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Saint Cyndi

Saint Cyndi


Pride goes out with a bang on the last night of the True Colors tour in Los Angeles

No one owns a stage quite like Cyndi Lauper. On closing night of her True Colors tour--a monthlong music festival to raise money for the Human Rights Campaign and awareness for the anti-hate crime Mathew Shepard Act currently before the Senate--Lauper raised a fist to shoulder height, her wrists covered in purple "Erase Hate" rubber bracelets, and said, "This used to mean 'Power to the people.' " Earlier in the evening Rosie O'Donnell had conjured a similar sentiment when she said, "Stand up for yourself, gay people. The '60s are back." And so it was; on the last night of Gay Pride Month, gay people had their own little Woodstock.

The night began at 6 p.m. at Los Angeles's Greek Theatre with the transgender male-fronted and lesbian-backed garage rock of the Cliks. And though a large part of the audience was dropping $100 bills on indigestible burgers and oversize Coronas while lazing on the Griffith Park lawn, the Cliks' lead singer, Lucas Silveira, was still met with audible enthusiasm, especially during his cover of Justin Timberlake's "Cry Me a River." Emcee Margaret Cho followed with the best of her new and recycled gay-specific comedy. She was vamping so well no one would have realized the turnaround to the Dresden Dolls was taking longer than usual if she had not announced it. The Dresden Dolls were outrageous as usual, but I opted for more beer and lawn instead.

Screams and what vaguely sounded like the word "Barry" brought me back to my seat. Sure enough, there was Ms. Debbie in pedestal black heels and a black outfit that for anyone else would have been age-inappropriate, and she was working one of her biggest solo hits, "French Kissin' in the USA," for all it was worth. Disappointingly, this and "Rush Rush" from Scarface would be her most recognizable songs of the evening as she kept to all solo work, no Blondie. She's definitely aging cool, though I wish the songs from her new album, Necessary Evil, weren't so generic. Still, it was her birthday and she was there for us, and frankly, it was Debbie Harry, so who cares what she sang.

Next up was Rosie O'Donnell, who came out onstage in lace black shorts and matching top. It was underwear, she told us--which, she apparently felt, went well with brightly colored Crocs. She was welcomed like a conquering hero and was quick to tell us how good it was to be back with the gays after her nine-month stint with the "heteros" on The View. She seemed war-weary. We all knew the events leading up to her True Colors appearance, but in the end, it provided her with some great original material. Donald Trump jokes seemed fresh. And about Paris Hilton: "I can tell you one thing, I would have enjoyed prison a hell of a lot more than her." Just as the sun was setting, and our beers were kicking in, she introduced Erasure.

Now, I've seen Erasure before, and they were good. But on the gayest of gay nights, Andy Bell was no-holds-barred. Backed by a Dreamgirls homage of chorus girls in Japanese dresses and black bobbed wigs, he minced, pranced, posed, strutted, skipped, and generally bounded about from limp-wristed to dominating. The baby boomers were dancing in a sea of off-beat clapping, slightly spastic booty wiggling, and general abandon. This was a crowd that didn't care who was looking--a rarity in our gay universe. The excitement in the air was palpable when Margaret took to the stage for her last bit, a very funny rap about her mean neighbors' "pussy," which she performed as her mother, complete with curly wig, dark glasses, and high-waisted polyester pants. As she finished, a strange figure in a long black wig walked up to whisper something in her ear. But no wig could hide that thick Brooklyn accent, and the crowd went crazy. It was Cyndi. But instead of performing, she gave a little speech about HRC and Mathew Shepard and introduced a short video to help inspire us to action. "You watch this, and I will be back in a few minutes," she said. looking like a Jewish grandmother with her hunched shoulders and extreme gestures. The clip was a bit of a downer, I must say, but it inspired a mood of political activism. When the lights came up, she was standing onstage in super-high black heels and a Chinese rice farmer hat made of rainbow-colored straw.

I will go so far as to say that Cyndi Lauper is a national treasure. So small and with a voice almost cartoonish, she could still make me do whatever the hell she wanted. During her set she was in and out of the crowd; she also wrapped herself against the proscenium and threw her head back as if she was trapped in one of her music videos. If the chord wasn't right or the stagehands had misplaced something, she looked into the wings and reprimanded them--with humor, mind you, but clearly showing she was the one in charge. Whenever she felt like it, she stopped to talk about Matthew Shepard or to be moved to tears over a story about her lesbian sister before the two jammed together. In short, she was real.

When a barefoot Rosie came back out onstage to play drums, you got the sense that they were all genuinely here for us--not to make money but to bring us all together. When "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" was finished, all the performers emerged with brightly colored balloons to sing "True Colors," slowly and methodically. Cyndi's voice hit a high note and cracked as she sang "Don't be afraid!" into the night sky, then paused. You could have heard a pin drop. Holidng the song and speaking from the heart, she told us to get active, to stand up for ourselves, to write our senators, to be alive as a community, then continued with "to let them show" as we sang along in harmony.

Midnight was looming when it was all over, bringing with it the end of our special month. The performers took their bows and started to shuffle off. Cyndi made it to the edge of the stage twice but stopped to come back to the microphone to remind us to do more and be more. No one left early to get to his or her car or moved from their seat to be nearer the exit when the lights came up. We just watched and waited until she had finally, reluctantly disappeared behind the curtain.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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