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Gays just want to have fun
But the ‘True Colors’ multi-band concert also throws a buck to the cause
This summer all across the country, LGBT citizens of America and their straight allies will get to show their true colors.
In the first-of-its-kind summer concert series, out and allied musicians and entertainers along with LGBT rights activists will cover 15 cities in 22 days, hitting Columbus on June 13.
Supporting the work done by the Human Rights Campaign and on behalf of queer civil rights in America, the True Colors tour seeks to entertain and educate, perfect for the season of Pride. The concert is also being performed to support the work of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays and the Matthew Shepard Foundation.
The tour features Cyndi Lauper, who celebrates her birthday in June and is looking at the tour as a way to have all of her LGBT friends celebrate with her.
Also performing are the Dresden Dolls, Erasure, Blondie and special guest artists, depending on the city.
Kicking off on June 8 in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, the concerts will be emceed by queer icon and über-ally Margaret Cho.
Cho, who has spoken eloquently and forthrightly about the state of queer rights in this country, is sure to bring her unique firebrand of humor and exhortation towards enhancing the status of homosexuals in the U.S. Press materials quote her saying: “I am thrilled to be part of this tour because I am about as colorful and as queer as it gets. Who else is going to keep all those queens in line?”
The tour will feature regular performers Cyndi Lauper, Erasure, Debbie Harry, the Dresden Dolls, the Gossip and the Misshapes. In addition, each city will be surprised by guest artists, entertainers and activists.
Columbus’ guest artist will be the Cliks. The tour promises over five hours of entertainment at each venue, certainly unique in these days of pre-packaged concerts of short durations with exorbitant entry prices.
The idea for the tour emerged from Lauper, a long-time queer icon and equally long-time advocate for LGBT rights. Her desire to give back to the community for its love and support sparked the idea for the tour.
The variety of artists was something that Lauper wanted from the very beginning.
“I love music so much and good musicians have so much passion and are so much fun to work with,” she said. “[Having a variety of artists, old and new] was very important to me. If you’ve noticed, I’ve never really done an oldies . . . I never want to do an ’80s tour.”
She pointed out that older, more established acts like Blondie and Erasure are “still making music that’s viable. I also love the new, the younger acts. I’m thrilled to be working with people like the Gossip and the Cliks and the Dresden Dolls.”
“This is the first year and it’s pretty good,” she said. “Next year it’s going to be even better.”
This historical series of events may very well become the modern day traveling Woodstock in terms of the raising of social awareness, cultural consciousness and political activism.
Lauper said in a release, “As an American I was raised to believe that all people have the right to live with the same dignity, opportunity and safety. This should include everyone no matter what gender or sexual orientation.”
She adds, “This tour was created to celebrate our differences by raising awareness for liberty, fairness and dignity for everyone - not just some of us. Our fans can come out to celebrate a great cause while also hearing some great music.”
HRC President Joe Solomonese has high praise for Lauper as he explains their collaboration on the tour.
“Without fear, Cyndi Lauper has been a champion for equality for not only gay and lesbian Americans but for all people,” Solmonese notes. “Cyndi has always stood with us and selflessly used her talents to promote fairness for everyone. We are honored to be a part of the True Colors tour which will empower both gay and straight Americans to show solidarity against discrimination.”
With the U.S. House passing the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crime Prevention Act on May 3 and the Senate taking up its companion Matthew Shepard Act, the issue of hate crime based on sexual orientation is front and center. Petitions will be available at all True Colors stops in support of the bills, as well as information for people to use to contact their senators and representatives.
“The number of people they [House members] heard from, the number of calls they got, the number of e-mails really mattered,” Solmonese told reporters during a conference call in May. “Working in conjunction with Cyndi with her tour in the month of June, we’re going to be inviting members of the public to write their senators, taking information from people at concerts and matching them up with their senators.”
“We're thrilled that Cyndi has asked us to be involved in the True Colors Tour,” said Suzanne Ramos, co-founder of PFLAG’s Stay Close campaign. “The tour is a wonderful opportunity for us to reach cities across the country with the message of the P-FLAG Stay Close Campaign,” which is, “Stay close because relationships are too precious to lose.”
Judy Shepard, mother of slain college student Matthew and executive director of the foundation, is also thrilled about the tour and Lauper’s initiative in making it happen.
“The Matthew Shepard Foundation is honored to have been invited to take part in the True Colors Tour,” says Shepard. “Music is such a powerful tool to help erase hate and educate people about the values of diversity, respect and equality. I commend Cyndi and all of the artists involved for stepping up and using their extraordinary talents to help make this world a better place for all of us.”
One dollar of every ticket sold will benefit the work of the Human Rights Campaign. That may not seem like a lot, but given that the tour is playing venues in 15 cities with capacities between 15,000 and 30,000, HRC could bag some heavy loot to aid in its advocacy work, which is going to be particularly relevant given the upcoming presidential election next year.
“I’m very proud to have partnered up with the HRC, with P-FLAG and with the Matthew Shepard Foundation,” Lauper said. “It’s always been very important to me, I’ve always been, as I’ve said, big on civil rights.”
She expounded on how her youth shaped her view of the world.
“Raised in the ’60s, I saw African Americans fighting for what should have been given to them as Americans,” she said.
Lauper wants to “celebrate our differences” with the tour.
“I wanted to bring us all together because this is a very powerful and strong community,” she noted. “If we all stand together, then we can make a difference, but if you fragment, you can’t win. It’s a lose-lose situation unless all Americans are protected by the hate crime law.”
“This is not something that is extraordinary, this is across the board, protecting all Americans, no matter what their preference is or their religion is,” she said of the hate crime bill.
As someone who has always been surrounded by queer friends, anti-gay violence is a constant worry for Lauper.
“I am friends and family of gay people, and I refuse to let my friends and family be treated like that,” she said. “I’ve seen it and I’ve worried many, many years. I live in New York and for many years I always worried about who was going to get beaten up.”
During a conference call with the media about the tour and the Matthew Shepard Act, some reporters tried to draw Lauper out on specific politicians, asking who she would vote for in 2008 and what she thought of President Bush.
“Unfortunately, the poor guy is not connected to his heart at all,” she said of the president.
While she refused to say who she favored among the field of Democratic hopefuls, she did say, “I refuse to support a hater.”
“Now is the time to raise your voice, now is the time to band together. We are a family, we need to join together as a family,” she said. “I think a lot of people will come to the tour to celebrate Pride. I’m celebrating my birthday all month. This will afford people the opportunity to have it made easier for them.”
“I wanted to bring people together to have a haven in places that aren’t necessarily the biggest cities,” she concluded.
The tour organizers have indicated that this could become an annual summer tradition enhancing not only the musical milieu of the country but also elevating the discourse surrounding LGBT rights and equality in America.
Columbus is the only stop in Ohio as well as the region. The True Colors tour will be at the Schottenstein Center’s Value City Arena at Lane Ave. and Olentangy River Rd. on Wednesday, June 13 at 6:30 pm.
Tickets are available at any Ticketmaster location or by visiting www.ticketmaster.com. For more information on the tour please visit www.truecolorstour.com or.
Anthony Glassman contributed to this story.