Frozen in Time: Blondie’s Debbie Harry and Chris Stein, New York, March 1981
Comedy oven gloves are often overlooked when one considers the 1970s punk scene of New York, getting lost among the black leather and heroin. We’re in the apartment of Chris Stein and Debbie Harry in 1981, when they were the most glamorous couple in the world, and they’re having what looks like quite a laugh.
Debbie Harry was performing with a girl group called the Stilettos in 1974, and nervous in the spotlight, started singing to a silhouette in the crowd. It was Stein. They formed Blondie, and created the kind of pop hits that, 40 million album sales later, still blast from kitchen radios in 2017. This portrait was taken by Allan Tannenbaum, photo editor of the SoHo Weekly News, a man who documented both the flashy glitz of New York in that period, and the less-seen grit. “It was a piece about Blondie at home, and I was going for a sort of tongue-in-cheek take on domesticity,” he remembers. “Debbie had – still has, at 71 – a unique sense of humour, so she was chopping vegetables and performing these exaggerated motions of cooking. While still looking beautiful, of course.”
There’s another picture Stein took of Harry in their 17th Street kitchen after they’d returned from tour in 1977 to discover the apartment had burned down. Harry put on an old gown of Marilyn Monroe’s, which appeared to have melted, and set a frying pan on fire; the Blondie kitchen was always more of a stage than a staging area. And the act of seasoning an oven glove? Well, it’s not too far off the “clean” eating Harry espouses today, a life sans gluten, sans dairy, sans everything. “Because I’m so weight-conscious, I’ve grown accustomed to salads and raw foods,” she said. She starts her days with protein shakes, occasionally ending them with a three bean chilli. “Making a good salad dressing is an art,” she added. Proving, perhaps, that it was never about the food.