We all should be as free as Debbie Harry bungee jumping topless in 1990
Founding members of Blondie, singer Debbie Harry and guitarist Chris Stein—who were dating at the time of forming the band—have remained in close creative collaboration for decades.
As part of the band’s 40th anniversary, Stein decided to publish a series of images as part of his 2014 book Me, Blondie, and the Advent of Punk. “I was taking pictures of everything around me, among them Debbie,” Stein writes in the book. “I was always aware of her astonishing looks and the effect she had on people.”
The book chronicles their relationship, their work and intimate pictures that Stein had carried along with him for years. Harry, who has been the focal point of interviews for more than 40 years, repeatedly faced comparisons to Marilyn Monroe, being described as a ‘pin-up’, asked questions about her hair colour and her general appearance as whole, had an amazing ability to remain a free and easy personality despite the overriding media attention.
Harry’s knack of being able to remain true to herself is undoubtedly one of her most redeeming features, an aspect of her character which was epitomised by a wild moment in New Zealand almost 30 years ago. After a gruelling string of tour dates in 1990, Harry and Stein decided to blow off some steam in a random encounter. “I did a bungee jump at the end of a very long and stressful tour,” Harry once explained. “I bungee-jumped topless and it was completely refreshing. It was in Auckland, New Zealand, and it was big. I’d probably do it again if you got me in the mood, but I wouldn’t say it was the most sane thing I’ve ever done.”
Typically, Harry’s actions caught the attention of the world’s media, which had absolutely no effect on her whatsoever. “I would have gone stark raving naked,” Harry once said in an interview with a deadpan face after being asked about if she regretted jumping topless at the age of 45. “But I was up there on the top of the thing and I had the clamps already on my ankles so I couldn’t get my shorts over them. I was so disappointed. Because I figured if I was going to die, I should go back out the way that I came – naked. It was great. It was titillating, you know?”
Many fans have wondered if Harry’s spontaneous act was actually a premeditated move in order for Stein to capture the images, something the guitarist denied in a moment of admission: “No, I didn’t do it because I couldn’t handle it. I just watched. It was in New Zealand and that was later in her solo career,” he said in an interview with Vice. “That’s probably less crazy than some of the other antics and things over the years. But it wasn’t like TVs thrown out of hotel windows—we never got to that point.”
We can’t all be as punk as Debbie Harry… but it can’t hurt to try.