“I just hope that all of you that take antidepressants have taken them,” said Debbie Harry after she took the stage at Club Cumming last night, “and those that don’t, have had a nice drink.”
It was announced last week that Harry’s autobiography, Face It— a mix of personal essays, interviews, photos, and fan art— would be published in October. For the few dozen people gathered at Alan Cumming’s tiny East Village bar for the season finale of the long-running Enclave reading series, her unannounced reading was a delightful surprise.
Harry said she had planned to read a more light-hearted passage from the memoir, but a friend and her manager had convinced her to instead read a section about her reaction to 9/11. The pages included a poem she had written in the aftermath of the terrorist attack, “Rush of Souls.”
The Middletown, NJ resident told the crowd that she was driving into the city Monday, admiring the view of the Manhattan skyline, when “it all of the sudden came to me that a few years ago I was driving this very same drive and came to the top of the hill and there it was: this panoramic view of this spectacularly wonderful, clear blue sky. The weather was perfect and the sun was shining and there were the buildings and I said, ‘Ooo, I should get a picture of that before it’s gone.’”
That night in September of 2001, she attended Marc Jacobs’ Fashion Week party at Pier 54. The celebrity-studded blowout was “like a happening, like an event— and I thought, ‘Wow this is really a New York party and we don’t have enough of them,’” Harry recalled.
That “great feeling,” however, quickly faded the next morning, as she looked out her window and, while watching news coverage of the World Trade Center attack, saw the second airplane hit the second tower. “I was watching them live and watching it on tv, and watching them both was so trippy, a surreal feeling of not knowing exactly what I was seeing,” Harry read. “Was it filmed footage or live reporting or reality?”
According to Harry’s memoir, many of her friends were “very afraid and wanted to leave New York right away.” Her Blondie bandmate Chris Stein and his wife Barbara Sicuranza, who lived just a dozen blocks away from Ground Zero, ended up moving to Woodstock. “It was understandable, but it did come as a shock to me that they were even contemplating the move,” Harry read.
Harry writes that she wasn’t as fearful as friends who were “talking about things like storing cans of food and moving into the basement,” but in the two weeks following the attack, she “went through a whole series of emotions: shock, and then very sad, and then very angry, and then very nostalgic about the old days.”
“When I was going through that mourning period I said to myself, ‘Oh God, I wish it was the ’70s again.’ I kept on wishing myself back to those early days, eventually coming to the inevitable conclusion that things would never be the same again.”
Stein and Sicuranza’s departure “gave me a profound insight into something deeply rooted in me that I had never completely understood before,” Harry read, recalling her sadness during a bike ride along the Hudson River. “This time the sadness was infused with insight. I saw my sadness and it spoke to me. My heartbreak was the heartbreak of the abandoned child.”
One imagines Face It will go deeper into that, but readers will have to wait till October to find out.