Interview: Ann-Margret's Born To Be Wild & Never Saying Bye Bye to Being Heartfelt & Sexy

Cinelounge Theatres & Cleopatra Records present a special screening of Bye Bye Birdie, followed by an in-person Q&A with its star Ann-Margret February 14th

By: Jan. 26, 2022
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Interview: Ann-Margret's Born To Be Wild & Never Saying Bye Bye to Being Heartfelt & Sexy

Cinelounge Theatres and Cleopatra Records present a special screening of the 1963 fan-favorite Bye Bye Birdie, followed by an in-person Q&A with its star Ann-Margret February 14, 2022, at The Montalban. Those in attendance will also be treated to a sneak preview of a few songs from Ann-Margret's upcoming release from Cleopatra Records, Born to Be Wild.

I had a chance to chat with and re-interview (after twenty years) Ann-Margret on things Birdie, her USO stints, her latest CD, and, most important of all, how she defines sexy.

First, let me emphasize the graciousness of this talented, multi-award-winning actress/singer/dancer. After our first interview hit the newsstands in 2001, Ann-Margret sent me a poster of her show on which she personally wrote a thank you note for our interview. I mean, "Who does that?" Totally unexpected and most uncommon for a celeb to personally acknowledge an interview. So classy! And now to our interview:

Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Ann-Margret!

I'm very happy to be talking to you after all these years.

The last time I interviewed you was during your lead-up to your THE BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS tour in 2001, twenty-one years ago.

That's right. Oh, my God! Boy, did we do it! We did it all over the country. Oh. my goodness.

Interview: Ann-Margret's Born To Be Wild & Never Saying Bye Bye to Being Heartfelt & Sexy And now you're doing an in-person Q&A with this special screening of your 1963 hit Bye Bye Birdie. Bye Bye Birdie was your third film following your debut as Bette Davis' daughter in Pocketful of Miracles, and then as the bad girl Emily Porter in State Fair.

With orange hair which I still have.

Do you remember how long you had to learn and rehearsal your Onna White choreography?

They gave us three weeks. At the time, Onna White had a broken leg. This gentleman Tom Panko - he was so nice - was her assistant. He was a great, great dancer. She would sit there and tell him what to do. And then he told us what to do. Oh, my gosh. But we learned.

Are you a quick learner? A quick study?

I've been told that. I don't know if I'm as quick now as I was in 2001.

Which was more of a challenge to master for you: the ensemble number of "A Lot of Livin' to Do" Or your solo "Bye Bye Birdie" on the treadmill with wind machines?

On the treadmill was something that I had to really concentrate. I was up six feet on this podium, and there were no things that I could grasp at all anywhere. That was the hardest. And then he had the wind machine on me too. The treadmill, of course, was going.

Do you remember how many takes you had to do?

I would think thirty.

Wow! But that's for both opening and end numbers?

Maybe fifteen for each one.

What was your initial reaction to your hot pink ruffled top and capri pants for "A Lot of Livin' to Do"?

Oh, I love hot pink! That's one of my favorite, favorite colors. I was just concerned about showing my midriff. I mean I had to have my stomach in at all times. My tummy had to be in. Of course, I was really down to shape, down to weight after all those rehearsals, my goodness. Also, I was only, what was I at the time, 18? 19? Lots of difference.

Interview: Ann-Margret's Born To Be Wild & Never Saying Bye Bye to Being Heartfelt & Sexy Were your parents' chests bursting with pride to see your LIFE magazine cover in your hot pink outfit?

Oh, they couldn't believe it! LIFE magazine had this wonderful photographer come to Fox Lake, Illinois. He took pictures of me and all my relatives - aunts and uncles and, of course, mother and daddy. And he was dancing! We had a great time. All the family was roped into it.

Fox Lake is where you grew up, right?

Fox Lake, that's where mother and I came to America. Daddy met us at the dock in New York, and then he drove us to outside Chicago, Fox Lake. And that's where I started school and everything. Mother and I didn't know any English at all. Daddy had come to America before us during World War II. And for five years we were in this little village of 98 people called Valsjöbyn, and he was in the United States outside of Chicago, Fox Lake.

I've been a fan of HBO's Mad Men. One episode revolved around the plot point of recreating an 'Ann-Margret-type' ad to sell something - I don't remember what. They played your Bye Bye Birdie opening clip on their boardroom monitor and I was cheering! The episode ends with the attempt to produce the Ann-Margret-type ad failing. The reason - they didn't have Ann-Margret. I loved it! Did you have any advance notice of you appearing on Mad Men? What was your reaction?

You know who called me about that, that it was on the air? My daughter-in-law. She used to be married to my son Jordan. Roger and I didn't know anything about it. So, we turned on the channel. And we both got tears in our eyes because it was just lovely. So nice. So kind to me, I couldn't believe it.

Yes, so nice. An homage to you. They're usually so mean, you know? So vicious.

Show business can be very mean, yes.

After all these years, have you kept in touch with the Hugo Peabody to your Kim McAfee, Bobby Rydell?

Interview: Ann-Margret's Born To Be Wild & Never Saying Bye Bye to Being Heartfelt & Sexy Yes, Bobby and I have been friends ever since 1962 when we actually filmed Bye Bye Birdie - all through the years. If I was performing in Philly, I would get phone calls from him, and he'd come to see me in the show with his family. We've been friends passionately all through the years. and I'm looking forward to seeing him. It's been so long.

Will Born To Be Wild contain all original material? Or a mix of classic and new?

Classic and new. One of my favorites was done by a very dear friend of mine Bobby Darin. It's called "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You." I think that's my favorite of the whole album. I just love the way that he did it. He was so talented. Oh, my goodness. I had a great time doing my version.

The producer of mine was Adam Hamilton. I don't know if you've ever met him. He's wonderful, wonderful, wonderful! He's got white, white hair like a mohawk. I always said, 'Wow! Look at that! Don't ever change it.'

You have a history with The Flintstones, first appearing as Ann-Margrock in a 1963 episode. Was it a no-brainer to agree to sing "Viva Rock Vegas" for The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas in 2000?

Of course, it was a no brainer. I had a great time. James Burton was on the guitar. He was always with EP, with Elvis.

You have participated in a number of USO tours to entertain the troops, first in the 1960s, then again in the early 2000s. The USO honored you with its 2003 Spirit of Hope Award, named after your tour leader Bob Hope. You must have many wonderful memories of your time singing and dancing for the troops.

I always have all of those shows in my heart and mind. Those gentlemen are always with me. Always. Through the years, I will get letters from people who saw me in Cu Chi, Da Nang, Nha Trang. Oh, my gosh! They're in my heart. They're in my mind. They're in my soul.

Interview: Ann-Margret's Born To Be Wild & Never Saying Bye Bye to Being Heartfelt & Sexy There were many best-selling posters of you on a motorcycle. (One has been captured for your Born to Be Wild CD cover.) You rode a Harley in The Swinger, a Honda cub in Viva Las Vegas, and used eleven Triumphs in an opening number for one of your Las Vegas nightclub acts. Do you still take a quick ride now and then?

I have a fabulous Harley, a lavender Harley. That was given to me in Brainerd, Minnesota. It's got little white daisies running through the script of Harley Davidson in and around the 'A' and 'R.' Oh, my gosh, white daisies. And then on my fenders, there are flowers. It's definitely a girly bike. If I ride somewhere, to like a biker place, mine is the only lavender bike there. All the Harley's and Ducati's, there's my lavender with the flowers. Definitely interesting. They get a kick out of it.

Have you kept any mementos from your many film and television projects?

I'm glad you asked me that. I have a memento from Viva Las Vegas. That red tee-shirt with the turtleneck and the black bow in front and three little buttons, I have that from Viva Las Vegas from the number I did with EP in the gymnasium. I got it!

Out of all the people I have interviewed throughout the years, I have asked only one other person this question and that was Catherine Deneuve. What the attribute 'sexy' mean to Ann-Margret?

Well, sexy? If someone says that I'm sexy... It's in the eye of the beholder. I can't say what it means. But if you're talking about what I find sexy in a gentleman... it depends who he is. His voice. The way he talks. His eyes. If I can get lost in his eyes. Yeaah! Yeaah! Yeaaaaah! And of course, his lips. Yeaah!

Besides your upcoming Born to Be Wild, what else is in the near future for Ann-Margret?

Interview: Ann-Margret's Born To Be Wild & Never Saying Bye Bye to Being Heartfelt & Sexy For me, I would say just relaxation. Being with my friends is relaxation. And I'll get my energy up, then I don't know what I'll do. And I never know!

Thank you again, Ann-Margret! I look forward to seeing Bye Bye Birdie again and wishing you a Happy Valentine in person!

Oh, yes. I'm looking forward to seeing you. Don't get into too much trouble, only what makes you happy. Okay? Have a great Day!

You, too, Ann-Margret!

For tickets to this special screening of Bye Bye Birdie with an in-person Q&A with still vivacious Ann-Margret and a sneak preview of songs from her Born to Be Wild February 14th, log onto