Debbie Harry 1977 NYC

NYC 1977 – photo Tom Hearn

This is one of the first interviews I did with Legs for Please Kill Me and I was really nervous. Debbie Harry! We met at the Moonstruck Diner in Chelsea. She couldn’t have been more gracious. And smart. And funny.  

                                Gillian

LEGS: Can we start with Eric Emerson. Can you describe Eric?

DEBBIE: Sort of blond and sweaty, unpredictable, wild, charming, very smart, crazy, self-destructive, talented, obnoxious when he was too loaded which was often…

7   Eric - Split NYC

Eric Emerson in the Kitchen in the Mercer Arts Center (copyright ‘Moonlight Dust’ archives)- circa 1972. (thanks Sesu)

LEGS: Was he an inspiration?

DEBBIE: To me?

LEGS: Yeah, or Chris [Stein]?

DEBBIE: Oh, I don’t know, they lived together, you should ask Chris that.

LEGS: Because Eric seems to foreshadow what comes later with the kind of Warhol-drag-Jackie Curtis thing; all these crazy types seemed to set the stage for punk, would you agree with that? I mean, the sense of humor, being in the John Vaccaro plays…

jackiepic1

Jackie Curtis

DEBBIE: I guess so. I don’t know, it seems like there was the whole crew from the West Coast, too.

LEGS: Tomato [Du Plenty] and…

DEBBIE: Yeah…

LEGS: Angels of Light.

DEBBIE: Yeah, all those guys. I think that that was more immediate, because those guys were really more powerful and popular and in the limelight in the late 60s.

LEGS: Did you see the Angels of Light when they came to New York?

DEBBIE: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah.

LEGS: Can you describe it?

DEBBIE: It was just a huge drag show, and funny and done well and had a lot of people in that turned up later as solo artists—Sylvester and I guess [Potassa de] Fayette was in it, too; I’m not sure, maybe Fayette wasn’t in it. But it was sort of that crossover period between glitter and I don’t know what it was, ha ha ha. Crossover between glitter… I guess Alice Cooper might’ve been a precursor as much as anybody, really. Eric was continuing on to do gigs and stuff then but he wasn’t really doing his glitter thing as much. That was kind of earlier.

LEGS: It was.

DEBBIE: Yeah, I mean he was always throwing glitter around.

LEGS:  Do you think he was affected by the Jackie Curtis/John Vaccaro stuff? Because from what I understand of the John Vaccaro plays they were complete glitter.

DEBBIE: Oh, I don’t know, maybe they all got it from him because Chris always says he was the first glitter person.

LEGS: Eric?

DEBBIE: Yeah. I mean, he used to just smear it all over his body and run around and do insulting things to everyone, he was like the enfant terrible or something. I mean he was just really totally mad and insulting. He was great.

LEGS: Were you around when that thing went down with the Velvet’s cover… first album… back cover…

eric-emerson-andy-warhol-8103709-325-441

DEBBIE: The back cover?

GILLIAN: There was a picture of Eric Emerson in the collage and then he was threatening to sue because there hadn’t been any release forms…

DEBBIE:  Ha!

GILLIAN: And then the album had to be pulled from the record stores for a while.

DEBBIE:  Oh, what a bad boy.

[PAUSE TO ORDER LUNCH]

DEBBIE: I don’t have much to say really…

LEGS: Yes, you do.

DEBBIE: I don’t really and I’ve forgotten a lot. I fell on my head a few times.

LEGS: Then let’s start with Max’s. How did you get the job there?

DEBBIE: I applied, ha ha ha. To Mickey Ruskin, in person.

LEGS: And what did Mickey say? Was he nice?

DEBBIE: No, he was a horrible person. He was always uptight and insulting and rude and condescending and he hated people, and I don’t blame him.

LEGS: Did you like Mickey?

DEBBIE: Yeah, he was my kinda guy. Not especially but I sort of understood after a while why he was like that… you know, anybody who runs a restaurant like Max’s, my god, what a madhouse! I mean, it was really quite a scene. But you know, he certainly had his favorites and after you got to know him he became friendlier.

LEGS: Did you like working at Max’s?

DEBBIE: As much as anyone can like waitressing. It was a fun place to work. The time went quickly because it was so busy and I made lots of money.

LEGS: Did you meet everybody you wanted to meet? Were you fascinated by the Warhol crowd? The drag queen crowd?

Factory-People-andy-warhol-8103590-600-610

(from left) Gerard Malanga, Edie Sedgwick, Chuck Wein, Andy Warhol. Photo © by David Bailey

DEBBIE: Not especially. Some of them were nice, some of them were just real bitchy, most of them were very cliquish at the time because they were so hot. I was more afraid of them because they came in so late at night and they were so wild and I was such an asshole, you know… I was such a… I didn’t really know anything or anybody so they were kind of scary.

LEGS: Did you wanna be in a band at that time? Had you been in Wind of the Willows already?

windf

DEBBIE: I had already, yeah. I wasn’t sure that I liked the music business at that time, so I had sort of dropped out of that and I really didn’t know what I was gonna do. Actually, what I did was, this guy picked me up and took me to Hollywood, to his mansion in Bel Air, that’s how I ended my life at Max’s.

LEGS: What did you do in Bel Air?

DEBBIE: I didn’t like it there, either; it wasn’t me. So I came back to New York. I mean, is this my biography or what? What is this?

LEGS: Yeah… everybody’s …

DEBBIE: Supposed to be questions about fucking punk, man.

 

END OF INTERVIEW ONE

TO BE CONTINUED…
Part 2 is HERE
Part 3 IS HERE

COPYRIGHT LEGS MCNEIL AND GILLIAN MCCAIN

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