Terri Nunn, the lady of Berlin

Singer heads a new version of her hit ’80s band, performing in Templeton on Friday

ppemberton@thetribunenews.comJune 5, 2014 

From left, Chris Olivas, Dave Schulz, Terri Nunn and Carlton Bost are the current Berlin.

MICHAEL GRECCO

When she was a teenager, Terri Nunn was offered the opportunity of a lifetime — a seven-year contract to appear on a new TV series called “Dallas.”

The money was good, and executives believed the show would be a success — which was exactly what troubled Nunn, who had other ambitions.

“I’m sitting there, thinking, ‘Holy s----. If I sign this contract, and it’s a hit, I’m stuck,” Nunn recalled. “The music dream is over.”

Forget that she had no musical prospects — and had never even been in a band. Nunn’s dreams of being a musician were so pervasive, she turned down the role in “Dallas,” a ratings champion that wound up being on television for 14 seasons.

“My agent dropped me immediately,” said Nunn, who appears in Templeton with her band Berlin on Friday. “And my manager dropped me. He called me first and said, ‘Are you out of your f---ing mind?’ ”

But Nunn said she never regretted her decision.

“If I had done that, I’d probably be a really rich drug addict right now,” she said. “Because I would have had a lot of money because it was a huge hit and not done what I really wanted to do.”

For Nunn, whose father appeared in movies with Spencer Tracy and Judy Garland as a child actor, getting into television and movies was so easy she didn’t realize how difficult it was for most other people. After appearing in community theater beginning at age 8, she quickly found herself in national commercials and then TV shows, including “Barnaby Jones” “T.J. Hooker” and “Lou Grant.” She was even invited to audition for the part of Princess Leia in “Star Wars,” a role that went to Carrie Fisher.

And what happened to her, Nunn reminds us?

“She became a rich drug addict,” she joked. (Though Fisher’s better now, she adds.)

A year after Nunn turned down “Dallas,” she met John Crawford, and Berlin was formed.

With risqué songs like “Sex (I’m a)” and “Touch,” Berlin was once labeled the World’s Kinkiest Band by Rock Magazine. And the band didn’t disagree, Crawford describing the band’s music in 1984 as “techno-sleaze glamour rock.”

“We were 20, and that’s all we thought about — sex and how to get it and how to keep it and how to change it and how to do it better,” Nunn said.

The band had moderate success in the early 1980s thanks to having good videos in the early MTV era. And with that success, they hired producer Giorgio Moroder to produce one track. That song, “No More Words,” became their first legitimate hit. But more importantly, while working with Moroder, he approached them about a song he had co-written for the movie “Top Gun.”

“While he was producing ‘No More Words’ for us, he brought in ‘Take My Breath Away,’ ” Nunn recalled. 

Other, more well-known singers had tried to sing the song, but none of them worked out. So Moroder asked Berlin if they wanted to give it a shot.

Crawford initially said no. Nunn was all for it. Their label broke the tie. And “Take My Breath Away” became Berlin’s biggest hit.

“It opened up the entire world to us that had never heard Berlin before,” Nunn said.

The pressures and demands of that stardom caused the band to split not long after the song hit No. 1. But in the late ’90s, Nunn came back with a newer version of the band.

Today, Berlin is touring in support of a new album, “Animal,” which was inspired by Nunn’s time as a radio DJ in Southern California.

“A friend of mine was listening to KCSN here in Los Angeles, and the DJ said on the air, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if Terri Nunn had a show here?’ ” she said. “He turned out to also be the program director for the station.”

Nunn eventually got in touch, and for two years she had a radio program on Saturday nights. Not only did it fulfill a childhood dream, but it forced her to listen to new music, particularly electronic dance music, and she became inspired to do new music along those lines.

The result, “Animal,” combines the techno sounds of ’80s Berlin with more recent electronic dance music. And while there are some sexy lyrics, Nunn says they come from the perspective of a woman who will turn 53 this month. 

“I enjoy not only writing about it, but I enjoy hearing other artists, especially who are my age, who aren’t 20 — what is it like for them now?” she said.

Hardly a story or video post about Nunn fails to mention her looks, which are still praised after the half-century mark. But she doesn’t feel offended or demeaned by the remarks. She’s proud of looking good, though it’s not easy.

“It’s work,” she said. “I’ve got to work out, I’ve got to eat well, I’ve got to sleep. I’ve got to work it to keep looking good!”

IF YOU GO

Berlin with Terri Nunn
6 p.m. Friday 
Ventuex Vineyards, 1795 Las Tablas Road, Templeton
$37.22 (all proceeds benefit Must! Charities)
369-0127

Reach Patrick S. Pemberton at 781-7903.

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