Face It: Debbie Harry’s New Memoir and Live Talks Book Event in Los Angeles
LOS ANGELES, CA-
“Coincidence: it’s supposed to mean just these random, disconnected events that concur or collide. But coincidence is not that at all. It’s the stuff that’s meant to be. Things that are supposed to be drawn together, as if by some extra-earthly force. Things that connect and become woven and then shoot off to form previously unimagined combinations. Small changes that tumble into a fresh dynamic- as coincidence and chaos give birth to a new creation…” Face It, page 77
The platinum hair, the bee-stung lips, the soft Marilyn-esque voice with just a tinge of accent belying her working-class New Jersey roots, Debbie Harry cannot help but radiate from the stage of the Aratani Theatre at the Japanese American Cultural Center on Friday, October 4, 2019 in downtown Los Angeles, where she sits, side by side with Blondie bandmate Chris Stein in a discussion about her newly released memoir, Face It.
Sponsored by Live Talks Los Angeles, Debbie’s L.A. appearance in a multi-city book tour is met with anticipation as several hundred admirers form a lengthy and circuitous line to pick up their pre-signed copies of Face It immediately prior to the event. The book itself stands as a stylized piece of art, heavy on the photographs. Debbie’s intention with Face It appears to be a reflection of not only the inside looking out but also of the outside looking in, using dozens of pieces to fan art to help tell her story, a true Warholian pop art commentary on the vicarious aspects of fame. The art, creatively curated by Rob Roth, is a reflection of Debbie in the eyes of her beholders most certainly, but also a piece of each beholder as well. Quite a surrealistic turn of the tables in a culture where everyone is preoccupied with their 15 minutes of fame.
From the brightly lit stage, moderator and multidisciplinary artist Roth poses the questions, some created of his own volition, some from members of the audience and others contributed by celebrities. Debbie, in a statement-forward coat, emblazoned in several languages with the words Stop Fucking the Planet, rolls through the punches with sarcasm and a sense of humor. Above their heads beams a massive slide show, featuring photographs used in the memoir. They begin with Blondie’s connection to Los Angeles, early gigs at the Whisky, the meeting of East Coast and West Coast punk and move on to her appearances in films and the friendships she formed with Warhol, John Waters, and other creative luminaries.
“You can’t control other people’s fantasies or the illusion they’re buying or selling. You could say that I was selling an illusion of myself… There are hazards to that though. There were many times when people would review how I looked instead of how our music sounded. I didn’t do Blondie to be famous for my looks.” Face It, page 191
The journey in Face It takes readers back to the beginning, introduced to a childhood Debbie Harry, adopted at six months of age by a middle-class New Jersey family, discovering the world and being drawn toward the uncertain path of trying to find herself, perceiving the art in her soul and seeking a way to express it. Her odyssey synchronistically takes her to the underground world of New York City’s lower east side and the cast of characters she meets there eventually paves the way to her golden destiny. The voyage described throughout the book is full of wisecracks, magic and sometimes pain, a life lived passionately and propitiously. The words are expressive and poetic, with guidance by author Sylvie Simmons who has used enchantment and sorcery in her mission to bring Debbie’s tale to life. The piece stands on many levels, both as a snapshot of a time passed- 1970s Manhattan- down, dirty, yet filled with visceral hope and it also speaks of a girl’s dreams, defying expectations, finding self-expression, creating power in a time when women were expected to be seen and not so much heard.
“It’s about time. Time is what matters. Time has brought me- brought all of us- inexorably from the netherworld of the counterculture into the mainstream of today’s culture… Today it’s all about being famous. But in those days, it was about making something happen. And over time, we did make some things happen.” Face It, page 173
Live Talks Los Angeles: An Evening With Debbie Harry & Chris Stein in Conversation with Rob Roth Discussing her Memoir Face It; Friday, October 4, 2019, 8pm. Aratani Theatre, Japanese American Cultural & Community Center, 244 South San Pedro Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012. LiveTalksLA.org
Face It, Debbie Harry, Dey St. publishers, 2019 is available to purchase on various online outlets.