We all know the “David Lee Roth” the public knows… the “always-on” flamboyant Van Halen front man, never without a witty quote. But, just who is the REAL David Lee Roth – the person underneath that colorful, seemingly impenetrable exterior?
One of the original MTV VJs, Martha Quinn, believes she knows the answer to that question, and she’s got a couple stories to back it up!
In a recent video interview which you can watch below, Martha shares her experiences with David Lee Roth in the early ’80s. She shares a few DLR stories that show a rarely revealed personal side of the enigmatic Van Halen front man.
“What I didn’t know at the time is that Dave is so brilliant at being Dave. Just wind him up and let him go,” said Quinn. “[But] what I was intent on, my purpose, my goal was to crack the veneer that is David Lee Roth and get to his soul and have him reveal to me who he really was.”
Quinn, who was then only in her early 20s, said her youthful ambition led her to believe that her hard-hitting interview approach would finally uncover the real person behind the façade Roth always put up. She soon realized, however, that commanding an interview with Roth was not as easy as she thought.
“I was like, ‘I’m going to get to the core of who this guy is,’ not even knowing that, oh my God, this guy’s been doing what he’s been doing for so long but, yeah, I was sooo serious,” said Quinn. “I soon learned: Don’t do it that way, don’t fight it, let it go because that’s the beauty of Dave.
“Honestly, my glasses could interview David Lee Roth, because he had this whole theory of: Let them ask what they wanna ask and [I will] say whatever it is that [I] want to say. David could give a good interview to anybody and get across what he wanted to get across because he knew just what he wanted to do and the image that he wanted to portray no matter who was sitting there.”
It was during one of her interviews with Roth, however, that the Van Halen frontman revealed a side of his personality rarely seen if at all prior.
“I asked him something about, ‘[Do you] have a girlfriend or significant other.’ I forget exactly what my question was but he told me that he’d actually never been in love, but had hoped to [be] one day,” said Quinn. “That kind of zipped past me…but later I watched [the interview] and I go, ‘Oh my God, that probably was the most real that I’ve ever seen Dave be with me, and maybe with anybody’. That was a very real moment.”
Quinn went on to tell another story involving Roth’s softer side. The moment took place at the first MTV Video Music Awards ceremony, held on September 14th, 1984, at Radio City Music Hall in New York. Just before the event began, Quinn had the job of getting up on stage to do the introduction. It was then that she accidentally slipped and fell and it happened right in front of a row of the biggest pop stars in the world including Paul Shaffer, Paul Stanley of KISS and Roth. It left a young and inexperienced Quinn so embarrassed she couldn’t get it out of her mind the rest of the night, fearing it would destroy her credibility with the musicians she was about to interview.
“Even if they hadn’t seen it my first words [to the artists I interviewed] were, ‘Oh my God! Did you see me fall?! Oh my God! Did you see me fall?! I was so mortified,” said Quinn. “They sent me out to interview David Lee Roth and, of course, the first words I say to him, ‘Oh my God! Did you see me fall?!’ He goes, ‘Aw darlin’, welcome to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! You know how many times I’ve done that? Don’t even worry about it!’ In that moment I did get a sense of his true humanity because he just picked me up, he pieced me together…I was so grateful to him because he really made me feel so much better and I still always remember that. I’m always in camp Dave because I know that he’s super kind at heart.”
Below is the entire segment featuring Quinn talking about Roth:
The rest of the interview features Quinn talking about her early years and the music she was exposed to on television shows like The Midnight Special, Soul Train, and Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. She also talked about being hired as one of MTV’s first VJs along with Nina Blackwood, J.J. Jackson, Alan Hunter, and Mark Goodman. She spoke of the early years of MTV including her interviews with several music legends including Roth, Bob Dylan, Bono, Paul McCartney and more. Karen Herman conducted the Television Academy interview with Quinn on February 9th, 2018. The interview was a joint venture with the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Below is the full, two-hour interview with Quinn:
Here is Quinn’s 1982 MTV interview with Roth:
Now let’s watch some of Roth’s funniest drunken moments during the 1984/1985 New Year’s Eve Rock and Roll Ball from New York including his on-stage appearance with Quinn: