There’s going to be a time when Liza Minnelli and Woody Allen and Lauren Bacall are going to be in the audience, and they’re going to say, ‘This music is great.’ And it’s going to happen this year,” predicts Annie Golden. That would sound like a preposterous fantasy coming from the lead singer of any other obscure New Wave band, but with the Shirts’ front lady, anything is possible. Three years ago Oscar-winning director Milos Forman was in the audience, and he found Annie “capable of projecting such warmth and tenderness” that he offered her a fat role as Hair’s pregnant hippie. His movie version of the Broadway hit was a succès d’estime, and since its opening last spring Annie’s future has been, well, golden. “I’m what they call ‘hot,’ ” she laughs. “I can’t believe it.”
But when the Polo Lounge dealmakers weigh in with projects to act with the likes of Woody Allen and Paul Simon, Golden, 27, puts them on hold. She prefers the graffiti-and flea-ridden Brooklyn digs where the Shirts have been buttoning down their act for the last three years. “Nobody’s directing me or writing my dialogue,” she explains. “When Milos took me to the Cannes Festival it was all very nice, but that’s not my cup of tea. No movie can give me the rush I get from being appreciated for my own ideas.”
Which is now finally happening. The Shirts have just released a second LP, Street Light Shine (with writing debut by Golden), and their first single to approach U.S. charts, Can’t Cry Anymore. They are also playing the Manhattan punk venues once stalked by Patti Smith and looking to a similar breakthrough. “I want to dedicate the rest of this year to the Shirts,” declares Golden. Then she adds, “I’m used to being broke.” The daughter of a Teamster, Annie grew up in Brooklyn, where the nuns in school warned her that “drama club wouldn’t pay the bills.” So she was a secretary and “weekend hippie” when Shirts guitarist Artie LaMonica heard her harmonizing with a jukebox in 1973. Golden subsisted mainly on “fluffernutter sandwiches” (Marshmallow Fluff and peanut butter) and music until 1977, when she found herself juggling the part of Jeannie in the Broadway revival of Hair, as well as the movie and the Shirts’ first record contract.
In the stage Hair she also met her current lover, Doug Wall, 22 and a struggling street guitarist. But, says Annie: “I don’t think marriage and children are for me.” Indeed, she lives alone in a two-room apartment in Flatbush (her sister Diane lives downstairs) and writes Wall—who lives in Manhattan—daily. “I need to put my thoughts on paper,” she notes. She also likes to scribble poetry, buy clothes, go to movies and listen to classical music. “I’m really happy,” says Annie, speaking especially of the Shirts’ success. “We all suffered, but against the worst odds we stuck with it,” she exults, then adds humbly, “I’ve been very blessed.”