Elda Gentile

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Off-Off-Broadway actress Elda Gentile performed in the Stilettoes with Debbie Harry after the demise of her previous band, Pure Garbage (which also included fellow Warholite Holly Woodlawn), and also had a child with Eric Emerson.


Blondie’s Wobbly Start


“Blondie were more ramshackle than the Ramones,” recalled producer and recording engineer Craig Leon, who recorded their first album. “They didn’t sound very good, quite honestly. They weren’t taken seriously. If you would have said, ‘Who was the band that was least likely to be signed?’ it would have been them. Particularly in the earlier incarnations that I’d seen, like the Stilettoes.” Debbie Harry said of those early years, “We weren’t even really a garage band. We were so bad we were more like a garbage band.” Her quip is fitting, given that Blondie emerged from the ashes of a group called Pure Garbage, featuring Warholites Elda Gentile and Holly Woodlawn. During Woodlawn’s short tenure in the group, she recalled that she “jiggled my jugs, wiggled my hips, shook my maracas, and played the cymbals between my knees, a rare talent that I had picked up from a battery-operated monkey at FAO Schwarz.” After Pure Garbage broke up in early 1973, Harry ran into Gentile and suggested they start a new band. “I had made a deal with Jayne County to allow her PA system to remain in my loft in exchange for free rehearsal time,” said Gentile, “and that allowed me to put together the Stilettoes.” The band primarily played makeshift spaces and failing bars, like Bobern Bar & Grill on West Twenty-Eighth Street. Named after its owners, Bob and Ernie, Bobern was such a low-rent venue that they had to take the legs off a pool table to make a stage, but at least it was conveniently located on the same block where Gentile lived. The Stilettoes played there between October and December 1973, and they developed a following in part because Gentile had connections as a Max’s Kansas City waitress who was dating the New York Dolls’ Sylvain Sylvain (and had previously had a child with Eric Emerson).

From Chapter 31 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore