Cyndi Lauper lends her name and fortune to this summer’s most rocking GLBT event
With gay musical acts popping up everywhere these days, it was only a matter of time before someone had the sense to convene the queer version of Woodstock or Lollapalooza. It’s not as if the idea is a new one Pet Shop Boys Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe attempted something similar with the Wotapalava festival in 2001. But where that tour collapsed almost as soon as it was announced, this summer finally sees the True Colors tour, featuring queer-friendly acts performing in 16 cities across the U.S.
Benefiting the Human Rights Campaign, True Colors is helmed by ’80s pop queen Cyndi Lauper, who contributed not only a name for the event, but had a hand in picking the acts and even put up the funds to get the show off the ground.
We recently caught up with Lauper via e-mail.
When did you decide to adopt the cause of equality for gays? I’ve supported the community as an advocate for gay rights for many years. It’s basically my response to what is going on in this country. I’ve seen my family, friends and fans affected. And it outrages me. The administration is killing civil liberties. If your civil liberties erode, then mine erode. Who’s next?
The original 1984 lyrics to “True Colors” even mention a rainbow. Is that a coincidence, or was the song a pro-gay anthem all along? It wasn’t written as a pro gay song. It was written as a song about getting support from another human being whether it’s family, friends or lovers. I had always thought that “Boy Blue” was going to be the song to resonate with the gay community. But “True Colors” was the one.
How much does a girl from Queens know about Texans? I love the accents. I know I get a lot of shit for my accent. To all you Texans, if somebody doesn’t like your accent, say what I say: “Ahhhh, shove it up your vernacular!”
Dallas’ “True Colors” show is divided pretty evenly between older acts (You, Erasure, Debbie Harry) and younger ones (Margaret Cho, Dresden Dolls). Do you think that there’s been a change in attitudes toward gays in the two decades since you first hit the charts? The visibility of gays and lesbians in the media has exploded, but when it comes to legislation or basic freedoms and protections, that visibility hasn’t made enough of a difference. It’s 2007; civil liberties should be moving forward, not eroding.
Is the younger generation less homophobic? Homophobia definitely still exists. But I do think the younger generations’ attitudes are changing. Look at the work that PFLAG and GLSEN are doing. You have safe areas in schools, zero tolerance for homophobia. Online social networks present even more opportunities. If a teen is out on his MySpace page, he’s out to everyone it’s amazing. I’m sure there is still a tremendous pressure for gay youth out there, but I think that more and more kids understand that it’s unacceptable to go for the cheap, hateful words.
Homophobia still keeps artists in the closet. Would something like the True Colors tour even be necessary if more queer artists were open about their sexuality? Just because you’re out, it still doesn’t mean you have the equal rights, which is the real goal. Until there’s positive change on that front, the mission of the tour still holds true.
As an entertainer, how does your role in this debate differ from that of other activists? Entertainment pushes politics further, I think. Music is universal, and it allows for creative expression. If I open up one conversation that could lead to a path to understanding, then I’m doing my job. It’s all about putting the discussions out there. The tour isn’t intended just for gay people. It’s for everyone to understand the commonality between us.
As you know, Texas is one of the reddest states in the country. Gays and lesbians here face opposition from religious leaders, politicians, and even from the governor. Do you have a message for the people that have chosen to stay and fight for their state? I say dig those boots in deeper. It’s your country. It’s your state. The opposition may be strong, but don’t give in. Get involved politically on a local level and a national level. Support the politicians that support you, and continue to paint some purple and blue into that red.
GO TO THE SHOW
Cyndi Lauper, Erasure, Debbie Harry, Dresden Dolls, Margaret Cho and Rosie O’Donnell perform at the Dallas stop of the True Colors tour. Smirnoff Music Center, 1818 First Ave. June 23 at 6 p.m. $21-$76. 214-421-1111.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, June 15, 2007.