Pic by Julian Simmonds/Xenon
ONE CRUCIAL thing the mass of shock horror probes of David Cronenberg’s ‘Videodrome’ horror fantasy neglected to mention was the main thrust of the film’s story: a Moral Majority-style organisation conspiring to rid America of pornography and violence by an extreme form of aversion therapy, via a cable TV signal.
The special effects are gut-churningly good and heavy on sexual symbolism, and the whole plot is inextricably entwined with that last great taboo, ‘la vice anglaise’, sado-masochism.
This is where Debbie Harry comes in. She plays a mixed-up radio phone-in agony aunt who gets her sexual pleasure only through pain. I won’t reveal the story – go see it, it’s one of this year’s most sinister and thought-provokingly topical films.
The media hysteria was mainly caused by the scenes in which Nicki (played by Debbie) has her self-destructive fantasies played out with the help of the film’s main victim/hero James Woods. Nicki having her lobes pierced by needles, Nicky stubbing out a cigarette on her breast, Nicky being whipped – all this has led to Debbie suffering the full force of press disgust over video nasties. She’s been… ripped to shreds.
After a week of interviews, slag offs, personal insults, Debbie sat in her suite at The Ritz feeling terminally tired. She’d been primed for a bit of mild outrage, but this! We started our post mortem…
You must have had an extremely difficult week…
DH: “You can’t really let it get in, you have to forget about it. It’s kind of ridiculous, isn’t it? In a kind of sense I’ve been used as a political pawn.”
It’s been much heavier than I thought – and I did warn you!
DH: “But this is ridiculous. It has nothing to do with reality, of the movie anyway, it just has to do with political problems and the rush for power – everyone wants to control this new cable TV thing and make money off of it.”
Were you thrown into this head first without knowing what you were getting into?
DH: “I was. I got here and my PR said ‘there’s a bit of a thing on, a bit of a controversy about this video nasty business’. The distributors of the film are thrilled beyond belief. They couldn’t be happier, and the President of my record company couldn’t be happier either.
“We’ve had calls from Ministers, town councillors and religious groups saying ‘we’re not going to let this film in our town.’ How do they know if they’ve never seen it? ‘We don’t want to see it, we don’t want to know about it, we read about it – that’s enough’ they said. That’s funny, isn’t it? It’s a comedy almost, a comedy of errors.”
Everyone wants to see video nasties but the powers that be don’t want them to.
DH: “It’s not even that, I think it’s because they want to control it and own it, make money off it ‘cos there’s a big expansion that’s going to go on now. They don’t want it to be public access in the truest sense of the word where it’s up for grabs and the average person could get something out of it.”
Have you read many of the film reviews?
DH: “Truthfully I can’t read the glut of it, I’m going to leave that all till later on. I don’t wanna read the gossipy bitchy stuff now, otherwise I’d be really mad.”
Have you really been held responsible for the shock horror stuff yourself?
DH: “Yeah, it’s been ‘why did you let Cronenberg write this thing’. I’ve not been held totally responsible, I’ve been held totally irresponsible with regard to the number of people who are going to go out and commit violent acts and perverted sexual things now, and ‘my God how did you do that to your chest!’ They don’t even say breast, it’s chest. It wasn’t my chest, it was my tit!”
We’re very repressed here at the moment you know…!
DH: “Some are, some aren’t. Most are I think. You did warn me about all of that. I keep saying this thing about how in the States we look on S&M as a matter for consenting adults. My other favourite phrase is why can’t people look at the prospect of cable TV and video as a great possibility and a great advantage, a thing they can do good with rather than have all that fear. But they seem afraid, it seems to be the way with new stuff. I think it’s good for your country to have this chance now.”
I don’t think so, not here!
DH: “That’s a damn shame…”
The franchises are being given out by the government to networks backed by multi-nationals.
DH: “That’s what they’re angling for, all of them in parliament, those juicy bastards. The nerve. They’re creating this thing, the poor people are just being used as pawns… (thinks)… You should open a dungeon – wouldn’t that be funny!”
It must be frustrating for you having to sit there and take all the flak.
DH: “It’s so funny I can’t get over it. It seems to me that I’m a very nice person, I’m always so polite and gentle and co-operative and I don’t curse very much, and all this stuff happens about perverts… I should do those things, I should have a fling and have fun and then they won’t bother me – right, that’s it! They keep wanting to know if that’s really the real me, but it’s bullshit, just selling papers. Or is it just me?”
I read that apparently you’ve always had this sadomasochistic image.
DH: “Oh, yes, isn’t it true! I’ve just been reading the opposite of everything I’ve been told. Everything that’s been thrown at me this week about what Blondie was – how Blondie was always very rough and punkish, the bad girl, it’s just the opposite.”
How soon they forget!
DH: “That’s right! Maybe they never knew!”
Just before Debbie’s eyes close in total exhaustion, she reveals that her new Moroder-produced single, the theme tune from the new Al Pacino movie ‘Scarface’ is a driving dance song with a latin/salsa beat, and it’s out here in January. But it may just have been an hallucination. I was too busy thinking about opening my dungeon…