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Even before this year’s Tonys, the legendary Cyndi Lauper was already considered a champion. A champion of the Grammys. A champion of the pop charts. A champion of gay rights.
But as a teary-eyed Lauper accepted her Best Original Score statue for the music of Kinky Boots (it also won Best Musical, for a total of six Tonys), the Broadway coming-of-age sensation about a drag queen and a shoemaker as unlikely business partners, she was recognized for something she had never been before: The girl who just wanted to have fun, with her apple-red hair and heavy Queens accent, was now a champion of the Broadway stage.
Between gigs on her She’s So Unusual Tour, Lauper gave us a ring recently to chat about her emotional night at the Tonys, freaking out rock stars with her “wildly nutty” persona and the reason she’s always stood up for her gay fans.
Big congrats on Kinky Boots and the Tony, Cyndi. Could you feel the good gay vibes that night?
Aw, thank you. It was unbelievable. And yes. Yes, I did. It was a shock.
This is one of the first times in a while you’ve been recognized on a mainstream level for your work. Was that at all on your mind as your name was being called? Was it maybe the cause of some of those tears?
Well, we worked really hard, and to have it be successful – and to be able to get to work with Harvey Fierstein and Jerry Mitchell, and see them that night – was great, but then to actually win a Tony was really unbelievable. Yeah, I wasn’t even thinking. To have the (theater) community welcome me in like that, that was really something. You don’t always get welcomed into a place, especially if you kind of, you know, talk a little funny. But that doesn’t matter. I was just really touched by that.
Is that what was going through your mind when you won? That feeling of acceptance from the theater community?
I was just looking at everything, thinking, “Remember that you’re here. You made it to the winners’ circle.” And then when they announced my name, I looked over at (Kinky Boots actress) Annaleigh (Ashford) in shock, but I was excited for Billy (Porter, who won for best lead actor in a musical); I was excited to see him and John Shivers (winner of best musical sound design), who graciously did everything to make that sound warm and welcoming.
Being the first woman to have won a solo Tony for Best Original Score is also a historical moment. Knowing that, how does it feel to break down gender barriers in that way?
I’m excited. I mean, they don’t put us in the rice fields anymore, so that’s good! (Laughs) And there’s more of me coming up. I’m excited that I was able to do that, but I also feel like I just wanted to do a really good job. That was really important. But hey, I’m big on firsts! It’s important to widen the horizon.
For years you’ve been sticking up for the underdogs – particularly, and obviously, the gay community.
I’m a friend and family member, so of course. And we were all able to come together, at this one point, with everyone who’s worked at fighting for equality in the community for so long. This was an opportunity for everybody to step up at the right time, in the right moment – all of us together – and make a “little fable,” as Harvey likes to say, and put together some ideas in a catchy, rhythmic way. It’s to have people understand, because you can tell people stuff, but when you hear people’s personal experiences, that’s different. That’s way different.
This does feel very relevant to what’s going on in the world right now. It’s like a love letter to the gay community. Was that at all one of your reasons for taking on Kinky Boots in the first place?
I took on Kinky Boots years ago. But yeah, I’m very excited that that’s the case – so is Harvey and so is Jerry and so are all of us, even the producers. This is a very key time for people to have an understanding about other people, to understand that you can overcome differences by acceptance and work together for the higher good.
In a sense, all of us can relate to drag performer Lola, played by Billy Porter, who struggles for acceptance. I sense that you two might have a lot in common. What do you think?
I was Lola for a long time before Billy showed up! (Laughs) Harvey was Lola, too. And then there was Billy. But I was all those characters. You have to be.
What was your personal relationship to Kinky Boots?
That Lola is a drag performer is inconsequential to the idea that here are people totally different from each other but yet they have something in common; they have the human being experience in common. I think everyone, no matter what, might or must feel at one point that they disappointed their dad. It’s about overcoming and acceptance, you know. And healing.
Thirty or 40 years ago, did you see Broadway in your future?
Forty years ago? No! No, no. I was just trying to get the hell out of those clubs.
Thirty years ago?
No. I wanted to record music. I was very excited about recording music.
So when did Broadway become a reality for you?
When Harvey called me. It was Harvey’s thing. He basically took me under his wing.
What are the kinkiest boots you have in your closet?
All kinds of boots. I’ve got the big, red boots with the straps and buckles. I got a lot of boots! I don’t think of them as kinky; I think of them as pretty and sexy.
What’s it like touring for your very first album, She’s So Unusual?
Well, it’s the anniversary, so this tour’s a little different because I’m actually singing the record the way it was recorded.
Right. What’s it like to have that, your earliest career accomplishment, intersect with the success of Kinky Boots, your latest accomplishment?
It’s odd. I didn’t know I was gonna win the Tony, and I didn’t know that Kinky Boots would be nominated 13 times. So then we had to work, so I went to work. But I had no idea. I thought, “Well, I’ll have off in May, Tonys will come in June, then the tour.”
How has your relationship with the songs on She’s So Unusual changed since you wrote and recorded them for the first time over 30 years ago?
I listen to it and understand why some other rock ’n’ rollers were frightened of me. It was a little different and confusing, I guess, for some people. It was funny, wildly nutty and yet it had some very deep moments, which must have been very confusing. Though I think it made perfect sense. It was very much me.
Are you still so unusual?
I don’t know. I never really thought I was to begin with. The only reason we called it that was because we were doing “He’s So Unusual” with “Yeah Yeah” and (producer) Bill (Wittman) turned around and said, “She’s so unusual.” And then we’re like, “Oh yeah, that’s a great title.” I knew for the rest of my life that’d be my handle … but, you know, I was a good sport! I never really thought I was that different. I thought what I wanted to do was different. The artistic things I wanted to do, maybe they were very different.
What can we expect from the next album?
I don’t know. My upcoming project is to take some time and sit on my big ol’ butt and not think for two seconds … and then it’ll come to me. Yes, I do want to do something else. I would like to work with Jerry; I’d like to work with Harvey. But right now I’m on tour. Maybe that was a good thing. Get away from it and think about what I’d like to do, and then choose wisely.
Few performers have the connection you do with the gay community. Reflecting on your career, when did you decide to take the community under your wing?
Well, I always saw people being discriminated against – my friends and people that I work with. At first, I was going to just take refuge and sing in the clubs at night. I thought, “Hey, that’s a lot of fun.” But when I couldn’t take the conservative straight community, I would run home kind of, and then I started seeing a lot of disparity going on, things that were wrong. I just felt like, “These are my fans. You gotta help them have more love for themselves.” As they were taking civil rights away, I thought, “Somebody better say something. And in two seconds, I will.” And I did.
I had seen Harvey Fierstein speak and he said something once, that happy people don’t self-destruct – and I thought, “That’s right.” That’s all you want. People are different, but as long as they’re all happy, healthy-minded people then we’re all doing good, and how can I kind of change the image for them?
And then one thing led to another. First it was just some T-shirts. It was talking at Cher’s concert. It was doing stuff with (my sister) Ellen for PFLAG. One thing led to another till I saw more opportunities. We did the True Colors Tour. I wanted my own tour and everyone said, “Why don’t you call it True Colors?” I said, “We can’t call it True Colors without including the community, because this song has become a very important song for the community.” I started to see more and more what could and should be done. With the Give a Damn Campaign, I saw an opportunity because I’m straight. I thought, “I shouldn’t be the only straight guy here. In every civil rights movement, you need everybody to stand up.”
I think everybody coming from all sides breaks down the walls a little bit. Things are changing. You have to just get your foot in the door so it doesn’t close, and then keep widening that door till it opens.
Cindy Lauper will perform at TPAC November 5. Tickets on sale Friday August 23 at 10 a.m..
photos by Miranda Penn Turin
For those with a thirst to celebrate, Red Bull Unlocked is the key. In city after city, the most exciting bars, clubs, mixologists, performing artists, and more take over a local landmark building to showcase their signature ambiance while also collaborating for a must-see mashup. And now it's Music City’s turn to seize the spotlight, as the event brings 10 bars together in East Nashville’s Five Points neighborhood.
Fueled by the best of Nashville’s thriving music scene, Red Bull Unlocked has curated an eclectic night of show-stopping entertainment performances including a pop-up Whiskey Jam show, DJ sets, musicians, and more. The full lineup is here:
- Whiskey Jam (feat. Dozzi, Willie Shaw, and Johnny Hayes)
- A.B. Eastwood
- Daisha / Rap Girl
- Boom Bap (DJ Collective feat. DJ-Rate, Case Bloom)
- Whiskey Disco (DJ Collective feat. Coach, Jim O'Shea)
- Old Crow Medicine Show’s Jerry Pentercost (DJ Set)
- DJ Stretch
- DJ Griffin Green
- The Play Mates (Drag Show feat. Sasha, Vanity, Deception, Aura Mayari, Corlis Todd, and Carmin Triple C)
Counting down to the epic celebration, Daisha shares, “I never thought I’d have the opportunity to perform in so many of Nashville’s top spots all in the same night. Fans can expect a lot of bops and high energy. I want people to dance and have a good time.”
Ward Guenther, Whiskey Jam Founder, adds, “Red Bull has been enjoyed at Whiskey Jam since the very first night, so it's only fitting Whiskey Jam is enjoyed at Nashville's first Red Bull Unlocked. Looking forward to this!”
Red Bull Unlocked Istanbul
Photo courtesy of Red Bull
Local favorites including Pearl Diver, Tin Roof, Lipstick Lounge, White Limozeen, and more will join forces for one epic night. Full list of bars and partners below:
- The Dive Motel
- Lipstick Lounge
- Pearl Diver
- Play Dance Bar
- Rosemary & Beauty Queen
- The Stage
- Tin Roof
- Whiskey Jam
- White Limozeen
- Woolworth Theatre – Opening Fall 2022!
- Eleven Eleven - Opening 2023!
Date: August 21, 2022
Time: 6 PM – 11PM CT
Location: 1102 Forrest Ave, Nashville, TN 37206
Entrance: Ticked event
Rumble Boxing, the boxing-inspired group fitness studio, opened its doors for the first time in Nashville on June 20 at 609 Overton St, Nashville, TN. The hottest workout on the block is hosting its official grand opening from August 4th-7th with daily classes, membership specials, and prizes from local vendors. The new Rumble Boxing studio is currently offering a buy one class, get one free promotion for the Nashville community.
Rumble Boxing delivers 45-minute, 10-round, strength and conditioning group workouts, crafted around teardrop-style aqua boxing bags and high-intensity strength training circuits. This brings all fitness levels together to experience what Rumble is known for: combining the sweet science of boxing with high energy and positive vibes.
Rumble Boxing Fitness Studio
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
This boutique fitness brand offers serious benefits like increased stamina and strength, with cardio that’s actually fun. The seasoned trainers at the new studio are thrilled to serve their local community while offering this fun, new modern approach to boxing and welcome members of all fitness levels to the Rumble family.
The new Rumble Boxing studio is owned and operated by Blake Baskin and Antonio Compton. With their background in the fitness industry, this dynamic duo is excited to bring their passion for boxing and group fitness to Nashville. As business and life partners, Blake and Antonio aim to create a strong community within their new Rumble Boxing studio and share their message of non-apologetic inclusivity.
Black and Gay-Owned Business
Rumble Boxing Store with Dolly Parton Mural
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
“We own who we are, and this brand aligns with that perfectly,” said Antonio. “This is what we want to create and bring to this community: a fitness class that is designed for anyone and a place for people to be who they are. As a Black and gay-owned business, we want to help lower the division we see in the world right now. Our goal is to bring people together through Rumble, set everything aside, and have fun.”
To echo their message of acceptance and inclusion, Blake and Antonio commissioned a local Nashville artist to paint an 11 X 6-ft. mural of Nashville icon and philanthropist, Dolly Parton. The massive portrait features the country star in Rumble Boxing gear in the lobby of the studio.
The excitement and buzz around Rumble allowed Blake and Antonio to recruit top-tier trainers to head up the new studio, including Head Trainer Oronde Jones, a well-known celebrity trainer in the Nashville market.
Rumble Boxing Fitness Studio
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
“Compared to other fitness classes, Rumble is a class you can truly get lost in for 45 minutes. With the dark room, you don’t have to worry if anyone is paying attention to you. The music is awesome and inspiring, and the beat drops right when you need it the most. Also, with boxing being a sport you can never truly master, you’re always improving and crafting your skill. On the floor, you’re consistently doing something new, which prevents you from ever hitting a plateau.” Said Oronde Jones about his favorite part of Rumble.
Rumble has massive brand loyalty and widespread appeal, partly thanks to attracting top names like Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, Kendall Jenner, Hailey Baldwin, Jason Derulo, David Beckham, and Kevin Hart to its studios.
About Rumble Boxing
Founded in New York City in 2017, Rumble is a group fitness concept delivering a mix (or combination) of boxing-inspired circuits and the transformative power of resistance training. Pro and amateur fighters glove up together, no matter their fitness level or skill, to reveal their inner fighter. The experience is a 45-minute, 10-round, full-body cardio and strength workout crafted around specially designed water-filled, teardrop-style boxing bags. Rumble was founded by Noah Neiman (former Barry’s Bootcamp Master Trainer, and cast member of Bravo’s Work Out New York), Eugene Remm (Co-Founder of Catch Hospitality Group (Catch Restaurants, CATCH STEAK, Lexington Brass), Andy Stenzler (Co-Founder Cosí, Kidville), and Anthony DiMarco (13-time IRONMAN, former Managing Director, Google).
Who would have thought that we would have to get through a pandemic in order to appreciate the small things we have, such as the ability to simply pack our bags and hit the road?
For two years, there’s been nothing left for us travel junkies to do but sit at home and try to find new destinations that we will conquer once we defeat what appears to be the biggest villain of the 21st century. But once that happens, hold your bags tight because we will be up for some of the most interesting travel experiences. Take a look at some ideas for your post-COVID traveling plans:
A Gay Cruise
One of the best options to have in mind when all of this passes is a good, nice and long (pun intended) gay cruise. Or cruise in general, for that matter. Bear in mind, social distancing will still be a thing in the post-COVID world. But COVID-19 likely doesn’t mean that cruises will cease to exist. On the contrary, though cruise ships will probably keep the number of passengers smaller than before, it is believed that they will become an even bigger hit in the following period, especially because they are all going to go a lot more environmentally-friendly. On the bright side, is there any better way of celebrating the end of the pandemic than by cruising around some magnificent seas, stopping by at great cities and having romantic dinner nights at nice restaurants?
A getaway in nature
On the other hand, there is always the option of stepping away from the hustle and bustle of large cities, and spending some time in a place that’s not only healthy, but also beautiful. Some of the destinations that plenty of people will look for are the ones that can cater for both peace of mind and amazing things to see or do. One such destination is New Zealand, one of the greenest countries on Earth right now. Not only will you be visiting the magnificent country that gave us the beautiful Shire from Lord of the Rings; this is also a destination that’s excellent for everyone who prefers relaxing to partying. If you’re up for some partying, you will be able to hit Auckland, while if you’re for something calmer, there’s plenty of amazing places that you can see and visit.
Dancing Around at Pride
Pride parades are also events that you want to have in mind for the post-COVID world. Such events have always been quite important, but it seems that they are now more important than ever. The virus has canceled more than 75 Pride parades all around the world, which is one of the reasons why we must support the ones that will see the light of day once the pandemic stops. Truth be told, the upcoming Prides will perhaps be the best Prides ever organized. Give the gays a couple of weeks of quarantine, then let them outside and see what kind of party they are able to throw!
A road trip
If you’re, as well, waiting for the day to wake up and say “long gone are the days when we were not allowed to go wherever we wanted?”, and if staying at one place gave you a lot to think about, then your first post-COVID travel experience should definitely be a nice road trip. You can practically choose which country you want to tour, and you can either take your own car (you have probably missed it so much), or rent one at your destination. Australia is an amazing country for this, though, as it offers the possibility of seeing the Great Ocean Road, which is an amazing thing to see and experience. On the other hand, if you do not want or cannot leave your country, you can also choose to go on a domestic road trip – there are amazing things to see in your vicinity as well.
Holiday for a single guy
If you’re single, or you’re traveling someplace with another single friend, then you should definitely organize a nice vacation for yourself or for you and your single friend, and hit one of the best European cities. Europe has been greatly affected by the virus, which means that now it’s time to pay it back and get it back on its feet by traveling there and seeing all the amazing things it offers. Any city you choose in Europe – you will not make a mistake. Apart from being able to see great landmarks, you will also have the chance to have a drink at great gay clubs and pubs, and join unforgettable gay parties. And if the gay scenery is not your forte, worry not, as Europe indeed has to offer so many different and magnificent things.