Cyndi Lauper’s ‘True Colors’ returns for a second summer tour. Talking to Cyndi about the good times and how rock n roll can save the world.
Preview by Nancy Ford, interview by Gregg Shapiro
Perhaps The B-52’s faaaabulous Fred Schneider says it best:
“It’s a good way to get out the vote, and get out of the house and party!”
“It,” of course, is True Colors Tour.
Cyndi Lauper, originator of the show, heads the all-star concert returning to Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion on June 21.
The B-52’s, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, comedian Wanda Sykes, vocalist Lili Haydn, and Erasure’s
Andy Bell complete the roster of the concert’s gay and gay-loving artists. Carson Kressley, OutSmart cover-boy (November 2007) and famed “fashion guy” from Bravo’s groundbreaking reality series Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, serves as emcee of the event.
But the audience should expect more than just a daylong, musical Queerapalooza.
“The tour is a non-stop, five-hour music party with a message,” Lauper says. “This year the party only gets bigger and our message to the fans is to get out and vote in November.”
Most of the event’s proceeds benefit True Colors Fund of Stonewall Community Foundation, created this year to generate financial support to directly benefit the tour’s nonprofit partners, CenterLink, which assists GLBT community centers nationwide, and Parents, Families, Friends of Lesbians and Gays National.
Additionally, $1 of every ticket sold once again goes to Human Rights Campaign.
“This year’s True Colors Tour will provide us with an historic opportunity to organize our community to achieve a powerful voice in the 2008 elections,” says Joe Solmonese, Human Rights Campaign president. “This year we are going to build on the grassroots power of the tour by launching a massive, nonpartisan voter outreach campaign that will educate, engage, and organize equality voters in this year’s election.”
“The True Colors Tour asks for equality for all, not just for some; that is the principal upon which this country was founded,” Lauper adds. “So let’s celebrate and have fun this summer while we spread the word to get out the vote and all become a part of the changes in this country.”
Immediately after she plays Houston’s Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, Lauper takes the True Colors tour to Dallas’ Superpages.com Center, June 22. The 24-city tour, which began May 31 in Boston, concludes July 5 in Morrison, Colorado, at the Red Rock Amphitheatre. Details: www.truecolorstour.com.
Prior to the big show, Lauper and Erasure’s Andy Bell spoke to OutSmart about their own true colors. (Click here for the Andy Bell interview.) In addition to the True Colors Tour, Lauper, whose groundbreaking debut disc is coming up on its 25th anniversary, returns to the dance floor with the club-oriented album Bring Ya to the Brink (Epic), released last month. —Nancy Ford
Gregg Shapiro: I interviewed Carly Simon earlier this morning and she asked me to give you her regards.
Cyndi Lauper: She’s great! How’s she doing?
She’s doing well. She has a new CD out. I asked her that if you invited her to be a part of the True Colors tour, would she consider joining you. Aside from the terrible stage fright, which would preclude her from doing it, she is otherwise very supportive of the project.
Whoa, she does have a lot of stage fright there.
I think it’s legendary.
I would never think of saying [to Simon], “Hey, wanna have a good time? Go on tour.”
Even though you are probably focusing much of your energy on True Colors 2008, I wanted to ask you if you had one or two fond memories that you could share about True Colors 2007.
2007 was really special because it was the first time. Of course the people who came out on tour believed in the cause. They shared their talent and they shared their energy. And we’re having a few people back. We weren’t allowed to have everybody back. You can’t do the same tour, even though you get close, and I would like to do the same tour [laughsz], have the same people. I always wanted to do an inclusive tour; I always wanted to include everybody. To me, that’s more fun. I had The Cliks who, at that time, were so new, but so great. And The Gossip was another really great new band that we worked with. I love Beth [Ditto, the lead singer of The Gossip]. I think she’s great.
There’s no one like Beth.
There’s no one like anyone, that’s the whole thing. Everyone is so unique. Andy Bell and Vince [Clarke] from Erasure, they believed in it right off the bat, and they were supportive. And Deborah Harry was in—she actually came in through Andy because I didn’t really know her that well. I’m just thrilled at the way it was last year. Margaret Cho was remarkable, she really was. She kept it all together. If you needed five more minutes, there she was.
You mentioned The Cliks and Andy Bell, two of the acts that are returning from True Colors ’07.
I know, but in a different way. The Cliks weren’t with us that much; and this is Andy’s solo project, so it is different. Deborah might have come back with Blondie, but we couldn’t do that. But we got the B-52’s, and they’re great! I’ve known them for years and years.
I was at the True Colors show in Chicago in 2007 when Rosie O’Donnell joined the tour for a few dates. What does it mean to you have her on board for 2008?
First of all, she and [partner] Kelli have taught us that we wanted to do this thing, and we were very inspired by Kelli and Rosie, because they were able to do something. I’m always under the impression that you can earn a living and give back to the community. I think that with the community that I care so much about, I’ve always watched on the side. If I’m working there and happen to notice some stuff that isn’t so cool, and I think to myself, “Maybe I could make that different. If I could do a little somethin’-somethin’,” and then I saw Kelli and Rosie do the [R Family] boat tour.
When I went on the boat tour, it changed my life and my perspective. I felt like you really can do something. This is a community of people who are totally misjudged, mistreated, and disenfranchised, and I couldn’t stand on the sidelines much longer, and I wanted to do something. I had always been saying to my agent Johnny, “I want to have my own tour so I could have all the people I love on my tour. I could have everything I like.” And I like to laugh and I love music, so it’s singing and laughing, and there’s a lot of it. Rosie makes me laugh so hard, maybe because we both speak the same vernacular. We’ve got Wanda Sykes, who I was always jumping up and down about. I want to see all different kinds of people.
And you have Kate Clinton too, who’s such a legend in the GLBT community. It’s good to have her strong political voice as part of the tour, especially in an election year.
I’ll tell you something. I’m not political. There were a couple of charities that I always did. As I started to work with them, I got to meet the people and they started to tell me stuff. When I first met Judy Shepard, she was sitting backstage with me and the B-52’s, a few years ago, and I was asking her about how she was doing, and she told me about her son. I said, “Listen, the one thing that could change your outlook on life—why don’t you come on a rock and roll tour?” [Laughs] I said the same thing to Rosie, I said, “I think you need to go on tour.” It certainly changes your perspective—you have a different community of people around you and you get a different point of view. And let’s face it, I’m still under the strong impression that rock and roll can save the world.
Rock and roll, and the right person in office as president.
Yeah, that, too! The thing is, I don’t care who you vote for, as long as you vote. I have trouble with voter registration all the time because I work so much, and I’m always over here and then I’m over there. What state am I in now? What country am I in now? And how am I going to get to vote? So when the idea came up for this year that they were going to do voter registration, I said, “Hey, that’s excellent!” So we’re doing that. That’s the main focus, to get people to register to vote. We want to empower everybody. Everybody’s important, and your voice counts.
In terms of the line-up for True Colors 2008, once again, you have struck a nice balance between GLBT and GLBT-friendly artists.
We’re all different, so it has to be inclusive of everybody. Let me tell you something, if it was all GLBT artists, then it’s not inclusive. When we fought for African-American civil rights, white people marched next to black people. And when women fought for civil rights, some men [laughs] marched next to women. And I still don’t know where we stand on that subject [laughs]. If it was only the GLBT community and it wasn’t the straight people too
. . . you need the straight people to stand! You need to go out there and get your mother and your cousin and your sister and your brother and say, “Hey, stand up for me. You love me? Stand up for me. You know what kind of person I am.” That’s what has to happen.
When you take the stage during the True Colors tour, do you think you will mainly be performing songs from the new disc Bring Ya to the Brink ?
I don’t know. I think it’s not right to perform some old songs, but if you went to the tour last year, then you don’t want to see the same old story. Although, there is a song [on the new disc] called “Same Old F–kin’ Story.”
Last year when we spoke, as I recall, you said that the disc was going to be more dance-oriented.
More rhythm. It is all dance, but it’s all different dance.
You got to work with some very cool collaborators including queer musician Richard Morel.
You know Rich?
I’ve interviewed him for a couple of his previous albums. I love his stuff.
He’s great and he’s so much fun. I loved working with him. We did a show together in Miami, the White Party. He’s hilarious, we laughed so much, us two. And it’s like being in a band, because he’s a keyboard. It’s funny, when you said that he’s a gay musician, I never think of that. I always think of him as a keyboard player.
[Laughs] That’s just part of my job as a gay journalist.
I know, but it’s the first time somebody said that to me. It kind of threw me [laughs]. I work with his partner sometimes, too. He does visuals. We did these visuals for the show. But we laughed pretty hard. It was fun.
Gregg Shapiro’s interview with Carly Simon (see “Simon Says”) and his annual Pride recommendations of music by GLBT performers (see “Queers Keep Rocking”) also appear in this issue.
From the salsa-esque feel of “Rocking Chair” all the way through to the familiar backbeat of “Rain on Me,” the lovely Lauper’s 12th album pushes all the right buttons. “Set Your Heart” provides a tip of the hat to old-school disco, and we loved the truthful audacity of “Same Old F–king Story” before we even heard it. Dare ya not to dance when she breaks out this new stuff at the True Colors concert. Epic (www.cyndilauper.com). — Nancy Ford