Liz Smith: Iconic Debbie

“WHEN I met you in the restaurant, you could tell I was no debutante!” That’s Debbie Harry singing “Dreaming” one of her first big hits with the band Blondie.

Now here’s an interesting rumor. Disney/Touchstone Films is supposed to be quite interested in putting the history of Blondie — the group’s meteoric rise, sudden demise, the near-fatal illness of bandmember Chris Stein, and the band’s eventual reconciliation — onscreen, as a big bio-pic.

Blondie, was one of the most influential bands of the late 1970’s, with hits like “Heart of Glass,” “One Way or Another,” “Call Me” (the “American Gigolo” theme), “Rapture” and “The Tide is High.” Debbie, blonde and gorgeous, became the face, and of course the sound of the band, which naturally led to dissension. (The more brash Madonna could never have come along a few years later, without the sexy, hypnotic example of Debbie Harry.)

The real surprise to come out of this “well placed rumor,” is the young actress/singer Disney is looking at to play Deborah Harry — their very own brunette Selena Gomez. She is best-known for her role on Disney’s “The Wizards of Waverly Place” and her odd romance with Justin Bieber (Sorry, but he behaves more obnoxiously each day.)

Gomez, a 20-year-old Latina beauty, is a charming actress, might look great as a blonde, and she can sing. She had a big hit with “I Love You Like a Song, Baby.”

But, can she carry a feature film, portraying one of the most iconic figures in pop music? Hard to say until it happens, if it ever does. (Everybody might run screaming, the minute Selena goes blonde. Would Disney then consider Lady Gaga?)

In any case, the tumultuous tale of Debbie and Blondie deserves to be told. I’ve met Harry many times over the years — once with her partner, Chris Stein — and she is a down-to-earth doll, and still a great beauty. (She doesn’t deny helping nature along, “I was blessed with a good face” she once said, “Why not keep it looking good, if you can?”)

And Debbie’s voice remains a crystalline miracle. When I heard her sing at an event a few years back, she sounded so perfect I was certain she was totally lip-syncing. She wasn’t!

BEN AFFLECK was as charming and as funny as he could be at the Four Seasons restaurant luncheon to celebrate the success of his “Argo” movie. He said that he worried “every day” about how the crazily comic and deadly serious aspects of the movie would meld — “Some things worked, some things didn’t. We just had to look at the dailies and decide what had to go or what had to stay.”

Affleck also said that when the movie — which centers around the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979 — was released and grossed $19 million in its first few days, Iran announced that the film was all a fake. Nobody was in these theaters. The studios had actually paid the theaters $19 million dollars to make the movie look like a hit.

Ben laughed, “If only this were true. It’s what I’ve been encouraging studios to do all along, ‘give the theaters money and make my movies look like they’re hits!’”

Victor Garber, who has an important role in the movie was also there, adorable as ever. And so was Tony Mendez, the real-life agent who Ben portrays. Mendez is clean shaven, but back in the 1970s he sported a beard, as does Ben in “Argo.” This renders Affleck almost unrecognizable at first. One luncheon guest asked, “Can you assure us you’ll never grow another beard?” Ben replied: “Well, I can’t assure you, but I will say that beard was much hated by my wife and kids.”

Along with talk of “Argo” the big subject in the room seemed to be “Les Miserables” — who’d seen it, who liked it, who hated it? (“Les Miz” is a love or loathe experience — nothing “meh” about it. The IMDB boards have gone crazy with “Les Miz” fans denouncing any critic who has dared to diss the film, which doesn’t officially open until Christmas Day.)

And I also learned that my friend Joan Collins has a role in an upcoming animated holiday movie “Saving Santa.” Animator Leon Joosen (“The Little Mermaid”) said that there were two female roles available for Joan, one was the innocent ingénue, the other an evil old crone. Joan tested vocally for both. When she called to ask about the movie, she said, sweetly, “So did I get the ingénue?” Back came the smart and diplomatic reply, “Joan, you got the most important role.” Joosen says La Collins is a dream to work with.

LARRY KING’S absence from CNN is still being felt, even by those who weren’t overly fond of his style. Larry’s replacement, Britain’s Piers Morgan hasn’t lifted ratings. Larry himself can now be seen on Ora.TV.

Aside from work, Larry is still socializing. Just the other night he and wife Shawn King hosted a party celebrating the album “Gotta Love The Holidays.”

This supports the Larry King Cardiac Foundation. The CD features Michael Buble, Elton John, Barry Manilow, Celine Dion.

Shawn said, “We pooled our begging resources for this!” Oh, the album also includes a rendition of “The Night Before Christmas” with Kenny G, Shawn and Larry King and — Sharon Stone. That alone makes “Gotta Love The Holidays” a surefire stocking-stuffer.

This column originally appeared on NYSocialDiary.com on 12/13/12

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