Martha Quinn was born in Albany NY, and raised in Ossining New York. After one year at Colgate University she moved to New York City to attend New York University where she graduated with a degree in Broadcast Journalism. It was at NYU that her journey to becoming one of the original 5 MTV VJs began.
It all started on July 13th 1981. Newly graduated from college, Martha woke up in her two-room fifth floor walk-up apartment, took the subway down to Greenwich Village, and put in a day of work at NYU’s Weinstein Dormitory where she still answered phones and gave students their toilet paper, mail, and lightbulbs. At the end of her day she headed back uptown, but made a pit-stop at WNBC Music Radio where she’d just finished up interning for her senior year.
Coincidentally, California record company guy Burt Stein was also visiting WNBC. Somewhere in Burt’s brain the synapses fired in such a way that caused him to utter, “Hey, what’s Bob Pittman doing?”
Pittman had been the program director of WNBC a year or so earlier, but had left to start this wacky new venture. A cable channel called MTV. At that exact point in time, WNBC assistant program director Buzz Brindle (hey I gotta give credit where credit is due!) turned to Martha and said the words that would ultimately change her life forever: “Hey Martha, that’s what you should do, you should be a VJ!”
Next thing you know Buzz has Pittman on the phone, tells him about his former intern, Pittman says to get her to the MTV studios right away ‘cause it’s the last day of auditions. Before you could even say, “But I’m not even wearing any make-up!” Martha was in a cab heading down to Hell’s Kitchen for her audition.
Buzz’s idea wasn’t entirely crazy. Martha spent her NYU years doing two things: TV commercials (McDonald’s first chicken McNuggets girl, Country Time Lemonade, Clearasil, Campbell’s Soup) and working at WNYU, the college radio station. Martha would later lament that her Dad and Step-Mom, financial columnist Jane Bryant Quinn, spent good money for her to spin Peter, Paul, and Mary vinyl as the host of “Just Plain Folk”, ‘cause it sure wasn’t for any classes!
Martha walked into the studio not having any idea what this MTV was all about, did a four-minute audition where she talked about Earth, Wind, and Fire, and was immediately surrounded by executives. “Who are you? Where did you come from? How old are you?” Martha too was stunned. Omigod. It was a job made in heaven just for her. Two days later Martha stopped at a phone booth and held the little beeper into the mouthpiece (it was the 80s after all!) and got the news she was an MTV VJ. And the rest is…well cable history anyway!
Martha joined Mark Goodman, Nina Blackwood and 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.
Martha’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.” In the late ‘80s, she also hosted the MTV programs Martha’s Greatest Hits, MTV Prime with Martha Quinn, and Rockline. Critics have dubbed Martha’s departure from MTV as “the day the video music died.”
One thing Martha loved was living in New York City. She grew up in New York, went to college in New York, worked for MTV in New York, and swore she’d never ever ever leave the Big Apple. Then one day in June of 1986, she flew to Los Angeles, and met a guitar player at a recording studio. Of that moment Martha says, “I looked up and thought, that is the cutest guy I’ve ever seen.” Next thing you know Martha (after breaking up with the guy she was visiting in Los Angeles!) packed up her bags and moved to Los Angeles to spend the rest of her life with the aforementioned cute guitar-player, Fuzztone Jordan Tarlow.
After MTV, Martha took up urging the nation towards cleaner skin as Neutrogena’s spokesperson. She became an official Brady when she said “I do” to Bobby Brady in the CBS-TV series The Bradys. A stint with Ed McMahon on Star Search and an infomercial or two kept Martha busy until the birth of her first child in 1997.
Martha can now be heard on Sirius/XM channel 80s on 8 along with Mark Goodman, Nina Blackwood and Alan Hunter.