May 11, 1959 |
Albany, New York
|Occupation||Cable television and radio personality from the 1980s|
Quinn was born in Albany, New York, the daughter of Nina Pattison, a retirement counselor, and David Quinn, an attorney. Prior to joining MTV, Quinn graduated from Ossining High School in 1977 and NYU in 1981.
On July 13, 1981, Quinn was working at NYU's Weinstein Dormitory where she answered phones and gave students their toilet paper, mail, and lightbulbs. At the end of her day she decided to stop at WNBC Music Radio, where she'd just finished up interning for her senior year.
Coincidentally, California record company executive Burt Stein was also visiting WNBC. He asked out loud if anyone knew what Bob Pittman was doing. Pittman had been the program director of WNBC a year or so earlier, but had left to start a new venture: a cable channel called MTV (Music Television).
WNBC assistant program director Buzz Brindle overheard Stein’s question and remembered the new venture. He turned to Quinn and suggested that she should try out for a role at the new network as a “VJ.”
Brindle called Pittman and told him about his former intern, Martha Quinn. Pittman told him to get her to the MTV studios immediately, as it was the last day of auditions. Quinn immediately took a cab to Hell's Kitchen for her audition.
Brindle's idea had some merit. Quinn had spent much of her time at New York University doing two things: performing in TV commercials (McDonald's first Chicken McNuggets girl, Country Time Lemonade, Clearasil, Campbell's Soup) and working at WNYU, the college radio station. Quinn would later lament that her father and stepmother, financial columnist Jane Bryant Quinn, had spent their money for Martha to spin Peter, Paul, and Mary vinyl as the host of "Just Plain Folk."
Quinn entered into the studio knowing nothing about MTV or what its producers expected of her. She did a four-minute audition where she talked about Earth, Wind, and Fire; MTV executives immediately surrounded her, asking, "Who are you? Where did you come from? How old are you?" Quinn was stunned, realizing she had just found the perfect job for her talents. Two days later Quinn got the news she was an MTV VJ.
Quinn joined Mark Goodman, Nina Blackwood, Alan Hunter and JJ Jackson as original faces and voices of MTV. Being hosts of the nation's first music television network provided them with an in-depth and up-close perspective on the most popular rock/pop music and artists of the 1980s.
Quinn's presence on MTV through 1991 was noted by Rolling Stone magazine readers, who voted her "MTV's Best-Ever VJ," and by Allure Magazine, which referred to the ‘80s decade as "the Martha Quinn years." Quinn's petite, girl next door personality made her extremely popular among viewers.
Indeed, in a 2011 review of "I Want My MTV" by Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum, Dwight Garner recalled: "Every sentient straight male in the country developed a schoolboy crush on Martha Quinn, one of the first V.J.'s, fresh out of New York University and so cute she could make your cranium detonate."
In the early ‘90s, she also hosted the MTV programs Martha's Greatest Hits, MTV Prime with Martha Quinn, and Rockline. Critics have dubbed Quinn's departure from MTV as "the day the video music died." She was also the MTV host at Knebworth 1990.
Alan Licht's essay on the fall of rock music, An Emotional Memoir of Martha Quinn, refers to the VJ although her name does not appear after the introduction.
In 1984, Quinn appeared as herself in an episode of the short-lived sitcom E/R. Quinn played Tympani Charles in Dangerous Curves in 1988. In 1990, she appeared on the short-lived Brady Bunch sequel The Bradys. Quinn played Tracy, who married Bobby Brady (played by Mike Lookinland). She joined Ed McMahon as a co-host for Star Search in 1994. She was a bi-weekly correspondent on The Early Show in 1999. She also appeared in the 1988 film Tapeheads, the 1989 film sequel Eddie and the Cruisers II: Eddie Lives!, the 1992 low budget horror film Bad Channels and had a recurring role on Full House. She was also featured in a series of commercials for Neutrogena in the mid-1990s.
Career in the 2000s
In 2005, Quinn joined Sirius Satellite Radio network, hosting a one-hour weekly show from her home in Malibu called Martha Quinn Presents: Gods of the Big '80s for the Big '80s channel. After Sirius merged with XM Radio, the channel was rebranded as The 80s on 8, and the show was simply titled "Martha Quinn Presents." Quinn joins the other surviving original MTV VJs in hosting programs for The 80s on 8.
On the September 22, 2005 episode of Comedy Central's new series The Showbiz Show with David Spade, Quinn appeared as herself in mock archival footage (dating back to 1983) from her MTV days. In two separate bumper skits, Quinn sarcastically foretold considerably bizarre behavior from stars Michael Jackson and Sting. Subsequent episodes took shots at Whitney Houston and Tommy Lee.
In 2007, Quinn lent her name, face and voice to The '80s Game with Martha Quinn, a PC trivia game developed by Funkitron. The game featured multiple-choice questions about '80s culture in categories including music, politics, television, sports, movies and celebrities.
Quinn, a vegetarian, is the stepdaughter of Jane Bryant Quinn, a personal finance columnist. In 1992, she married musician Jordan Tarlow (ex-Fuzztones); they have two children and live in Malibu, California.