Blondie's Debbie Harry: Real 'Heart of Glass'
The annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame dinner would have been a severe dud had not Debbie Harry showed her dark side.
Seems that the now-redheaded Harry told the Hall of Fame producers she didn’t want former bandmates Nigel Harrison, Gary Valentine and Frank Infante on stage or anywhere near her, Chris Stein, Clem Burke and Jimmy Destry — the four remaining original players.
The bad blood among all involved quickly became publicly apparent last night. That’s because once Harry, Stein and Destry made their remarks and accepted their awards, the ditched trio was not satisfied with remaining mum about their snub.
First Valentine, who wrote the band’s original hits, “X Offender” and “I’m Always Touched By Your Presence Dear,” referred to being cut out of the band’s live performance, which was being readied to the side, noisily, while the cast-off members got to make their remarks.
Looking irked, Infante — who bears a resemblance to Lou Reed — baited Harry from the podium.
“We’d really like to play with you, would that be all right?”
Harry, who’d been off to the side with the others, walked up the mike and said, straight at Infante, “Can’t you see my band is playing?”
Infante didn’t miss a beat. “We thought we were the band,” he said, overlapping Harry as she then rattled off the names of three people no one had ever heard of who have obviously replaced Infante and Harrison (Valentine was only on the first Blondie album).
There was audible hissing at Harry, who didn’t come off very well in the moment. Harrison tried to make the best of it, but his remarks — which echoed Infante’s — were basically swallowed by the silence.
It was the first time former band members had actually confronted the “star” of their group on stage at a Hall of Fame dinner.
Harry then launched into a medley of hits, looking rattled, frankly. The band went through “Heart of Glass,” “Rapture” and “Call on Me” but despite Harry’s hitting a pretty swell note on “Rapture” they never really got it together.
I was told later that a backstage fight had preceded the onstage one, which was pretty startling to begin with.
Harrison, Infante and Valentine told me they’d volunteered to play a song without Harry et al., but the offer was rejected. “Originally we were told that if we came, Debbie wouldn’t show up,” Harrison said. “But you can see she did. The VH-1 exposure is too good, I guess.”
My guess is you won't see any of that when the show airs on VH-1. Too bad: It was one of the few real moments in an Oreo of a night. What do I mean? The RRHOF dinner started with an R&B act — the humongous, overweight Solomon Burke seated in gold throne, performing a tribute to Wilson Pickett with Leela James and Marc Broussard helping out. It was so weird it was wonderful.
The dinner ended, many hours later, with a tribute to New Orleans musicians fronted by Alan Toussaint. He was joined by Buckwheat Zydeco, Elvis Costello, Robbie Robertson and the Wild Magnolias. For those who'd stayed or survived, it was a joyous number, full of the soul and spontaneity the rest of the night surely lacked.
In between, we were treated to the induction of Black Sabbath, who did not perform but instead let Metallica do the honors. It was the loudest I’ve ever heard “music” played in the Waldorf Ballroom. We also had the pleasure of seeing Lynyrd Skynyrd get in and play “Sweet Home Alabama” with Kid Rock on vocals and the dreadful, hackneyed “Free Bird.”
“Things are only going to get worse,” one head of a record company said to me at this point. “Everyone decent is in already.”
Well, not quite. But if the Rock Hall continues in this fashion, the party will be over. Another night of whitebread rock would be two too many.
There were some good moments, though. Although it didn’t quite make sense, jazz legend Miles Davis was inducted. Herbie Hancock brought former Davis musicians who are themselves legends — Jackie DeJohnette, Wallace Roney, Marcus Miller and Buster Williams — and their short performance was sublime.
I don’t know what Lars UIrich of Metallica — whose speech about Ozzy Osbourne was peppered with the F word — made of them. But it was that kind of night.
Sting inducted trumpeter Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss, founders of the great A&M Records; their presence and speeches were most welcome. A&M released such artists as Carole King, Cat Stevens, The Police, Procol Harum, Joan Baez and Peter Frampton, not to mention Lee Michaels' great pop single, "Do You Know What I Mean?"
The RRHOF dinner boasted not just a few non-members who should be in. Daryl Hall came as a guest of BMI Music, and I chatted with Brian May and Roger Taylor of Queen.
Someone said Frampton was around, although I didn't see him. Dave Navarro of the Red Hot Chili Peppers was a guest at Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne's table. Jerry Blavatt brought Frankie Valli around to say hi, and there was a table of "Saturday Night Live" cast members including Rachel Dratch, Fred Armisen, Will Forte, Seth Meyers and two of the new guys.
I also saw Cousin Bruce Morrow, who must be wondering how things have gotten so ugly. And Peter Wolf of the J. Geils Band came down from Boston.
To paraphrase Jon Stewart from the Oscars: Ozzy Osbourne is in, and Billy Preston, the Moody Blues, Todd Rundgren, Mary Wells, Linda Ronstadt, Cat Stevens, Rufus and Carla Thomas, Chubby Checker and Carly Simon are all still out.
Just some notes from the dinner: Elvis Costello, who returns to the Waldorf tomorrow night for Katie Couric's charity dinner, quipped: "I'm living here now"…
Sting, who brought daughter Mickey as a date, leaves Thursday to join wife, Trudie Styler, in Paris to celebrate their 25th anniversary. Don't believe what you read elsewhere. These two are a very married union…
Sharon Osbourne, looking sensational, told me she's got two chat shows in the UK but none here. "I can’t get a f—in' job here," she said with a laugh. The Osbournes told me they're very happy their MTV show is over. They've never gone back and looked at the tapes…
Kid Rock smoked everything and anything all night and took "black tie" to mean wearing a white undershirt "wife beater" with jeans and a cowboy hat…
Warner's Lyor Cohen stuck it out longer than usual and looked happy to be in the room…
Happy to see Michael Klenfner, the grand poobah of marketing in the record biz. The labels could use more of his expertise…
Also happy to see Atlantic Records' legendary Ahmet Ertegun give the opening remarks, and Sire Records' Seymour Stein, as well as his longtime companion and sometime wife Linda, they're two of our faves…
Jann Wenner and boyfriend Matt Nye: despite Liz Smith's announcement, unable to tell which is pregnant…
And props to Miles Davis' son Gregory, who didn't get a ticket to the show and was said to have spent the dinner hour in the Waldorf lobby. Somehow he managed to get from there to lead speaker for the Davis children when they accepted their father's award. Good for him!
As of close of business yesterday, no one at the California Department of Labor had heard from Michael Jackson or his representatives. At 5 p.m. today PT, Neverland can be shut for good and Jackson sued. Jackson, who gets around, is said to have returned to London from Bahrain. We’re going to put a LoJack on him next. A LoJack for MiJac, get it?…
A fond send-off to Oscar-winning actress Maureen Stapleton. She died yesterday at age 80. Her Oscar was for playing socialist Emma Goldman in "Reds," but among her many wonderful performances was E.G. Marshall's wife in Woody Allen's "Interiors." She was just one of those gems, the likes of which we will never see again…
A memorial show for R&B legend Wilson Pickett is set for March 20, at B.B. King in New York. The lineup is being finalized, but Pickett's band will be there, Southside Johnny's going to sing, and the $30 admission will go to MusiCares, in Wilson’s memory. More info tomorrow on this special event…