Chris Stein Joins the Stilettoes

Chris Stein Joins the Stilettoes

Chris Stein was roommates with Eric Emerson, who had known Debbie Harry since her days as a waitress at Max’s Kansas City, but after all their years downtown Stein and Harry had still never met. “Our paths didn’t really cross,” she said. “I guess it was just a matter of time until we eventually hooked up, but it definitely was directly related to Eric Emerson.” Stein was dazzled by Harry and immediately volunteered himself as the Stilettoes’ musical director. “They didn’t have permanent members,” he said, “just floating musicians, so I became the first permanent member.” The two quickly fell in love, and together they eventually formed the creative core of Blondie. “With the Stilettoes,” Stein said, “there was a lot of theatricality. It was tongue in cheek, and very campy.” Their embrace of artifice was reflected in the lyrics to one of their earliest numbers, “Platinum Blonde,” the only song that made its way into Blondie sets. “I wanna be a platinum blonde / Just like all the sexy stars,” Harry sang. “Marilyn and Jean, Jane, Mae and Marlene / Yeah, they really had fun / In luminescent DayGlo shades / Walk into a bar and I’ll have it made.” (She sometimes ended that couplet with “. . . and I hope I get laid.”) “The Stilettoes were kind of a combination of Elda’s idea of creating a campy, kitschy, trashy True Confessions image,” Harry explained, “and me wanting to emulate the style of girl groups like the Shangri-Las, but with more attitude. We were real sleazy and would dance around the stage in really trashy clothes. In fact, sometimes our clothes actually came from the trash—boots, jackets, lots of stuff could be found in decent condition. That zebra print dress I wore was made from a pillow case that was found in the garbage.”

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


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