“I realised I'd made a big mistake.” The night that Blondie's Debbie Harry accepted a lift from serial killer Ted Bundy (2024)

By Paul Brannigan

published

New York in the 1970s could be a dangerous place, as Blondie's Debbie Harry knows only too well

“I realised I'd made a big mistake.” The night that Blondie's Debbie Harry accepted a lift from serial killer Ted Bundy (1)

New York in mid 1970s was a city in decline, one in the grip of a violent crime wave. Upon arriving at the city's airports in the summer of 1975, visitors were presented with a pamphlet subtitled A Survival Guide for Visitors to the City of New York, featuring a hooded skull, and the words Welcome To Fear City: nine guidelines included in the text suggested that tourists should not walk anywhere in the Five Boroughs after 6pm at night.

Obviously, local residents didn't have the luxury of holing up in Manhattan hotel rooms, and those working in the city at night, whether in hotels, bars, restaurants, or indeed in the X-rated 'theatres' around 42nd street, had to take their chances.

Before local punk/New Wave heroes Blondie signed with UK record label Chrysalis, vocalist Debbie Harry worked as a waitress at Max's Kansas City, one of the city's most celebrated nightclubs/watering holes, frequented by everyone from ex-Beatle John Lennon and artist Andy Warhol to Gotham scuzziest punks. Being out late at night would occasionally bring unwanted attention to Harry, not least on the night she had a terrifying encounter with serial killer Ted Bundy.

In a 2002 interview with MOJO magazine, Harry revisited the night that she got into Bundy's Volkswagen Beetle.

“It was late at night and I was trying to get across Houston St from the Lower East Side to Seventh Avenue,” she recalled. “For some reason there were no cabs and I was wearing these big platform shoes. This car kept circling round and round, this guy was calling out, Come on, I'll give you a ride.' Finally, I gave in and got in the car. I realised I'd made a big mistake.

“For one, it was very hot in the car, and the windows rolled up nearly to the top. The guy had a white shirt and he was very good-looking. Then I realised this guy had the worst BO I have ever smelt. Then I looked over at the door to crank down the window and saw there was no door handle, no crank. I cast my eyes around and saw that the car had been gutted. There was nothing in there. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up.”

In a 1989 newspaper article, Harry recalled that she stuck her arm through a gap in the passenger-side window, and tried to open the door using the handle on the outside.

“As soon as he saw that, he tried to turn the corner really fast,” she said, “and I spun out of the car and landed in the middle of the street.”

“I was so lucky,” she recalled to MOJO, something of an understatement.

Arrested in 1978, Ted Bundy subsequently confessed to 30 murders committed in seven states between 1974 and 1978. He was executed in a Florida prison on January 24, 1989.

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“I realised I'd made a big mistake.” The night that Blondie's Debbie Harry accepted a lift from serial killer Ted Bundy (2)

Paul Brannigan

Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.

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