Deborah Ann “Debbie” Harry (born July 1, 1945) is an American singer-songwriter and actress, best known for being the lead singer of the new wave band Blondie. She has also had success as a solo artist, and in the mid-1990s she performed and recorded as part of The Jazz Passnegrs. Her acting career spans over thirty film roles and numerous television appearances.
Harry was born in Miami, Florida, and adopted by Catherine Harry and Richard Smith, gift shop proprietors in Hawthorne, New Jersey. She graduated from Centenary College in Hackettstown, New Jersey, with an Associate of Arts degree in 1965. Before starting her singing career she moved to New York City in the late 1960s and worked as a secretary at BBC Radio’s office there for one year. Later, she was a waitress at Max’s Kansas City, a go-go dancer in Union City, New Jersey, discothèque, and a Playboy Bunny.
After stints in a few bands, Harry guitarist Chris Stein formed Blondie in 1974. Blondie quickly became regulars at Max’s Kansas City and CBGB in New York City. After a debut album in 1976, commercial success followed in the late 1970s to the early 1980s, first in Australia and Europe, then in the United States.
Harry featured in The Blank Generation (1976), the earliest “home movie” of New York punk’s birth filmed by Amos Poe and Ivan Kral, legendary 1970s guitarist with Iggy Pop, Blondie and Patti Smith. She also appeared as herself in the film Roadie (1980). Then in 1983, Harry, who had already appeared in a number of independent and underground films, made her major motion picture debut in the David Cronenberg film Videodrome.
Videodrome is a 1983 Canadian science-fiction, body horror film written and directed by David Cronenberg, starring James Woods, Sonja Smits and Deborah Harry, with exceptional effects by Rick Baker. Set in Toronto during the early 1980s, it follows the CEO of a small cable station who stumbles upon a broadcast signal featuring extreme violence and torture. The layers of deception and mind-control conspiracy unfold as he uncovers the signal’s source and loses touch with reality in a series of increasingly bizarre and violent organic hallucinations.
The film received generally positive reviews, with a rating of 80% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 40 reviews. It has been described as a “disturbing techno-surrealist film” and “burningly intense, chaotic, indelibly surreal, absolutely like nothing else”.
Harry took on a number of acting roles including the villainous Velma Von Tussle in John Water’s Hairspray (1988), an affluent suburban housewife and modern-day witch in Tales From the Darkside: The Movie (1990) and Body Bags (1993) by John Carpenter. She has also featured in numerous documentaries about the NY Punk scene, including the excellent End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones (2003), Mayor of the Sunset Strip (2003) and Too Tough to Die: A Tribute to Johnny Ramone (2006).