Ann Magnuson when she was the manager of Club 57 circa early 1980s
|Occupation||Actress, performance artist|
Ann Magnuson (born January 4, 1956) is an American actress, performance artist, and nightclub performer. She was described by The New York Times in 1990 as "An endearing theatrical chameleon who has as many characters at her fingertips as Lily Tomlin does".
A founding member of the 1980s band Bongwater, she starred in the ABC sitcom Anything but Love (1989-92). Her film appearances include The Hunger (1983), Making Mr. Right (1987), Clear and Present Danger (1994), Panic Room (2002), and One More Time (2015).
Magnuson was born in Charleston, West Virginia, to a journalist mother and a lawyer father. She had a brother, Bobby, who died in 1988 of complications from AIDS. She attended Holz Elementary and George Washington High School in Charleston. After graduating from Denison University in 1978, she moved to New York City and was a DJ and performer at Club 57 and the Mudd Club in Manhattan around 1979 through the early 1980s. She created such characters as Anoushka, a Soviet lounge singer, wearing a wig backwards and singing mock-Russian lyrics to pop music standards, and separately sang in an all-girl percussion group, Pulsallama, whose 1982 single "The Devil Lives In My Husband's Body" was a housewife's lament of a spouse who appears to be possessed. Later, in the 1990s, Magnuson fronted the satirical faux-heavy metal band Vulcan Death Grip.
In an interview for the 2002 WETA-TV-PBS special Lance Loud! A Death in An American Family, Magnuson credited the idea of Loud — a member of an all-American family filmed day-in/day-out for the landmark PBS documentary An American Family, who came out as gay during the course of that documentary miniseries — with inspiring her to leave West Virginia for New York:
I watched An American Family alone in the kitchen and none of my other family members were interested in it, and I was fascinated, as everybody my age was, by Lance, and I really think that's what got me there. I immediately started hanging out at all the clubs that he hung out in, and I wanted to go to the places that I'd seen on television. ... I met him in 1978 when I got to New York City and was hanging out at CBGB. ... I honestly can't remember the exact moment but I know I was dazzled. I was just this little hick from West Virginia and I was meeting a celebrity, an icon, somebody who had made it.
Magnuson made her film debut in the 1982 film Vortex.
In the late '70s and early '80s, Magnuson ran Club 57, located in the basement of the Polish National church. It became a center of a world that included Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf, and many others from New York's budding graffiti and downtown scenes. Club 57 was known for its theme nights such as Reggae Miniature Golf and Model World of Glue Night.
A fixture of the Manhattan downtown club scene of the 1980s, Magnuson gained attention with her role as a snarky cigarette girl in director Susan Seidelman's 1985 independent film hit Desperately Seeking Susan, which also helped launch the acting career of singer Madonna. Magnuson went on to star in Seidelman's Making Mr. Right (1987), a poorly received science-fiction romance about an android played by John Malkovich.
Concurrently, Magnuson developed an underground following as lead vocalist of the band Bongwater, formed in 1985 with producer-musician Mark Kramer. Bongwater released four avant garde albums and a debut EP before breaking up in 1992 with a legal battle between Magnuson and Kramer that lasted through at least 1996 and ended with the bankruptcy of Kramer's independent-music label Shimmy-Disc.
Her 15-minute video performance piece "Made for Television", self-produced in 1981, ran on the WNET-PBS series Alive from Off-Center. Her satiric featurette found her playing close to 50 roles in a "channel-hopping" series of visual bites parodying television programming game shows to TV films to televangelists. As art critic Sarah Valdez described it, "a bewigged Ann Magnuson consecutively inhabits, at a rate faster than any channel surfer could keep up with, an outlandish, uproariously unfortunate range of female stereotypes". It was later released by HBO Home Video together with the Cinemax cable-TV special Vandemonium (1987), in which Magnuson starred in a mostly solo stage piece with appearances by actor-singer Meat Loaf, performance artist Joey Arias, and actor-monologist Eric Bogosian. Magnuson also co-hosted Alive from Off Center during its 1988 season, taking over from fellow performance artist Laurie Anderson, who had hosted the series the year before.
Her 1995 CD The Luv Show (Geffen Records/MCA), her major-label debut, was commercially unsuccessful, but musically adventurous; one critic described it "an MGM musical as directed by Russ Meyer (which means the mambo 'Sex With The Devil'" and 'Miss Pussy Pants' sit comfortably next to Ethel Merman references in the same work)".
As Salon writer John Paczowski described her in 1997:
[A] celebrated icon in the more transgressive margins of culture, Ann Magnuson has been at once unknown and renowned for the past 15 years. She is infamous in more insular circles as the creative force behind the cultural mayhem of the East Village's Club 57, a breeding ground of experimentation and absurdity that spawned the work of Keith Haring, among others. (Under the auspices of a Club 57 project, Magnuson once performed a "Tribute to Muzak," singing for five hours straight in the elevator of the Whitney Museum.)
From 1989 to 1992, Magnuson played Catherine Hughes, the comically hip editor-in-chief of a Chicago magazine in the television sitcom Anything But Love, opposite Jamie Lee Curtis and comedian Richard Lewis, and played a liberal political commentator on comedian Wanda Sykes' 2003 Fox Broadcasting sitcom Wanda at Large.
Magnuson's film roles have included a snarly real estate agent in Panic Room, Alan's mother in Small Soldiers, a madam in Tank Girl, Mel Gibson's "money junkie" ex-wife in Tequila Sunrise, Tom Berenger's estranged but horny ex-girlfriend in Love at Large, a secretary in Clear and Present Danger, and a sexy victim of David Bowie's vampire in The Hunger.
Her TV guest appearances include an episode each of the Lifetime cable-network fiction-suspense anthology The Hidden Room; the cult-hit, surrealistic comedy-drama The Adventures of Pete and Pete and Salute Your Shorts on the children's cable television network Nickelodeon; the sitcoms The John Larroquette Show, The Drew Carey Show, Caroline in the City, and Frasier; and the police procedural drama CSI: Miami. In the 1996 telefilm The Munsters' Scary Little Christmas, Magnuson played Lily Munster from the original 1960s TV series The Munsters. She appeared in the 1990 Redd Kross music video for the song "Annie's Gone", written about her. As writer Jason Anderson summarized her work through 1996, "She's been appearing in various states of undress for artistic purposes since her performance art daze in late-'70s New York [where s]he was indie rock's thinking vixen...."
In 2003, Magnuson began touring a one-woman stage show, Pretty Songs & Ugly Stories, which she mounted through at least July 2006. She played Sister Elizabeth Donderstock in the play The Book of Liz, written by Amy Sedaris and David Sedaris, in May 2005 at the 2nd Stage Theatre in Hollywood, California. Other theater work has included playwright John Patrick Shanley's Four Dogs and a Bone at the Lucille Lortel Theater in New York City, the one-woman shows You Could Be Home Now (which opened the 1990 Serious Fun festival at New York City's Lincoln Center), and Rave Mom (opened in New York City October 2001), and in a neo-burlesque show The Velvet Hammer.
A Village Voice review described the autobiographical Rave Mom as Magnuson's "travels through 1999 -- a year of Ecstasy-popping, bad romance-chasing and searching for escapism and meaning after her brother's death from AIDS. Magnuson has a thoroughly charming presence [but] her stories of celebrity-studded Oscar parties, kid-filled raves, a wealthy dotcom suitor, and so on, come off as utterly self-absorbed and trivial...."
She has performed at the Revlon/UCLA Breast Center benefit-show series What A Pair! in 2005, performing with Elaine Hendrix "Tips" from the musical Pump Boys & Dinettes, and 2006, performing with Samantha Shelton. She appeared in What's My Line? Live on Stage in Los Angeles on Sept 14, 2006.
In late 2006, Magnuson released her second solo album, Pretty Songs & Ugly Stories. It was produced and co-written by long-time musical director and accompanist Kristian Hoffman, with whom Magnuson had had a creative relationship since meeting him when directing "The New Wave Vaudeville Show" in 1976.
In 2018, Magnuson joined the cast of The Man in the High Castle, for 5 episodes, as Caroline Abendsen, the wife of title character Hawthorne Abendsen/The Man in the High Castle played by Stephen Root.
Magnuson married architect John Bertram in 2002. She has described the Los Angeles neighborhood of Silver Lake, where she lives in her Richard Neutra-designed house, as "a rainbow-coalition Mayberry ... You don't get a sense of anybody really flaunting how rich they are."
|1983||The Hunger||Young Woman from Disco|
|1985||Desperately Seeking Susan||Cigarette Girl|
|1987||Making Mr. Right||Frankie Stone|
|1988||A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon||Joyce Fickett|
|1988||Tequila Sunrise||Shaleen McKussic|
|1989||Checking Out||Connie Hagen|
|1990||Love at Large||Doris|
|1994||Clear and Present Danger||Moira Wolfson|
|1995||Tank Girl||The Madame||Uncredited role|
|1996||Before and After||Terry Taverner|
|1998||Small Soldiers||Irene Abernathy|
|1999||Friends & Lovers||Katherine|
|2000||Love & Sex||Monique Steinbacher|
|2001||The Caveman's Valentine||Moira Leppenraub|
|2001||Night at the Golden Eagle||Sally|
|2002||Panic Room||Lydia Lynch|
|2003||The United States of Leland||Karen Pollard|
|2004||Open House||Sarah Jane Tibbett|
|2007||Chasing Tchaikovsky||Margarita Stone|
|2010||Happiness Runs||Chad's Mom|
|2011||Rose||Miriam Masterson||Short film|
|2013||Only Child||Miriam Masterson (voice)|
|2015||One More Time||Lucille|
|2017||Mansfield 66/67||The Voice of Jayne Mansfield|
|1987||Tales from Hollywood Hills: A Table at Ciro's||Darlene||TV film|
|1989-1992||Anything but Love||Catherine Hughes||Main role (50 episodes)|
|1993||The Hidden Room||Nina||Episode: "No Word for Mercy"|
|1996||The Adventures of Pete & Pete||Eunice Puell||Episode: "Crisis in the Love Zone"|
|1996||The John Larroquette Show||Amanda Cox||Episode: "Command Performance"|
|1996||The Munsters' Scary Little Christmas||Lily Munster||TV film|
|1997||Caroline in the City||Gina Pennetti||Episode: "Caroline and the Kept Man"|
|1997||The Drew Carey Show||Kyra Sullivan||Episode: "Check Out Drew's Old Flame"|
|1997||Damian Cromwell's Postcards from America||Paula||TV film|
|1998||From the Earth to the Moon||Dee O'Hara||TV miniseries|
|2002||The Griffin and the Minor Canon||Bird||TV film|
|2003||Wanda at Large||Rita Bahlberg||Episode: "Wanda & Bradley"|
|2003-2008||All Grown Up!||Miss O'Keats (voice)||Recurring role|
|2004||Frasier||Harvest||Episode: "Match Game"|
|2004||Quintuplets||Yolanda||Episode: "Working It"|
|2004||CSI: Miami||Ms. Arena||Episode: "Crime Wave"|
|2006||Our House||Geena||TV film|
|2007||American Dad!||Lisa Collins (voice)||Episode: "I Can't Stan You"|
|2009||Valentine||Circe||Episode: "Hound Dog"|
|2013||Modern Family||Shelley||Episode: "Goodnight Gracie"|
|2013||The Young and the Restless||Madame Miranda||TV series|
|2014||Looking||Stina||Episodes: "Looking for Now", "Looking at Your Browser History"|
|2018||Superior Donuts||Irene||Episode: "The Chicago Way"|
|2018-2019||The Man in the High Castle||Caroline Abendsen||Episodes: "Now More Than Ever, We Care About You", "History Ends", "Excess Animus", "Baku", "Jahr Null", "Happy Trails"|
|2020||Star Trek: Picard||Kirsten Clancy||2 episodes|