November 11, 2013

Original MTV VJ finds excitement of a new kind in Maine

Nina Blackwood says she moved here for the weather, for nature, and for a little more seclusion.

By Ray Routhier rrouthier@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

ROCKLAND — Nina Blackwood has been star-struck only a couple of times.

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Nina Blackwood, one of the original MTV VJs, now lives in Maine and does her satellite radio show of '80s music from her home.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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Early MTV VJs, back row: J.J. Jackson, Nina Blackwood and Mark Gordon; front row: Martha Quinn and Alan Hunter

Courtesy photo

Listen to reporter Ray Routhier interview Nina Blackwood

Download the audio file (3 MB).

Once was when she saw Paul McCartney at a party and was afraid to talk to him. The other time was when she met the meteorologists at a Denver television station.

“They had a book out, and they signed it for me, and I was over the moon. You’d think it was the Beatles,” said Blackwood, one of the original MTV VJs, who helped launch the network in 1981. “I’ve met Al Roker. I’ve never met Jim Cantore, but I’d love to. After MTV it crossed my mind to become a meteorologist. I remember talking to Martha (Quinn, of MTV) about it and she laughed in my face. She was probably right.”

Blazing orange foliage, the blinding white of a Maine blizzard, and the black sky of an ocean storm are among the colorful sights that helped lure Blackwood away from the bright lights – and boring weather – of Los Angeles to her current home in Maine seven years ago. She also says, surprisingly, that despite her 30-plus years on television and radio and a photo shoot for Playboy magazine, she’s basically an introvert who craves nature and solitude.

Longtime friends, including fellow original MTV VJ Mark Goodman, have seen her shyness come out through the years and were not surprised she ended up in rural midcoast Maine.

Goodman, now working for SiriusXM Radio in New York, says he remembers a going-away party the VJs threw for Blackwood when she left MTV in 1986. Goodman thought it would be fun to hire a muscular male exotic dancer to perform for her.

“She was always very, very shy. When this guy appeared in front of Nina in a thong, she became totally terrified. She was so embarrassed she just ran out of the party,” Goodman said. “That was me being a pain in the ass. She’s really a flower, very sweet, somebody who doesn’t want to make waves. I think that was one of her strengths on TV, her sweetness came through.”

HOME STUDIO IN MAINE

Blackwood’s embarrassment at her going-away party is among the many stories about the early days of MTV detailed in the book “VJ: The Unplugged Adventures of MTV’s First Wave,” which came out in May. The book, from Simon and Schuster, features first-person accounts of MTV’s groundbreaking early years, in the words of the four surviving original video hosts; Blackwood, Goodman, Quinn and Alan Hunter.

Blackwood left MTV, after her contract was not renewed, in 1986. But her stint there, and her popularity, helped build a career she’s still working at today. After MTV, she was a host of the syndicated pop music and dance show “Solid Gold,” and was a reporter for “Entertainment Tonight.” Then she began a long career in radio.

Today, from her home studio in Maine, she spends time each day doing research and voice tracks for her three current shows. She hosts a daily afternoon segment on the “80s on 8” channel on SiriusXM satellite radio, and she records two weekly shows aired on various stations around the country, “Absolutely 80s” and “New Wave Nation” for the United Stations Radio Network.

Because she guards her privacy, Blackwood doesn’t like to say which midcoast town she lives in, or have any pictures taken at her home studio. One thing we do know is that Blackwood is not big on technology. Goodman says that until a few years ago, she didn’t have a home computer.

“She was living up there in Maine, recording her shows on a disc, or a flash drive, and shipping it to New York. I couldn’t believe it,” Goodman said. “So I helped her pick out a computer, and she finally got one.”

(Continued on page 2)

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