ANN MAGNUSON Biography - Actors and Actresses


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Name: Ann Magnuson                                                                           
Born: 4 January 1956 Charleston, West Virginia                                               
Ann Magnuson (January 4, 1956) is an American actress, performance artist, and               
nightclub performer who first gained prominence in the 1985 film Desperately                 
Seeking Susan. The New York Times described her as "An endearing theatrical                 
chameleon who has as many characters at her fingertips as Lily Tomlin does".                 
Magnuson was born in Charleston, West Virginia to a journalist mother and a                 
lawyer father. She had a brother, Bobby, and was educated at George                         
Washington High School there. After graduating from Denison University in 1978,             
she moved to New York City, New York and was a DJ and performer at Club 57 and               
the Mudd Club in Manhattan circa 1979 through the early 1980s, while pursuing a             
performance career on varied fronts. She created such characters as "Anoushka",             
a Soviet lounge singer, wearing a wig backwards and singing mock-Russian lyrics             
to cheesy 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-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 movie debut in the 1982 film Vortex.                                       
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             
low-budget independent film hit Desperately Seeking Susan, set in that milieu               
and which also helped launch the 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, leading to a film career as a             
character actor, often playing the funky, spunky, cute but smart and smart-mouthed           
friend or career woman.                                                                     
Concurrently, Magnuson developed an underground following as lead vocalist of               
the band Bongwater, formed in 1985 with producer-musician Mark Kramer, a.k.a.               
Kramer. Bongwater released four avant garde albums and a debut EP before                     
breaking up in 1992 with a contentious 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 avant garde 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-movies 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 Plus (1987), in which Magnuson starred in a             
mostly solo stage piece with appearances by actor-singer Meat Loaf and actor-monologist     
Eric Bogosian. 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 roles have included a snarly real estate agent in Panic Room, 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, and a sexy victim             
of David Bowie's vampire in The Hunger. She also played a secretary in Clear and             
Present Danger and had a cameo in Cabin Boy.                                                 
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 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 inherited               
Yvonne De Carlo's role of 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 Toronto, Canada writer Jason Anderson summarized               
her work as 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, that has she mounted through at least July 2006. She played Sister                 
Elizabeth Donderstock in the play The Book of Liz 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.                                     
Magnuson has written a monthly column, "LA Woman", in the magazine Paper, and,               
as of 2007, an accompanying blog.