“I was so intent on not being razzle-dazzled by him” — Martha Quinn
Martha Quinn was one of the iconic five original MTV VJs. She looks back at the early days of MTV in a new interview, as the history-making cable channel that launched her career (not to mention the careers of hundreds of pop artists) celebrates its big 35th birthday.
Quinn was just 22 years old at the time MTV first aired on August 1, 1981. She recounts a little David Lee Roth story from those years:
“In my area of New York, where I grew up in the late ’70s, you were either a fan of Black Sabbath, Van Halen, or Earth, Wind & Fire,” laughs Quinn. (Interesting side note: The clearly well-rounded Quinn landed her VJ gig with an audition that consisted of her talking about EW&F for four minutes.) “And so when a chance to interview David Lee Roth came down the pike, I was so excited. All I could think about was everyone back home freaking out.”
Quinn, who also confesses to crushes on Rick Springfield, Corey Hart, and other heartthrobs of the day (“all of them, really!”), may have kept calm and carried on in the presence of Bob Dylan. But she was a bundle of nerves when it came time for her sit-down chat with notorious charmer Diamond Dave. She tried her best not to let him see her sweat.
“We all know David Lee Roth is Mr. Jive Talker, and I was thinking, I’m going to pierce through to his soul, and he’s going to drop that façade and say, ‘Oh my God, Martha Quinn, where have you been all my life?’ And we would ride off into the sunset,” she giggles. “You can see in the footage that I’m not even laughing at any of his jokes. I was so intent on not being razzle-dazzled by him. Now I know that the best thing about David Lee Roth is his razzle-dazzling. So there was no sunset-riding for me and Dave.”
But later, at the first VMAs in 1984, Quinn finally got a “lovely moment” with the goofy Van Halen frontman. “I opened the show, and when I was leaving the stage, I tripped onstage. I remember there was an audible gasp from everyone at Radio City Music Hall, and I was mortified to the max,” she says. “I was so embarrassed. I could barely function. I couldn’t take it. And being young, with every single person I ran into that evening, I would say, ‘Oh my God, did you see what happened?’ — instead of just playing it cool.
“I said to David Lee Roth, who’d been sitting in the front row, ‘Oh no, did you see me trip and fall?’ And he said, ‘Ah, darlin’, welcome to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. You know how many times I’ve done that? That’s what rock ‘n’ roll is all about!’ He just singlehandedly pieced me back together and made me feel OK. So I totally did have my real, genuine moment with David Lee Roth after all. He was so kind and so positive, so gentle. I’ve always been very grateful for that.”
Quinn, a self-described “rocker chick,” also reveals that her favorite music video of all time isn’t the above-mentioned network-launching Buggles classic, but “Jump” by Van Halen. “At the time, in the mid-’80s, storyline music videos were big, like A-Ha’s ‘Take on Me’ and Duran Duran’s ‘Wild Boys,’ or really produced videos like Peter Gabriel’s ‘Sledgehammer.’ And what I loved about ‘Jump’ was you really got to just see the band. It was the pure joy of the rock ‘n’ roll experience.”
So, did Roth ever figure out that Quinn had a crush on him? “Oh, I can imagine it was pretty obvious,” she quips.
This excerpt is from Yahoo’s interview with Quinn, Martha, Martha, Martha! 35 Years Later, Original VJ Quinn Remembers MTV’s Early Days
Martha tweeted a photo of her enjoying ‘Van Halen Rising‘ last year — “As VanHalen ramps up 2015 tour, I pour over amazing story of their early days in GregRenoff’s Van Halen Rising.” (pick up your signed copy here).