Rich Wilhelm

The Night I Walked Deborah Harry To Her Car

In journal, Music/Memory, not quite Walden on October 4, 2013 at 3:30 pm

I have been telling people about the night I walked Blondie lead singer to her car ever since the day after it happened. Since some people seem to think that I am exaggerating or, in fact, fabricating the event, I now present, unedited, the original journal entry I wrote on Nov. 5, 1989. The show was a Friday night, Nov. 3. This exclusive journal entry may very well appear in my forthcoming book, Not Quite ‘Walden’–Selected Journal Entries by Richard F. Wilhelm.

Though it is not mentioned here, I sold my stamp collection in order to pay for the Debbie Harry ticket. My proceeds just covered the ticket cost. I later wrote a poem, “The Last Stamp,” in which I mention this sale.

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11/5/89
Friday night was the Deborah Harry concert at the Chestnut Cabaret. I left here early, stopping at South Street first to check out the singles at Tower. They had some I wanted to pick up (Linda Ronstadt, Thompson Twins, Prince w/Sheena Easton) but I’m really, really pinched for money right now, so I used some self-restraint. However, I did go through the dollar boxes at Book Trader, which are now 3 for a dollar, and wound up buying six albums there, including a Donny Osmond LP. Also got Lipps Inc. LP w/“Funky Town,” the long version, on it.

Drove to the Chestnut and arrived there at 8:00. The show didn’t start until 10:30 but I wanted to make sure I’d be able to get a good place to catch it from.

It’s strange being alone at a place like the Chestnut Cabaret, surrounded by happy socializing people. It wasn’t quite as strange once I had a drink in my hand but it wasn’t real fun. On the other hand, it was interesting to watch everyone (mostly college students and recent college grads) as they partied. Lots of drinking, it seemed.

About 8:30, no around 9:00, I positioned myself on the dance floor up by the stage with the other hardcore Deborah Harry fans. The people who came to see Deborah Harry, not necessarily to drink, socialize and then maybe catch the Debbie Harry show.

It was a long wait. Earl “’MMR” Bailey was there and he played mostly good music but I basically just wanted to see Debbie. The ad in the paper said that Young Fresh Fellows were opening but, unfortunately, they didn’t. Instead four women Cure fans dressed in black played gloomy synth dance/rock. OK, but not the Young Fresh Fellows.

Deborah Harry and her band (including Blondie guitarist Chris Stein) hit the stage at midnight. The opening number was “The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game.” A mini-hit parade followed, which included “Rapture,” “The Tide Is High,” “Heart of Glass,” “Dreaming” and a number of cool-sounding songs from her new album, Def, Dumb and Blonde.

The show took a hardcore turn toward the end with some punky songs from the new LP, along with “Cautious Lip” and “Detroit 442” from the second Blondie album. They also snuck “(I’m Always Touched by Your) Presence Dear” in somewhere.

Encores were “Call Me,” the Velvet Underground’s “I’m Waiting For My Man” and the Ramones’ “Pet Sematary.” It was a very loud, surprisingly raucous show. I wasn’t sure what to expect, since it has been 10 years since Blondie was at its height. I could have been like a Debby Harry-in-Vegas revue (which is how I imagine latter day Belinda Carlisle shows are) but it wasn’t, which is heartening to me, since I’ve been pretty anti-nostalgia lately.

She didn’t move around much at first, but by the end of the show, she was go-go dancing as only Debbie Harry can do and imitating a drug addict hungry for a fix during “Waiting for My Man.” She looks fantastic these days. She looks incredible in fact.

I didn’t leave right after the show was over. Instead, I waited with about 10 or 15 other true believers, hoping to get backstage or something. I had my three single picture sleeves in the lining of my jacket, just in care an autograph opportunity did come up. As we were waiting at one side of the stage, they emerged from backstage on the other side and slipped out the door. Debbie got out first and made it to the waiting car, but Chris Stein wasn’t so fast and got besieged by the raving fans.

Actually, Debbie did too; even after she was in the back seat we gathered around and shoved thing for her to sign through the opened-a-crack back window. Chris said we should come by the next night, I guess implying that maybe we could stay longer. He said something to a girl about going to CBGB and “I’ll look for you there.” I guess he still hangs out there occasionally.
I stood between the car and Chris, trying to decide whether to try to get Debbie to sign a sleeve or to get Chris to sign a sleeve or simply to tell him that Parallel Lines is my all-time favorite album.

I didn’t do any of these things though, I just took in the scene. I thought ramming something in Debbie’s face, without really getting a chance to at least say hello to her would be a little crass, so I didn’t do it. It was fun just being a part of the scene. One of the guys with Chris called his name a couple times to get in the car because he was getting a little too involved in hanging out with the fans and I guess they had to go. So he climbed in the car and they were gone. So I went home then, got home around 3 in the morning.

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Patrick F. O'Donnell

writer, editor, general wordsmith and scribe

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