Terri Nunn Headlines L.A. Pride
Before there was Lady Gaga, today’s bi pop it-girl, there was Terri Nunn, lead vocalist for the iconic ’80s new wave band Berlin. Unapologetically sexy and sporting a serious set of pipes, Nunn explored—and played with—sex and gender roles with her lyrics. Throughout her career this daring and original chanteuse has taken calculated risks that have put her ahead of the curve and endeared her to a generation of queers. Her music has rocked the gay club scene ever since Berlin became an international sensation with its innovative electronic sound over two decades ago with hits like “The Metro,” “Sex (I’m A)” and “Take My Breath Away.”
Curve caught up with the enigmatic trailblazer as she was preparing to headline the Los Angeles Pride Festival 2009, when Nunn’s natural openness, coupled with a discussion of her sexy cover art for her forthcoming CD-DVD Terri Nunn & Berlin: All the Way In, led to a conversation about sex. Nunn isn’t shy about the topic, and though she's previously mentioned her same-sex experiences to reporters, lesbian and mainstream media have somehow seemed to miss her coming out—until now, that is.
Berlin became a mainstream phenomenon in 1986 with “Breath” (which appeared on the soundtrack for Top Gun) but it was their 1982 underground favorite “Sex (I’m A)” a risqué track that was banned from many Top 40 stations for its controversial lyrics that made the band a bonafide LGBT fave.
The song, a duet that explored sex roles of men and women, highlighted how roles for women are much more rich and varied than they are for men. It also famously hinted at the possibility of Nunn’s sexual fluidity. In the third chorus Nunn asks introspectively, “Am I bi?” pricking the ears of queer gals everywhere who, ever since, have wondered what the answer was.
“The thing I regret most in my sexuality is not being right out front with whomever I was attracted about what I like,” says Nunn.
Recalling her three-month relationship with another woman Nunn says, “One of the best experiences I ever had. She taught me more about myself as a woman than I ever could learn any other way. It’s because of her that I realized how amazing I am as a woman. When a woman or man touches me now, I know what they’re touching because I touched her and it was fucking unbelievable!” Ironically, the relationship ended because the other woman was feeling an emotional connection, and Nunn was only in it for sex. “I was kind of like a guy,” says Nunn. “I was so in lust with her. I loved her body.”
Asked what type of woman she’s attracted to, the petite vegetarian insists that it’s anyone who is not like her, physically or otherwise. “I like voluptuous women, with hips, with padding on them, I like an ass,” she says with emphasis. “That’s such a turn-on."
And as for her turn-offs, “I’m a little over-ambitious, I don’t find that necessarily sexy,” she adds thoughtfully. “I’d be attracted to a woman who has a little more time in her life.”
“Sex is so weird and outrageous anyway, why not have fun with it?” she asks. “[At first] I thought, ‘What kind of girl am I to want that?’ But that was just stupid to judge myself. [At 13, my fantasy was] of being spanked, I thought, My god, I’m a strong woman and this is not very strong. It took me until I was 30 before I told anyone: ‘Now I want it harder!’” she laughs.
Nunn has been married 11 years and it works, she says, because “we’re not in cages.” She and her husband Paul Spear, a lawyer, have a “one-time” agreement, if they absolutely have to have someone. But so far, because of that agreement she believes, neither has taken advantage of the freedom. “There have been maybe two times that I thought about it, but nah, neither of us has gone out that back door yet.”
Yet? Sounds like there still could be hope, ladies.
Dykes in Los Angeles will have their chance on June 14, when Nunn Headlines the L.A. Pride Festival, a performance that she is keeping uncharacteristically mum about, Nunn advises, whatever you do, “don’t miss the last 10 minutes of [Sunday’s show].”
“It’s going to be inspirational and life changing,” says a breathless Gaye Ann Bruno, Nunn’s manager and L.A. Pride VP of entertainment. “It brings it back to why we have a gay Pride. It’s not about the headliner, the corndogs or getting laid. It brings it home, to what the message is.”
While Bruno also remained hush-hush about the show she is sure that Nunn, No. 11 on VH1’s list of the 100 Greatest Women in Rock, is “the perfect vehicle” for this special event.
Unsurprisingly, with Berlin's history of popularity in the LGBT community, both Nunn and Berlin have become a fixture at Pride and other queer events around the country. “It’s just a blast, man!” says Nunn, explaining that she especially loves the “combination of outrageousness and absolute safety,” that pride offers. “There’s a non-violence amidst the craziness. It’s all about peace and love, man, and that to me is heaven!”
Nunn somehow juggles her rock star life with a husband, a 4-year-old daughter and two teenage stepsons. She squeezed in a chat with Curve between driving to pick her daughter Natalie up from daycare and putting finishing touches on her latest CD-DVD package, shot at the House of Blues in Anaheim, Calif. “It’s balls to the wall,” says Nunn, who sounds more excited than frazzled over the combination of a looming deadline, family responsibilities and a chatty reporter. And laughs when I question the double entendre-laden title of her new CD-DVD package, Terri Nunn & Berlin: All the Way In, which is due to hit stores in July. “There’s a piece of that that I like about it,” she says, laughing, “But this band, right now, are all the way into [the music]. It’s a feeling that doesn’t happen all the time.”
Nunn gives much of the credit for this reenergized attitude to the addition of Goo Goo Dolls’ keyboard player Dave Schulz, who joined the band last year. “He’s a breath of fresh air,” says Nunn, explaining that everything clicked once Schulz arrived. “It’s like great sex, you’re lucky if it happens the first time. It takes time to mesh, to learn each others’ rhythms. I’m so grateful that this DVD came along now rather than last year.”
Free time isn’t something that Nunn has much of, for sure. She’ll do a kick-off release for the new album on July 8 at the Hollywood Borders Books & Music. “We may sell them at L.A. Pride, if they come in time,” says Bruno. Nunn and Berlin start the Regeneration Tour the next day, and plan to record another CD later this year. The band is also enjoying the publicity for an acoustic version of “The Metro,” used in the recent film Naked Ambition.
Nunn also has her eye on a new venture: “I love radio and talk radio,” she says. “I love conversation about ideas, exposing people to ideas and spiritual practices. I would love to get into that world.”
But this weekend, she’ll be playing for her hometown crowd at L.A. Pride. “The gay community takes the time to actually let me know they appreciate the band,” she says. “It’s so awesome to look out there and have this energy coming at you.”
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