“You just always have to be prepared!” says Annie Golden, star of punk rock, film (Hair) and Broadway (she’s currently in Violet with Sutton Foster), and suddenly, the hottest TV series (Orange is the New Black).
“Send in the clowns! You never know what’s coming around the bend. Who knew all this would happen this late in my career?”
Indeed, Golden has been wowing audiences since fronting the punk-pop group The Shirts in the mid-1970s. In fact, the band was managed by CBGB’s late owner Hilly Kristal, and was a mainstay at the Bowery’s historic rock club.
Sunday night she’ll fill a moment of free time by starring with her current band at the Cutting Room in Midtown Manhattan in a show entitled Annie Golden: Family and Friends.
“I played one of the last gigs at the old Cutting Room, and they said they’d love to have me back any time I want,” says Golden. “But they usually don’t do Sunday nights there—but I know my people will come out: My audience is the theater community, and we don’t get a day off. Even if it’s just my co-workers after the Sunday matinee, they’ll come out to the gig.”
At the Cutting Room gig, Golden will have her old Shirts bandmate Artie Lamonica on guitar, since her regular guitarist Paul McKenzie—who also plays with Lamonica—recently suffered a concussion.
“I know all about brain injuries!” says Golden, whose brother Mike—also her drummer—experienced traumatic brain injury six years ago in a motorcycle accident–though he’ll be back behind the kit at the Cutting Room. Also joining her are Cracker’s Sal Maida on bass and Lisa Burns on background vocals.
“I reached out to my first-ever guitarist—and Artie learned all my songs,” continues Golden, who will be focusing on all-original post-Shirts material.
“I sing every kind of music, so there will be full-on rock, Latin, world, dance, country-and-western,” she says, citing titles like “White Picket Fence” and “Guns of the Bigoted” that she’ll do, that come from her 1990s Golden-Carillo singer-songwriter partnership with Frank Carillo.
“People need to know that I’ve had many incarnations after The Shirts.”
All kinds, to be precise. Among them: Milos Forman’s film version of the musical Hair, recurring TV roles on Cheers and Miami Vice, Off-Broadway productions including Dementoes (Marc Shaiman’s first Off-Broadway musical) and The Shaggs: Philosophy of the World (from composer/lyricist Gunmar Madsen, founder of a cappela group The Bobs, who played on a Bottom Line bill long ago with The Shirts), and on Broadway, a revival of Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical, Leader of the Pack, On the Town and The Full Monty.
“I’ve been doing it all for so long, but it’s finally all come together,” says Golden, who also starred in a memorable 1984 MTV music video for the Sixteen Candles film soundtrack, “Hang Up the Phone.” But Orange is the New Black is the icing on the cake.
“It is the sensation!” says Golden, speaking from experience. “How many times do actors audition and the series doesn’t get picked up—and they stop thinking, ‘This could be it’? You have so many irons in the fire and don’t know which one will catch, and this one has taken off in such a wonderful, innovative, positive, female-conscious, colorblind, non-discriminatory kind of a way. It’s not just a job, it’s a statement, which you couldn’t even predict.”
Golden notes that Orange creator Jenji Kohan wrote the role of the mute Norma Romano for her, after she auditioned for a different role in the women’s prison comedy-drama.
“I’ve been involved with Joe Iconis’s rock musical The Black Suits since he wrote it as an NYU student eight years ago, and I was doing it two years ago with the Barrington Stage Company in the Berkshires,” she says. “When you’re out of New York, you can’t audition for the next thing, so it’s a leap of faith when you go out of town: You know that when you come back you don’t have anything lined up. But I got a call and auditioned for the role of an activist nun and Jen said, ‘Let’s offer her Norma Romano,’ which was a character that hadn’t been written yet! So she wrote it with me in mind.”
Not only has the show been a huge hit, but Golden got her first Broadway “offer” after 35 years—to join the cast of the revival of Violet.
“That means you don’t have to go in and audition—that they’re inviting you to join the cast,” she explains. “I was in L.A. doing Black Suits, so that seems to be my lucky charm. Whenever I do it, something wonderful happens to me in another area. Orange worked around me, so when I got back to New York on Monday night, I had a 4:30 a.m. call Tuesday morning and made up all the scenes they held out for me.”
Because of the irregular theater, film and TV production schedules, Golden gets to perform in clubs only sporadically. After Golden-Carillo, she put together a cabaret act, prophetically titled Annie Golden’s Velvet Prison. She and Lamonica co-wrote the theme song for the show, which included songs by the likes of Shaiman, Stephen Sondheim, Tom Waits and Tammy Wynette; she has managed to perform it on occasion since 1998 and looks to remount it this summer at 54 Below as Annie Golden’s Velvet Prison 2: No Hope of Parole.
“Actors never have steady gigs,” she says, “so when you have free time to rehearse a band or update your cabaret act, you have time but not the capital– because no earnings are coming in. Then if you do get a job or several jobs, you have the capital, but not the time!”
Annie Golden: Family and Friends should help in this regard, and will be streamed from the Cutting Room on Gander.tv. Meanwhile, Golden’s extensive recording career credits have two new additions in the Violet cast album and a CD of The Shaggs: Philosophy of the World.
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