Magazines + Newspapers


11th January 1986

Pages 18, 19, 32

Parallel Lives

He defined the Sixties; she embodied the Seventies. Now, in the Eighties, they’re working together – on video, in television and on vinyl. CYNTHIA ROSE chats to DEBBIE HARRY and lunches with ANDY WARHOL.


DEBORAH HARRY: both The voice and The Face of the ’70s – a perfect cross of sight and sound, prescience and pop culture.
Her witty hits paved the way for a whole generation of rock frontwomen, from Annie Lennox and Madonna through to Patsy Kensit. She was the first female rock figure to treat video seriously; the first to help score a Miami-based vice saga (Scarface, for which she co-authored and performed ‘Rush Rush’); the first female to commission clothing from now-famous fashion name Stephen Sprouse.
With partner Chris Stein behind the lens, she created a series of photo pinups that inspired New York Soho-setters from Robert Mapplethorpe through Cindy Sherman. And five years ago, as one-third of then-phenomenon Blondie, Debbie and Chris released ‘Rapture’. It made Harry the first white mainstream rocker to score a hit with rap.
More recently Harry released ‘Feel The Spin’, her first disc in two years. Again it’s a soundtrack contribution (she wrote it for Krush Groove, Sheila E’s screen debut and so far the best break/rap/hip-hop screen exploiter). And, again, it’s a collaboration with state-of-the-moment Manhattan music trendies: Madonna’s original Svengali Jellybean Benitez and his female protegee Toni Colandro (“Toni C”). The single, however, is just a tease for the solo LP Debbie is cutting under the aegis of mega-mogul David Geffen.
Geffen is not the only Big Name coaxing Harry back into that limelight where she was once as familiar an icon as Marilyn or Jackie O. On 6 November Jellybean made sure he had Debbie on his arm to open the Palladium’s version of the Fashion Aid charity couture show. Debbie did it to help old pal Stephen Sprouse, currently financially out of business.

ANDY WARHOL is Debbie’s other biggest fan. She has just helped him endorse the Commodore Amiga home computer, lending her famous features for a portrait he created in front of a full house at Lincoln Center.
“He just called up and asked me to model,” says Harry, “so I did it – and now Chris and I get one of these things to play with at home. They’re great too, they even chart music. You sing into ’em and they spit back the notes on a screen.”
It’s hard to remember, perhaps, that during ’68 and ’69, Debbie Harry was merely the waitress serving Warhol and his Factory acolytes at Max’s Kansas City.
“Yeah, and the public never heard those really sick songs I wrote about that either! I had one called ‘Puerto Rico’, about all the hip guys I used to meet when I stopped being a beautician in New Jersey and started waiting bars in New York. Those guys were always gonna take you someplace. (Harry drops her husky voice an octave and croons) ‘Heee’eee baby, wanna go down to Puerto Rico?’.”
Of course, the man who really won the hand of punk’s female Face was Chris Stein, who met Debbie in 1972 and helped found Blondie. And for the last two years, it has been Stein’s erratic health that has pre-occupied Harry, pre-empted any artistic plans by the duo, and eaten up much of the money recouped in the aftermath of Blondie’s 1983 split.
A pernicious, debilitating blood ailment manifested through a painful skin condition has kept Stein in and out of hospital, leaving him weak and frustrated. Rumours have flown and, in light of Blondie’s admittedly wilder days, Debbie and Chris finally gave up trying to field them. Instead they simply re-appeared: at this year’s New York New Music Seminar. Touchy about his weight gain from treatment with steroids and cortisone, Chris didn’t find the attention particularly pleasant. But for Harry it marked a turning point, and these days she’s back at work.
Even her voice has regained its old bounce and bite as she explains, “I hate the word ‘comeback’, because we’ve just continuously been through so much. But this past summer was just great for us personally. Chris feels better, his spirits are better, and he’s made tremendous progress medically. Before that, there was a point where he just lost his sense of humour, which (Debbie signs), that just happens. Now, though, we’re both working. I’m starting this album and Chris is finally able to write soundtracks, which he’s always wanted to try. He also did the theme music for Fifteen Minutes”. (Andy Warhol’s brand-new MTV cable show, on which Harry was a first-night interviewee).
“Andy has a really nice show there,” says Debbie. “He looks amazing and he does a good job on it. I guess he feeds from it – I know when I’m in a good tole about work, it’s the best thing imaginable, it does feed you. If you listen to the music under the credits, in fact,” she notes, “that’s sort of the direction I can see Chris and me heading musically.”
Stein is more dismissive about his contribution to the chatfest: “Ah, that’s very light stuff, computer-synthesiser crap. The whole enterprise is just personality stuff. But for MTV it’s good just because it moves fast, which is something their vee-jays never do.”
Debbie is experimenting with “a group” of writer (“I don’t want to put a really heavy burden on Chris yet”), but Stein will definitely contribute to her Geffen project.
“A lot of what I’ve been doing lately,” Chris says, “is based on the processes I’ve been learning. We have a whole sort of computer and synthesiser room at home now; it looks like the cockpit of a 747. I’m real involved with composing through that.”

MANY OF the tensions within Blondie originated as a result of Chris and Debbie’s “outside interests”: in fashion, art, photography, film and street musics. Chris says he finds it interesting “what’s happening in video now, because in that industry it only took about two years to accomplish the kind of corporate takeover that took ten years to destroy the music industry.”
“There’s this big buzz on video,” he comments, “has been for three or four years now. We were pioneers of the whole thing, but… now there’s just a glut of really shitty stuff. The media certainly has created tremendous divisions, tremendous factionalism, which doesn’t do anything to build a scene or create any sort of warmness either within young people or even between the young people and the record companies supplying the goods. It’s just – agents of chaos.
“Everyone is treated like prizefighters rather than musicians – sort of squaring off. You know, even when Blondie first came out it was always this same stupid thing – ‘Debbie versus Patti’, ‘Tom Verlaine versus John Ramone’; whoever it happened to be that week.”
Now, of course, Blondie is looked back on as a progenitor of ‘New Music’.
“They’re always pushing that term,” remarks Harry, “but I’m sure it comes from the original New Music Seminar up here. It’s become this whole annual institution now; it’s all the industry stroking itself. That’s OK for business types who wanna hang out and discuss their part in everything. But I think the whole aim at the first one was just to commercialise all the new music – capitalise the letters and pigeonhole the stuff for sales and radio play.”
“It was a different era when we started out,” adds Chris. “I mean, New York’s turned into a fuckin’ nightlife city, whereas ten years ago there were no people! I can’t get over this whole nightclub scene going on now – it’s like, where did these people COME FROM? On one level, it’s like CBGBs and The Sex Pistols were a million years ago. But on another one, it’s like it just happened.”
“A good example of that,” he continues, “is Andy Warhol. ‘Cause you can’t believe how – even the very last tour with Blondie together, just how many people who previewed the show – previewed and not reviewed – groaned on and on about ‘Andy Warhol’ and ‘art’. Everybody was moaning’ about it. Being associated with ‘art’ was a fairly negative thing as recently as that.”
Yet many of the elements Debbie and Chris brought to their band – the movie allusions, the underground pals, the fashion statements and the musical influences (rap, reggae, art noise and synthosound) – are now familiar components of today’s highly visual, heavily promoted music scene. Others remain unique: the Animal Records label founded by Chris in ’81 “because everyone bitches how their record companies are animals, but no one does anything about it”; the 1982 Harry/Stein book, Making Tracks; and Debbie’s screen credits, from Unmade Beds and Union City through David Cronenberg’s Videodrome.
“It’s true we never got credit for a lot of things,” muses Debbie, “because we did break a variety of stuff, even in fashion. I think we particularly did a lot in that early punk period. But then, I always wanted to do films and I always combined visuals with anything I tried.
“That’s just my particular sensibility; it’s why I appreciate Warhol’s vision, if you want to call it that. I mean, one night about four years ago, just after a gig, we were coming down the New Jersey turnpike and there lay this huge overturned semi truck, just spewing Campbell’s soup cans out onto the highway. This HUGE accident in the dead of night, in the middle of nowhere! And all I could think was – what a Warhol ripoff!” (Laughs)
“Actually, you know, Andy has a pretty sound over-view. I think he’s very much in control; sometimes it almost startles me.”
Debbie shares with Andy the realisation that “you have to try and approach things through the vehicle of humour. Because if you realise what’s what – and believe me, it takes some time and some experience to be able to decode the media – you know you can’t approach it from an entirely serious point of view. For one thing, you’d get far too bogged down to make any artistic progress. That usually involves going against the prevailing grain of society anyway.”

WHAT DEBBIE wants now, she says, is only “a continuation of what I’ve always tried to do. I mean, the irony of life certainly still impresses me! But we do have the advantage of experience now. And the whole conceit that your art has to be ‘better’… that used to really aggravate me and now I can just dismiss it, really. It came from an insecurity, from rock always being judged at the bottom of the pile.”
But how does she feel about re-immersing herself in the whole circus? “Fine, really; though it’s all at a real elementary stage just now, it’s like making a demo. Besides the single, there are a couple of things finished which I personally feel happy with. One’s called ‘Love Toy’, and the other’s ‘I Want You’. But I really like getting together this little network of people to work together. And I got a kick off working on the film because we were in on the rap stuff so long ago.”
“Yeah,” adds Stein, “it’s weird that that stuff is so accepted now; its in MacDonald’s commercials! We first saw it out in the parks in the summer, you know, over ten years ago. It was like toasting in reggae, like that and the dub stuff. I’m not sure whether it really got started in New York or not. But then (laughs) I’m still in the middle of a major disagreement with Debbie over the origin of platform boots.”
Face of the ’70s or Feet of the ’60s; the Harry/Stein hit machine looks likely to make new tracks. And it could well be that the pop queens of today could pick up a cue or two from their precursor.


THE MANSION is the swankiest, most carefully-hidden hostelry in Dallas: the site, among other events, of Dallas siren Victoria Principal’s top-security wedding this summer. Yet, in this precariously-perched blond wig and trademark black turtleneck, Andy Warhol is immediately recognisable among the frou-frou foliage of the hotel’s Promenade restaurant.
Approach, and you realise that the wig is really a dirty grey-blond, offset by glasses with candy-pink frames. You also realise that the icon with the impeccable posture and baby-pale skin is much earthier than actually projects a wealth of personality; and his voice is deep, even gruff. Somewhat reserved, He’s still curious, opinionated, and broadly informed.
And, instead of the entourage of legend, today he is accompanied only by Interview photographer Chris Makos (author of White Trash) and Craig Nelson, a New York rep for publishers Harper and Row. Harper’s have just brought out Warhol’s black-and-white America, a 224-page photo-monologue. Andy’s here today on a hit-and-run mission to appear at bookstores and lend his famous signature to newly-purchased copies.
Since his near-fatal shooting by Valerie Solanas on 9 January, 1969, Warhol has been missing bits of his liver, spleen, stomach, esophagus, and both lungs. Next to his first-generation-American immigrant background, this seems to be the central, symbolic touchstone of his life.
His manners are polished – but his air is one of caution. As we discuss American libel laws, Andy mentions how “the permissible changes dramatically for different media: snapshots, film, portraiture”. Just snapping someone in a nightclub, says Craig, doesn’t constitute an invasion of privacy. (“You have to be reaching for a stripper’s thigh…”).
But in White Trash,” Makos interjects, “I had people doing all kinds of kooky things. I guess they either wanted to be photographed or they didn’t care.”
Warhol coughs into his snowy napkin. “Or else you were lucky.”
“But you would think,” says Makos, “that particularly for lesser-known kids, to be involved in a project with Andy Warhol would be…”
“Well, you never know,” says Andy firmly. “You get this one crazy person…”
Makos: “One crazy person and that’s it?”
Warhol looks down, into his cup of steaming tea.
The tea, Andy confides in a running series of asides, is the most palatable thing about this best-Dallas-has-to-offer meal. This morning in Manhattan he arose at five am, was on the plane by seven-30. (“All those businessmen! As soon as they get on, they order Bloody Marys and vodkas – it’s unbelievable!”). Now, it’s half-past noon his time – the lunchbreak in a day due to run until ten pm. “I always work from eight until ten,” says Warhol.
This is something I heard in 1983 from Debbie Harry, when she and Chris Stein first met Andy.
“Warhol’s work ethic,” she marvelled then, “is just incredibly strong. He gets up early, goes into his studio, paints or whatever all day long, does phone calls in the afternoon and luncheons and all that, then at night he goes out and has a social routine. I don’t know how he does it; he really suffered from that shooting. Chris and I have been to dinner with him many times when he just didn’t eat anything. Or else he really did cover up his plate, take it with him and leave it on a ledge for the local bums. It’s like he was the first promulgator of nouvelle cuisine.”
For a while now, Warhol has been working out daily with a personal trainer (he also wears a corset, the secret to his impressive posture). And, today at least, he definitely does eat. As the menus arrive, native Los Angeleno Makos begins to promo his favourite Southwestern dish: tortilla soup.
“It’s soooooo good, Andy. It’s like a chicken stock with just trashed-up, ripped-up pieces of tortilla that have been boiling all day in it. It’s really your kind of thing.”
“…just pick up the phone,” Warhol is saying, “and something exciting is on the other end. Here, well – I want to stay late enough to see the green building (Dallas’ towering skyscraper Interfirst Plaza is outlines in screaming green neon) come on.”
Andy also wants to know if anyone caught Sid Caesar’s episode on Steven Spielberg’s telly extravaganza Amazing Stories last night.
“Was it funny? It’s about a down-and-out comic, right?”
Makos: “Yeah, he has magic cards. The cards do this trick; they float around. It’s just like the others, really, nothing in that thing lives up to the credit sequence at the beginning. You know, this comic finally sees his cards do their trick and he gets the point – better stop doing the trick, cause it’s your time to give up.”
“Oh,” replies the 57-year-old wünderkind across the table. “THAT point, huh?”

NEXT TO Andy a Mansion minion in sparkling white and foot-tall chef’s hat is ministering to the tortilla soup in a silver chafing-dish.
“Look,” whispers Warhol, “they’re heating it up! It could be from a can.”
“You’ve never had tortilla soup?” asks an incredulous Makos. “I’m surprised.”
“Well,” replies Andy placidly, “maybe I’m surprising.”
Warhol has been to Dallas “a lot”; he says he used to come down here “to run off with people”. And, yes, he thinks it has changed “because of the movie (to Andy, all TV is ‘the movie’). Now everyone tries to live up to the movie, whether they like it or not. Whether they know it or not. It’s exactly the same in Denver since Dynasty.”
“This is definitely not canned, Andy,” says the PR lady re-assuringly, as a heady tortilla vapour wafts over the table.
Craig: “It smells wonderful!”
“It’s my favourite soup,” re-asserts Makos.
Warhol’s own dish is already half-empty.
“This tastes as if you had dishwater and your tortilla got soaked in it. I mean,” he adds hastily, “it’s good, but that really is what it tastes like. Leftovers and soggy tortillas.”
“Oh it is good, though, isn’t it?” opines Chris Makos.
Warhol dislodges a bit of avocado from a clump of tortilla strips.
“It’s… unusual. The bread is better.”
At this point, Dr. Karen Burke arrives. Dr Burke is a tall, immaculately-groomed and be-jewelled brunette from Manhattan who flies to Dallas one day a week in order to practice at the Cosmetic Surgery Center of North Dallas. There she works under Dr James H Fowler.
“I want him to come up to Manhattan,” confides Dr Burke. “We don’t have enough plastic surgeons up there. Right, Andy?”
Warhol starts to explain that, in fact, his day began medically – with an in-flight news item on dyslexia.
“They showed some doctors slicing up these brains,” he shivers, “with something that looked just like a cheese-cutter. Ugggh.”
“Andy!” chides Dr Burke. “I do that all the time.”
Incidentally a physicist too, Dr Burke is building a computer model of the brain, to extrapolate on left-side and right-side functions. Warhol notes that he himself has just endorsed an ‘artistic’ computer: the Amiga.
“It’s really great,” he enthuses. “You can paint on it and chart music and just everything, right at home. It’s one computer you can do a lot with. Especially the palette, the colours.”
Asked about the Lincoln Center launch he masterminded with Debbie, Andy points out that “they approached me. They just wanted me to do something and we thought of Debbie since she was sort of coming out of this slump. And it worked out fine, because she always has been just great.”
On Warhol’s new MTV talk show (Fifteen Minutes), he “just had to have” Harry as an initial guest.
“Debbie and Chris were always so ahead of everyone else; Blondie had just the best videos, I was watching them only the other night. Debbie just – she made a mistake trying to change too fast. She cut her hair, changed her hair colour – kids can’t even accept that. It’s like it hurts their feelings.”
“I wish that computer were a better-looking machine,” says Makos thoughtfully. “It doesn’t look as good as the Apple.”
“Yes it DOES!” maintains Andy. “Yes it does. I mean, you have the same look, the physical appearance of both of them seems the same to me.” He glances down at the plate being slid beneath his nose onto the table. “Chris, what is this?”
“It’s bulgur,” replies Makos. “Cracked wheat. It’s really good for you. It’ll give you a lot of energy for the day.
“But it’s just like bread,” mutters Andy, dutifully digging in, “I could just have got two slices of cracked-wheat bread.” He looks across the table at me and grins.
“The Mexican food really is good here,” says Makos, tucking into his tabouli.
“Well this is dreadful,” Warhol whispers.
“But Andy, I don’t know if it’s so easy to get all the ingredients…”
“You can make this at home!!!” replies Andy, exasperated.
“OK, but the BREAD is great.” Makos rests his case.

OBVIOUSLY, MUCH of Warhol’s energy still goes into Interview; as proud as any publisher, he pulls out the perfect-bound November issue, as thick as a Cannes-week Variety. He rabbits on about it while everyone else eats – he even asks me how I manage to “get such good interviews down here”, confiding that “it’s actually very hard to get good interviews in New York”.
“The December issue,” he promises, “is fat too. And it has the first interview with Madonna and Sean Penn (grins)… By Harry Dean Stanton. This is our ‘big’ big year this year. We wanted it to be like this every month. But it’s just too expensive. Record companies, for instance, never advertise. But people still want to read about rock stars.”
“That’s because music biz dollars are better spent on videos these days,” Makos shrugs.
“Yeah, that’s why we have Fifteen Minutes,” says Andy. “But, actually it’s very inexpensive to air your three-minute thing locally in New York. You know? It’s not so bad. Local cable, for like the David Letterman show – it’s around $800; that’s at one am. Just think about how cheap that is for TV access!
“At two 30 in the morning,” Warhol continues, “they now repeat the news! We figure that means they can’t get advertisers, so maybe rates will go even lower. ‘Cause after Letterman now, there’s a repeated game show, and then repeated news.”
Warhol may still be the social butterfly par excellence, but a lot of his chit-chat revolves around late-night TV or magazine and tabloid info. And another hefty portion has to do with diet: he hoards received wisdom on Fit-For-Life schemes and the side effects of sugar.
Yesterday, he says, Makos photographed the notorious, 93 year-old theatrical designer Erté.
“And actually, he looks great. His attitude is so youthful. You know if you don’t get senile and your attitude is OK then you can out-pass that age and you’re still great.”
Can he mean Erté still works?
“Does he still work?” Andy rolls his eyes. “He makes 20 million dollars a year and these dresses he did, a whole collection of them comes out tomorrow. He does sculpture, too.”
“Hey!” interrupts Makos. “He said he wanted to do a trade with you. Do you want to do a trade with him?”
“No,” says Warhol, eyeing the lemon tart on the desert wagon. “No, I have a lot of things of his I bought years ago. You know, his original things are less expensive than his reproductions, can you handle that? It’s because they have this big guy that just started managing him, just took over his whole life.”
“That’s not what’s gonna happen to you though, Andy,” smiles Makos. “You’re just gonna get like 85, and 95, and – ”
“…and I’ll be doing what? Shoe prints? No, cameras.” Andy laughs. “I’ll be endorsing cameras, like Laurence Olivier and his Polaroid. Actually, Erté told me what he really wants to do is design the menu for the Concorde. They should take him up on that.”

THE CHEQUE arrives and Christopher signs (“he’s the boss,” says Warhol).
What happens to Andy’s jottings, I enquire, vis-a-vis the Celebrity Trash problem? (First I have to explain I mean garbage people pick up rather than people they pick up).
“Oh, that,” says Andy. “I’ve always wanted to do that myself. Like, all those things people sign for – registration forms, menu bills, room service, all that stuff. I always wondered what happens to them. They are really famous, you know; people have them from movie stars, personalities, Dolly Parton. Because it’s just the kind of thing you do when you’re not thinking. It’s not part of your work, so you just do it when you go to Europe or Japan or here.”
Speaking of registrations, the Warhol suite is ready at last. Andy re-assembles his airplane armoury of distractions – copies of The Globe, The Star, The New York Post and The National Enquirer. Even after tortilla soup, tabouli and a vitamin popped when he thought no one was watching, Warhol looks a trifle peaky. But it’s only two pm; barely half a working man’s day has passed. Andy straightens his candy-rimmed specs and folds the serviette he’s leaving behind.
“What time is tea?” he enquires nervously.
Copyright Cynthia Rose 1985.

Pages 20 & 21

Platinum logic…
STUART COSGROVE gets to the roots of blonde.


SO WE think of Marilyn who was every man’s love affair with America, Marilyn Monroe who was blonde and beautiful and had a sweet little rinky-dink voice.” Norman Mailer’s now famous description of Marilyn Monroe binds together three separate ideas of the blonde: glamour, sweetness and the national dish. It bypasses the tragic realities of her life in order to leave us with an icon, a saintly person personified in images, a vision of glamour, femininity and physical perfection.
As Monroe’s career passed through almost 40 years of public exposure from her young days as a pin-up girl to her current role as the long-gone icon of all blondes, the characteristics that have been attributed to her behaviour, her hair and her acting ability have shifted with every photo-session. Pouting, submissive, erotic, arresting, tragic, curvaceous, available, forbidden, sometimes naked and sometimes fully clothed, but always blonde. A beguiling blonde, a dumb blonde, a dizzy blonde, even a temptress, a candy blonde, but always a blonde.
Marilyn has been a reference point for almost every subsequent blonde, an icon whose appearance has been used, dispersed and redefined. There’s the boy called Marilyn, a cross-gender pop star with Hollywood locks; the black Marilyn, Val Young, currently Motown’s most dynamic female singer; and the cinematic Marilyn of Nicholas Roeg’s Insignificance. A woman “halfway between myth and reality” whose body was framed in the radioactive years of America in the ’50s, the years of McCarthy and hydrogen explosions at Bikini atoll, the decade of the anatomic bombshell. And the fallout still hangs over every blonde.


ON WEDNESDAY 17 October 1984 a sixteen year old blonde boy gazed at his father’s coffin as a close family friend, the comedian Freddie Starr, who had already suffered his own very public nervous breakdown, barely held back his tears. The funeral was a requiem for blondes. The final tragedy in the life of Britain’s most popular post-war bombshell, the actress Diana Dors, who had died of cancer five months before. Her blond son was left to cope with personal loss in the full glare of a cruelly sympathetic media. The mother, a national institution, was dead and the father, barely able to cope with alcoholism and the empty life of a widower, had committed suicide.
Arranged around the graveside was the screenplay for a real melodrama, the death of Britain’s agony-aunt, the one time screen starlet who made it to the cover of Picture Post. Diana Fluck, her surname one brief letter away from sex, became DD, the answer to Hollywood’s MM and France’s artistic bombshell BB Diana Dors arose in the mid-’40s to become the archetypal good-time girl, a sexual goddess with a working-class heart of gold. Her films, nowhere near classics, read like an itinerary of blondeness – Good Time Girl (1948), Diamond Lily (1949), Lady Godiva Rides Again (1951), The Weak And The Wicked (1952), The Unholy Wife (1956) and Scent Of Mystery (1960) seemed by their titles alone to stretch the meaning of peroxide, turning it from a bottled chemical into an elixir of sexual, promiscuous, sinful and mysterious style.
The life and death of Diana Dors forces us to recognise a pathology of blondeness as if the colour alone was the root into emotional, violent or tragic death.
On 5 August 1962 when Marilyn Monroe’s housekeeper found her naked in bed, killed by an overdose of barbiturates, it was the end of Norma Jean Baker, the spectacular script for her entry into myth and the beginning of years of speculation about the real circumstances of her death. Suicide? Manslaughter? Accidental death? Murder? Her most recent and convincing biographer, Anthony Summers, who implicated the Kennedy brothers in both her life and death, saw the split-ends of tragedy perpetually spoiling her platinum image.
“Behind the hyperbole and hysteria there was a child who grew to be a woman, who was a symbol of love yet essentially lonely, who died famously but in folly at the age of 36. She postured as the world’s mistress, yet yearned for monogamy and motherhood. The profile was crude while the pursuit was for culture. The brilliance of the actress masked a seriously disturbed psyche.”
Monroe’s life ended at home and Mansfield’s ended on a highway. Vera Jane Palmer, always living in Marilyn’s shadow, had a superstructure that became the talk of Hollywood, she bulged out of daringly cut dresses, expanded tight cashmere sweaters and died on an unusually wet night in June, the victim of a car crash. Jayne Mansfield epitomised the buxom blonde, her breasts always a source of fame and ridicule. She died in decline, a study of living erotica, who was always smarter than her dumb blonde image: but even in death she suffered the sneering jokes of international gossip, her body always the punch-line. “When Jayne Mansfield died it took four men to carry her body from the wreckage: two a breast.”
Platinum icons, peroxide stars and buxom blondes were turned obliquely on themselves when punk arrived. Debbie Harry played Blondie, the name stolen from Chic Young’s strip cartoon on the life of Dagwood Bumstead, Billy Idol played the cheap-bleached kid of the X Generation and Nancy Spungen played the corpse.
The pathology of blondeness stretches back through blood-stained bathrooms, cancer, crashed cars, and drug overdoses and effects some of the century’s most recognisable blondes. Thelma Todd, ‘the ice-cream blonde’, who worked as a silent star with Laurel and Hardy died the victim of an unsolved murder. Frances Farmer, ‘the new Garbo’, spent her adult life as an incarcerated blonde confined to an asylum, accused of everything from traffic violations to alcoholic communism. In 1958 Lana Turner, ‘the sweater girl blonde’, watched on as her daughter murdered her lover.
The pathology seems to hate women. Setting up blondes as the most desirable of female figures male society turned them into victims.

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