Martha Quinn Recalls MTV Audition As She Starts New ‘80s Radio Gig
Martha Quinn is back where she belongs — in the music business. The original MTV VJ has landed a gig as a morning host on 1Heart80s KOSF San Francisco, which is the market’s first all-’80s radio station. In an interview with Billboard’s Chartbeat, Martha Quinn talked about her new radio role as well as her MTV roots.
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In the new interview, Martha revealed that she had no intention of auditioning for the then-unknown Music Television network, but a program director at a New York radio station where she interned talked her into checking it out at the last minute.
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“I walked in, no makeup. They were like, ‘Who are you?'” Quinn said of her MTV screen test, which took place on the last day of auditions. “It’s so good [though] that I didn’t know a thing about it, because I probably would’ve been really nervous. I just did not care.”
Quinn said she didn’t even really know what she was getting into until after the fact.
“By the time I walked off, when I started to see the set [and] I started to see the format … ‘OK, they’re talking about music’ … I called my brother and said, ‘Oh my God, I just auditioned for the perfect job for me,'” Quinn revealed. “Two days later, they called and offered me the job.”
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Martha Quinn also recounted a story about meeting Bruce Springsteen while she was dining at a restaurant in New York with her parents shortly after MTV launched in 1981.
“I was there with my parents and Bruce Springsteen walks in. I’m like, ‘Oh my God, you guys, that’s Bruce Springsteen!’ My dad says, ‘Who?’ And I say, ‘Dad, he was just on the cover of Time magazine!'” Martha recalled. “Springsteen leaned over to me and said, ‘Hey, aren’t you on that new thing, MTV?’ And I said, ‘Well, that’s more than I can say for you… when are you gonna make some videos?!’ He then made all those great videos from the Born in the U.S.A. album. So, I like to think I’m kind of responsible for launching Bruce into the video age.”
While she’s all about taking credit for Bruce’s music video heyday, in a previous interview with CBS News, Martha Quinn revealed that the VJs didn’t actually watch the clips they introduced.
“That’s the best-kept secret,” Martha said. “It wouldn’t make sense for the camera people to turn on the camera for a total of six minutes an hour, and then to be sitting there watching [the rock band] Asia. It seems so obvious now, but it wasn’t obvious to us at the time. We turned our heads as though we were looking at a monitor. We didn’t do that in the beginning.”
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Of course, many people have criticized the current incarnation of MTV for not playing music videos anymore. Indeed, the channel has shifted from playing mostly videos to scripted and reality TV programming like Jersey Shore, Teen Mom, and The Real World. But Martha Quinn has some food for thought for nostalgic MTV fans when it comes to the format change.
“I always tell people, ‘Look, even if MTV had never changed formats, if it was 24-hour videos — it’s not like they’d be playing Warrant and Spandau Ballet,” Quinn told CBS News. “They’d still be playing Chris Brown and One Direction. People of our generation would still be going, ‘It’s not the same.'”
Martha Quinn was one of the original five MTV VJs alongside Mark Goodman, Nina Blackwood, Alan Hunter, and the late J.J. Jackson. Quinn worked for the network from 1981 to 1991, then later joined Ed McMahon as a co-host for Star Search in 1994. Fans may also remember Martha as the spokesperson for Neutrogena in the mid-1990s, but it is clear that music is still in her blood more than 30 years after the birth of MTV.
Take a look at the video below to see Martha Quinn in the early days of MTV.
[Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images]