A Talk With Terri Nunn

My newest interview is with the lovely lead singer of Berlin...
April 23, 2010
I purchased Matthew Rettenmund's book "Totally Awesome 80s" back in 1998. In that book, Rettenmund talked about Berlin several times. I was inspired to track down their music over the course of the next few years, and I loved everything I heard.

This is in large part due to my latest interview subject,
Terri Nunn.

Her voice has the ability to soothe and startle, and her looks have always been glamorous. I've been listening to Berlin for over a decade, and with the assistance of Gaye Ann Bruno, I now have the distinct privilege of talking to one of my favorite singers.

Without any further ado, here's:

The RetroJunk Interview with Terri Nunn!

Caps: What were your pop-cultural likes growing up?

Terri: Hi! Thank you for including me in your site! Growing up, I was mostly influenced by music: The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Bowie, Jefferson Airplane. I listened to the radio religiously (in L.A. it was KHJ, an AM radio station). TV was also huge for me, I loved The Twilight Zone, The Addams Family, The Mary Tyler Moore Show. I loved glam rock, hated disco. The one good thing about disco to me was all the new clubs where my friends and I could go meet boys, and get in with our pathetic fake IDs. I think the doormen just wanted cute young girls in there 'cause those IDs we had were a joke!

Caps: What were your school days like?

Terri: Mine seemed hard, mainly because my family moved a lot and I had to start over at a new school every couple of years. Making new friends isn't easy at that age, when most kids have grown up with each other and new kids are looked at with suspicion. So I learned to keep to myself, and amuse myself alone a lot. The good thing about that is I developed a strong imagination early, which I believe is one of the reasons I found success musically at a fairly young age.

Caps: What inspired you to become an entertainer?

Terri: I just loved music right away, as soon as my brain could process it. My family encouraged creative expression, and supported it. We played and sang together often, and my parents would ask me to sing and dance for their friends a lot. So it seemed like a really possible, viable way to make a living.

Caps: What jobs did you hold before entering the entertainment business?

Terri: My very first job, that lasted for one day, was working the graveyard shift at a donut shop. I stuffed myself with those things, and got sick. Other than that and babysitting jobs around the neighborhood, I started in TV commercials at 15 years old, then moved into TV episodics like Police Story, James at 15, Barnaby Jones, TJ Hooker, Lou Grant. The money was really good, and I was pretty good at it, so it actually became my first long-term job, until I turned 18 and met John Crawford and Berlin.

Caps: It's been well-noted that you auditioned for the role of Princess Leia in "Star Wars". Did you meet George Lucas, and if you did, what did you think of him?

Terri: George was a cool guy, very young then. We sat around in a warehouse in deck chairs reading this weird script, me, him and Harrison Ford. Bless his heart, George really went out of his way to help me, even after he decided on someone else for the role. He wrote a letter talking me up that my agent gave to other producers and directors. Every endorsement helps in a business!

Caps: What were your early gigs with Berlin like? What was the wildest show you put on?

Terri: I still remember my first show. After I finished the 2nd song, I was already sweating and panting like an overheated dog and thought, "I"m never going to make it through this whole show!" I was just singing and dancing around like a maniac, trying to be a "frontperson," without any idea how to pace myself through an entire show. Nobody tells you how physical it is. Over time, and experience, it got better. A LOT better after I quit smoking!

Caps: One of Berlin's earliest hits was "Sex (I'm A...)". It was rather risque for it's time, but do you think it's still as shocking as many similar songs that released since then?

Terri: Oh god no! But it still holds up for me because it's an honest declaration of a woman's desire to have fun role-playing in sex. And it seems to still strike a chord in a lot of women. I love seeing them sing it to their men!

Caps: "No More Words" is one of my favorite videos by Berlin. You looked like you were having a lot of fun in that video. Were there any different ideas you had for it before the "Bonnie And Clyde" scenario?

Terri: That was my idea, I'm proud to say! Bonnie and Clyde - the movie - had a huge impact on me as a kid. I was feeling sexual but didn't know why or how or what to do with these feelings. That movie really brought them out in me. Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were so HOT in that movie!

Caps: "Take My Breath Away" is one of the most noted ballads of our time. It's still being used to this day (I recently heard it in a trailer for "Toy Story 3"). What do you think it is about the song that's caused it to have such an impact throughout the years since its' release?

Terri: For me, what's interesting about it is the conflicting emotions I hear going on in it. It's not a straight-ahead, sweet love song like so many others. There's a sadness to it, especially my vocal on it, that plays against the romance in the music. I had a pathetic love life when I sang it, lonely with no prospects. I can hear that in my voice, the loneliness. It sometimes makes me want to cry when I hear it, because I remember that time. But maybe it's just me who can hear that. Luckily too, life got better.

Caps: Why didn't you perform "Take My Breath Away" at the 1987 Academy Awards?

Terri: Because I'm a moron. Okay, maybe I wouldn't be now, but I sure was then about this. I thought it wasn't fair that they'd only let me sing a small piece of the song, and I told them that. Rather than change their plan, they got someone else. I should've just been happy to be asked at all. Then it won, HOLY FUCK!!! Well, "that learned me."

Caps: What was the wildest entertainment industry party you went to?

Terri: I don't remember industry parties as being "wild". Maybe I wasn't invited to the fun ones! The wild parties I remember were the ones thrown by musicians I knew or met. But I prefer to keep their privacy private.

Caps: To move back into your acting work, what are your memories of working on the movie "Thank God It's Friday"?
Terri: It was HUGE for me, my first full-length movie! Though it really was pretty bad, I loved it because it featured music. I got to meet Donna Summer! And her producer, Giorgio Moroder!! Who would've thunk that 10 years later, we would create an Oscar-winning song together! Back then he just looked at me like an under-developed 18 year old unknown actress. All the actors in that movie, including Jeff Goldblum and Debra Winger, were just starting out, so it was a fun environment.

Caps: What movies did you audition for, but didn't get roles in?

Terri: Lots. An Officer and A Gentleman was one (Meg Ryan's role) and I remember auditioning with another new young actor who absolutely blew my mind! We did the scene where the girl tells her boyfriend she's pregnant. He didn't get the role either, but I almost forgot my lines auditioning with him and thought, FUCK, this guy is going to be a STAR. His name was Mickey Rourke - The Wrestler, 9 1/2 Weeks, Fast Times At Ridgemont High, The Breakfast Club, Carrie. One role I did get offered and turned down was the female lead in Indiana Jones. A Berlin tour was scheduled at the same time and I had to choose.

Caps: If I were to look in your CD collection, what 5 titles would I be most surprised to find?

Terri: Good question. I don't have many judgments about what people listen to, especially musicians. It takes listening to all kinds of music to develop. You might be surprised to see Gladys Knight or Aretha Franklin, since I've never been a loud supporter of R & B, or Bonnie Raitt and Linda Ronstadt, as I'm not a huge country music fan, but all these women are great singers to me.

Caps: If you could work with any 5 artists, who would they be?

Terri: How do you say only 5? Okay, off the top of my head, Trent Reznor, Elton John, Stevie Nicks, Lady GaGa and Sheryl Crow.

Caps: You recently made an appearance on "RuPaul's Drag Race". What's your stance on reality television?

Terri: I love reality tv. I don't love it more than scripted tv, but it has its place. Some reality shows are truly showing a slice of life out there. I think it's important for people to see that not every problem is fixed and tied up in a pretty little bow in 30 minutes. I like "Intervention," and that new show, "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution." These are real issues that deserve attention. My guilty pleasures are "Tough Love" and "Celebrity Rehab with Dr.Drew." I can't believe what some people actually do! And I learn something watching all these shows.

Caps: Berlin made it big around the time that MTV made its' debut. What do you think of the channel as it stands now?

Terri: Does it have music anymore? Most of its programming is still geared to a teen-to-twenty audience, which isn't me, so I don't know enough about it now to comment.

Caps: I thought you looked great back in the 80s, but many look back on the 80s now with a mixture of mockery and revulsion at how they looked. What do you think of your 80s style?

Terri: A lot of the combinations I put together were horrifying!! I remember the band sitting me down one day and saying, "You know, Terri, you don't have to do all your clothes yourself. We can get help for you." They were trying, in a nice way, to say, "HOLY SHIT, YOU NEED HELP!" But some of what I did worked. Fuck it, it was fun!

Caps: Your IMDB page shows you hanging out with rockers like Dave Navarro and Jerry Cantrell. This leads me to ask: Many rock musicians frown upon rap music. What do you think of rap?

Terri: I don't know, it doesn't speak much to me. Don't hate it, it's just not really my thing.

Caps: If you could go back to your youth with the knowledge that you have now, would you do anything differently?

Terri: Sure! Mainly appreciate more everything that was happening, take the time to enjoy it. Rather than running around from one thing to the next, like life is a race. It's not.

Thank you for the interview!

With love,

Terri Nunn


I would like to thank Terri for taking the time to do an interview with me, and Gaye Ann Bruno, who also set up my interview with Martha Davis, for arranging this experience.

For your viewing and listening pleasure, here are some of Berlin's most noted tracks:

"No More Words": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7MSYzT_LuZ8&feature=related

"Take My Breath Away": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K4a6ampIGao&feature=related

"Sex (I'm A...)" (Extended Version): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-InsAh-DkQ8
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