Fireside Chat

Ann Magnuson

60 minsFirst aired 10 Oct 2017
Austin Young

From radical performances in New York clubland to decades on the silver screen, this star performer has tons of tales to tell.

Ann Magnuson is a singer, musician, DJ and actor who moved to New York in the late ’70s and became a performer at two key venues in the city’s revolutionary post-disco scene: Mudd Club and Club 57. She created characters for the stage, using humor, sex and pop-culture pastiche in a style that landed her a role in the Madonna-led 1985 film Desperately Seeking Susan, and saw her cross over from the club scene to the silver screen. A star in dozens of film and television shows since the ’80s, including Tequila Sunrise, Panic Room, Frasier and Modern Family, Magnuson’s tales of Hollywood stardom and radical performance make her a unique underground figure.


Magnuson’s influences include Bluegrass pioneer Hazel Dickens and outsider artist and unwitting punk hero Hasil Adkins.


The now-defunct East Village neo-Dada cabaret space spearheaded by Ann Magnuson, Susan Hannaford, and Tom Scully is chronicled in the 2017 MoMa retrospective Club 57: Film, Performance, and Art in the East Village, 1978-1983.


Far before Spinal Tap existed, Magnuson co-fronted heavy metal satire band Vulcan Death Grip alongside The Fuzztones vocalist Rudi Protrudi.


In this 2016 MoMa panel, Magnuson divulges tales of 1980s downtown New York – including a particularly cringe-worthy story about Jean Michel Basquiat, a refrigerator and a jealous ex-boyfriend.


Interview by Mark “Frosty” McNeill
Written and engineered by Frank Westerkamp
Produced by Carmen Hofmann

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