Much like the Beastie Boys, I’ve posted a shitload of entries here on Flaming Pablum about Blondie, not just because they’re an old favorite band of mine, but also becauase they’re NYC to the bone. And given how photogenic Debbie & the boys were, there is no shortage of cool photos to expound and speculate about.
As you might remember, I posted the above photo late last week, pulled from the Smithsonian’s documentary about the making of Parallel Lines, “Blondie’s New York.” Taken — I believe — by the great Roberta Bayley (who I’ve seen in and around the neighborhood — she still looks fab), the photo depicts then-bassist Gary Valentine (later to be replaced by Nigel Harrison), drummer Clem Burke (in the fetching pink socks) and Debbie Harry standing on a dilapidated Manhattan curb while guitarist Chris Stein locks eyes with Debbie from just off the corner. I’m only guessing it was taken by Bayley, being that she took the shot of Chris and Debbie kissing in front of subway train below, and they seem to be wearing the same clothes, no?
Anyway, I figured it would be fun and/or maybe interesting to try to figure out where the street corner photograph was taken. I put up the post over on Facebook, and a few likely folks weighed in with ideas.
I figured there was a great big clue in the sprayed writing on the trash cans in between Deb and Chris. Under closer examination, they seem to read “22 A,” conceivably leading one to suspect that the shot was taken maybe somewhere around 22 Avenue A? A quick Google-mapping of that particular strip doesn’t produce anything that matches up. These days, 22 Avenue A is a Chase Bank (big shocker, eh?), but for many, many years, 22 Avenue A was home to a baby supply store, if memory serves. In any case, there’s nothing on that plot that resembles anything in this shot now. There’s a tiny, gated alleyway behind 22 Avenue A on East 2nd street, but that’s now where this picture was taken, I guarantee it.
Personally speaking, at first glance, I thought the plot of real estate Blondie are depicted hanging out on looked like Great Jones Alley, very near the spot where Debbie would later make a cinematic cameo in Amos Poe’s “The Foreigner.”
As is usually the case with these searches, the mere fact that the physical surface and topography of New York City has changed so much in the past couple of decades, these locations can be difficult to recognize. But I jogged over to Great Jones Alley between Broadway and Lafayette this afternoon to have a look.
What I find most frustrating is the shed seen behind Chris Stein on the far right. It looks like a temporary structure, and it’s probably covering up some crucial architectural detail that might otherwise solve the riddle. Here’s the corner I’m speculating that it might be today…
In the Blondie photo, you can see a little window high in the wall between Chris and Debbie. If you step a little closer on Great Jones Alley (so the gate’s out of the way) there indeed was a little window...although I'm not certain it's the same height.
This all said, I’m not entirely convinced that this is the spot in question. The distinctive tile-mosaic exterior on the storefront that Debbie, Clem and Gary are standing in front of looks hauntingly familiar (as in — it might still be out there somewhere).
So, yeah, anyway. The hunt continues. Just to jog your memory, here's Debbie down Great Jones Alley in Amos Poe's "The Foreigner." Look familiar?
And here's Blondie around the same era as the photo in question....