adventurous nature to that ... I have an open mind about things. It didn't present me with any borders.”

3. “Blondie” was the nickname truck drivers gave Debbie Harry when they saw her sashaying along the sidewalk.

“It was just from what people yelled at Debbie,” Blondie guitarist Chris Stein told Boston radio station WBUR of the band name's origins in 2017. “Debbie came home one day with her hair dyed blonde and then told me within a week or so truck drivers were yelling, 'Hey, Blondie!' at her all the time.”

There’s apparently been a persistent rumor that the band was named after Adolf Hitler’s dog, but Stein debunked that myth. “The Hitler’s dog thing? I don’t know if I knew about that [then],” Stein said. “There’s no 'e' on Hitler’s dog’s name; it was B-l-o-n-d-i.”

The band’s original name was Angel and the Snake. They changed the name to Blondie in late 1975. In the early days, casual fans and the press seemed to believe that “Blondie” and Debbie Harry were interchangeable. So the band had buttons made that read “BLONDIE IS A GROUP.”

4. Another one of Debbie Harry's childhood nicknames wasn’t as flattering.

When she was a kid, Harry was nicknamed 'Moon.' "An oval face was considered beautiful, not a broad round blob like mine, which earned me the nickname Moon,” Harry revealed in the book Making Tracks: The Rise of Blondie. She’s since obviously grown into her face, with Vogue even including her in their list of the ‘Best Cheekbones of All Time.’

5. Debbie Harry once worked as a Playboy bunny.

Harry worked at New York City’s Playboy Club from 1968 to 1973, according to TIME, and her hair was long and (reddish) brown. Then in 1973, she met guitarist (and future boyfriend) Chris Stein, and the rest is history.

6. “Rapture” was the first Number 1 song in the United States to feature rap vocals.

Harry is realistic, however, and realizes that this does not make her a rapper. “Creatively it did one thing in particular: It was the first rap song to have its own original music. Commercially it made rap viable for the mainstream charts,” Harry told Rolling Stone in 2004. “I don’t think it was a tremendous influence. I am nowhere close to being a rapper. I’m completely in awe of great rappers.” A few of the rappers she admires? Missy Elliot, Lil’ Kim, Ludacris, and 50 Cent.

7. Debbie Harry likes a good bottle of Chardonnay.

In fact, it’s the one thing Harry has to have backstage when she’s touring. In 2017, Harry told Bon Appétit that she usually prefers Cakebread Cellars. However, there’s a nameless one that still sticks in her mind. “Once I was at a festival in Europe—I can’t remember where—and the promoter was really into wine," she said. "He brought out a bottle of Chardonnay that I probably would have slept with if it had been a person. So delicious.”

8. For decades, Harry believed she might have had a near-disastrous brush with serial killer Ted Bundy.

In 1972, when hitchhiking didn’t have the bad rap it does today, Harry climbed into a stranger’s car on Avenue C in New York’s East Village after she couldn't find a taxi. The driver was a good-looking, well-dressed young man with dark curly hair. According to Interview magazine, Harry’s original account of the event was detailed in an unnamed newspaper in 1989. “I got in the car, and it was summertime and the windows were all rolled up except about an inch and a half at the top,” Harry said. “So I was sitting there and he wasn’t really talking to me. Automatically, I sort of reached to roll down the window and I realized there was no door handle, no window crank, no nothing. The inside of the car was totally stripped out.”

To escape, Harry squeezed her arm out the window and opened the door from the outside. “As soon as he saw that, he tried to turn the corner really fast, and I spun out of the car and landed in the middle of the street,” Harry said. When she read about Ted Bundy’s execution years later, she thought back to that incident: “The whole description of how he operated and what he looked like and the kind of car he drove and the time frame he was doing that in that area of the country fit exactly," she said. "I said, ‘My God, it was him.'"

Her suspicion has since been debunked, since Bundy wasn’t known to have been in New York City, and wasn't known to abduct any women until at least 1974. Harry herself admits that the car didn’t match Bundy’s Volkswagen. She told RuPaul on an episode of his podcast, “I’m pretty sure that it wasn’t [Bundy’s Volkswagen]. It didn’t have the same dashboard. It was squarer.” Still, scary!

9. “Call Me” was originally earmarked for Stevie Nicks.

Written by songwriter Giorgio Moroder, “Call Me” spent six weeks at number one, becoming the biggest-selling song of 1980, according to NME. But the song almost never came Harry's way; Moroder had originally tried to give the song to Stevie Nicks. She reportedly loved the demo, but couldn’t use it due to inter-label politics (she had just signed with a new label, which somehow would have made working with Moroder difficult).

10. Debbie Harry is widely considered a style icon.

From very early on in Blondie’s evolution, Debbie Harry began collaborating with fashion designer and artist Stephen Sprouse on her outfits. Sprouse was working with Halston at the time, so Harry would often wear slip dresses and fabulous berets and trench coats and boots. But, as she told W magazine, they would also make use of found objects. “There was a real sense of play,” she explained. “New York City was bankrupt and garbage was all over the place, so you could always find fabulous things that people were throwing away. Or people were being evicted and the landlord would just heave-ho their stuff onto the street.”

Dazed & Confused magazine catalogued some of the singer’s looks, and one of the favorites was a dress fashioned from what was originally a zebra-print pillowcase, which Harry wore during an iconic 1978 photo shoot for ZigZag magazine. Other favorite looks include an “Andy Warhol’s BAD” T-shirt (Harry was immortalized in several works by the late artist); a child-sized leather motorcycle jacket (“I was very small then,” Harry said); and a screen-printed homemade T-shirt paired with a black beret and “really hot, good-looking pants.” The latter outfit, she says, was inspired by both Patty Hearst and Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde.

11 Fun Facts About Dolly Parton

Brendon Thorne, Getty Images
Brendon Thorne, Getty Images

Over the past 50-some years, Dolly Parton has gone from a chipper country starlet to a worldwide icon of music and movies whose fans consistently pack a theme park designed (and named) in her honor. Dolly Parton is loved, lauded, and larger than life. But even her most devoted admirers might not know all there is to this Backwoods Barbie.

1. You won't find Dolly Parton on a Dollywood roller coaster.

Her theme park Dollywood offers a wide variety of attractions for all ages. Though she's owned it for more than 30 years, Parton has declined to partake in any of its rides. "My daddy used to say, 'I could never be a sailor. I could never be a miner. I could never be a pilot,' I am the same way," she once explained. "I have motion sickness. I could never ride some of these rides. I used to get sick on the school bus."

2. Dolly Parton once entered a Dolly Parton look-alike contest—and lost.


Getty Images

Apparently Parton doesn't do drag well. “At a Halloween contest years ago on Santa Monica Boulevard, where all the guys were dressed up like me, I just over-exaggerated my look and went in and just walked up on stage," she told ABC. "I didn’t win. I didn’t even come in close, I don’t think.”

3. Dolly Parton spent a fortune to recreate her childhood home.

Parton and her 11 siblings were raised in a small house in the mountains of Tennessee that lacked electricity and indoor plumbing. When Parton bought the place, she hired her brother Bobby to restore it to the way it looked when they were kids. "But we wanted it to be functional," she recounted on The Nate Berkus Show, "So I spent a couple million dollars making it look like I spent $50 on it! Even like in the bathroom, I made the bathroom so it looked like an outdoor toilet.” You do you, Dolly.

4. Dolly Parton won't apologize for Rhinestone.


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Parton is well-known for her hit movies Steel Magnolias and 9 to 5, less so for the 1984 flop Rhinestone. The comedy musical about a country singer and a New York cabbie was critically reviled and fled from theaters in just four weeks. But while her co-star Sylvester Stallone has publicly regretted the vehicle, Parton declared in her autobiography My Life and Other Unfinished Business that she counts Rhinestone's soundtrack as some of her best work, especially "What a Heartache."

5. Dolly Parton is Miley Cyrus's godmother ... sort of.

"I'm her honorary godmother. I've known her since she was a baby," Parton told ABC of her close relationship with Miley Cyrus. "Her father (Billy Ray Cyrus) is a friend of mine. And when she was born, he said, 'You just have to be her godmother,' and I said, 'I accept.' We never did do a big ceremony, but I'm so proud of her, love her, and she's just like one of my own." Parton also played Aunt Dolly on Cyrus's series Hannah Montana.

6. Dolly Parton received death threats from the Ku Klux Klan.

A photo of Dolly Parton on stage
Getty Images

In the mid-2000s, Dollywood joined the ranks of family amusement parks participating in "Gay Days," a time when families with LGBTQ members are encouraged to celebrate together in a welcoming community environment. This riled the KKK, but their threats didn't scare Dolly. "I still get threats," she has admitted. "But like I said, I'm in business. I just don't feel like I have to explain myself. I love everybody."

7. Dolly Parton started her own "library" to promote literacy, and has given away more than 100 million books.

In 1995, the pop culture icon founded Dolly Parton's Imagination Library with the goal of encouraging literacy in her home state of Tennessee. Over the years, the program—built to mail children age-appropriate books—spread nationwide, as well as to Canada, the UK, and Australia. When word of the Imagination Library hit Reddit, the swarms of parents eager to sign their kids up crashed the Imagination Library site. It is now back on track, accepting new registrations and donations.

8. There's a statue of Dolly Parton in her hometown of Sevierville, Tennessee.

A stone's throw from Dollywood, Sevierville, Tennessee is where Parton grew up. Between stimulating tourism and her philanthropy, this proud native has given a lot back to her hometown. And Sevierville residents returned that appreciation with a life-sized bronze Dolly that sits barefoot, beaming, and cradling a guitar, just outside the county courthouse. The sculpture, made by local artist Jim Gray, was dedicated on May 3, 1987. Today it is the most popular stop on Sevierville's walking tour.

9. The cloned sheep Dolly was named after Dolly Parton.

In 1995 scientists successfully created a clone from an adult mammal's somatic cell. This game-changing breakthrough in biology was named Dolly. But what about Parton inspired this honor? Her own groundbreaking career? Some signature witticism or beloved lyric? Nope. It was her legendary bustline. English embryologist Ian Wilmut revealed, "Dolly is derived from a mammary gland cell and we couldn't think of a more impressive pair of glands than Dolly Parton's."

10. Dolly Parton turned down an offer from Elvis Presley.

After Parton made her own hit out of "I Will Always Love You," Elvis Presley's manager, Colonel Tom Parker, reached out in hopes of having Presley cover it. But part of the deal demanded Parton surrender half of the publishing rights to the song. "Other people were saying, 'You're nuts. It's Elvis Presley. I'd give him all of it!'" Parton admitted, "But I said, 'I can't do that. Something in my heart says don't do that.' And I didn't do it and they didn't do it." It may have been for the best. Whitney Houston's cover for The Bodyguard soundtrack in 1992 was a massive hit that has paid off again and again for Parton.

11. In 2018, Dolly Parton earned two Guinness World Records.

Parton is no stranger to breaking records. And on January 17, 2018 it was announced that she holds not one but two spot in the Guinness World Records 2018 edition: One for Most Decades With a Top 20 Hit on the US Hot Country Songs Chart (she beat out George Jones, Reba McEntire, and Elvis Presley for the honor) and the other for Most Hits on US Hot Country Songs Chart By a Female Artist (with a total of 107). Parton said she was "humbled and blessed."

7 Weird Super Bowl Halftime Acts

Al Bello, Getty Images
Al Bello, Getty Images

Shakira and Jennifer Lopez seem like natural choices to perform the halftime show at this year’s Super Bowl, but the event didn’t always feature musical acts from major pop stars. Michael Jackson kicked off the trend at Super Bowl XXVII in 1993, but prior to that, halftime shows weren’t a platform for the hottest celebrities of the time. They centered around themes instead, and may have featured appearances from Peanuts characters, Jazzercisers, or a magician dressed like Elvis. In honor of Super Bowl LIV on February 2, we’ve rounded up some of the weirdest acts in halftime show history.

1. Return of the Mickey Mouse Club

The era of Super Bowl halftimes before wardrobe malfunctions, illuminati conspiracy theories, and Left Shark was a more innocent time. For 1977’s event, the Walt Disney Company produced a show that doubled as a squeaky-clean promotion of its brand. Themed “Peace, Joy, and Love,” the Super Bowl XI halftime show opened with a 250-piece band rendition of “It’s a Small World (After All).” Disney also used the platform to showcase its recently revamped Mickey Mouse Club.

2. 88 Grand Pianos and 300 Jazzercisers

The theme of the halftime show at Super Bowl XXII in 1988 was “Something Grand.” Naturally, it featured 88 tuxedoed pianists playing 88 grand pianos. Rounding out the program were 400 swing band performers, 300 Jazzercisers, 44 Rockettes, two marching bands, and Chubby Checker telling everyone to “Twist Again."

3. Elvis Impersonator Performs the World’s Largest Card Trick

Many of the music industry's most successful pop stars—like Prince, Madonna, and, uh, Milli Vanilli—were at the height of their fame in 1989, but none of them appeared at Super Bowl XXIII. Instead, the NFL hired an Elvis Presley-impersonating magician to perform. The show, titled “BeBop Bamboozled,” was a tribute to the 1950s, and it featured Elvis Presto performing “the world’s largest card trick.” It also may have included the world's largest eye exam: The show boasted 3D effects, and viewers were urged to pick up special glasses before the game. If the visuals didn't pop like they were supposed to, people were told to see an eye doctor.

4. The Peanuts Salute New Orleans

Super Bowl XXIV featured one of the last halftime acts that was completely devoid of any musical megastars. The biggest celebrity at the 1990 halftime show was Snoopy. Part of the show’s theme was the “40th Anniversary of 'Peanuts,'” and to celebrate the milestone, performers dressed as Peanuts characters and danced on stage. The other half of the theme was “Salute to New Orleans”—not necessarily the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the comic strip.

5. A Tribute to the Winter Olympics

Super Bowl XXVI preceded the 1992 Winter Olympics—a fact that was made very clear by the event’s halftime. The show was titled “Winter Magic” and it paid tribute to the winter games with ice skaters, snowmobiles, and a cameo from the 1980 U.S. hockey team. Other acts, like a group of parachute-pants-wearing children performing the “Frosty the Snowman Rap,” were more generally winter-themed than specific to the Olympics. About 22 million viewers changed the channel during halftime to watch In Living Color’s Super Bowl special, which may have convinced the NFL to hire Michael Jackson the following year.

6. Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye

“Peace, Joy, and Love” wasn’t the only Disney-helmed Super Bowl halftime. In 1995, Disney produced a halftime show called “Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye” to tease the new Disneyland ride of the same name. It centered around a skit in which actors playing Indiana Jones and Marion Ravenwood stole the Vince Lombardi Trophy from an exotic temple, and it included choreographed stunts, fiery special effects, and a snake. Patti LaBelle and Tony Bennett were also there.

7. The Blues Brothers, Minus John Belushi

The 1990s marked an odd period for halftime shows as they moved from schlocky themed variety shows to major music events. Super Bowl XXXI in 1997 perfectly encapsulates this transition period. James Brown and ZZ Top performed, but the headliners were the Blues Brothers. John Belushi had been dead for more than a decade by that point, so Jim Belushi took his place beside Dan Aykroyd. John Goodman was also there to promote the upcoming movie Blues Brother 2000. The flashy advertisement didn’t have the impact they had hoped for and the film was a massive flop when it premiered.

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