Cyndi Lauper has always had a lot of support from the gay and lesbian community, has "friends and family" in it, and came up with a tour to support it. But sometimes even the best ideas can run into brick walls.
Lauper pitched the idea for the True Colors Tour to her manager, Lisa Barbaris, and then to her agent, industry veteran Jonny Podell, both of whom are also Lauper’s close friends. They agreed it was a winning concept and all three set to work on making it happen. Then reality set in.
"It was so much more work than I had ever envisioned," Podell told Pollstar. "We’re not really producers. So what did we know?"
"Cyndi and I didn’t know how much work these things are, or how much work it is just to get it to the starting line, let alone the finish line," she told Pollstar.
In fact, the tour was supposed to happen in 2006, but was canceled at the last minute when, as Podell put it, "We realized we didn’t have our shit together."
The artists were hip to the idea, but without concrete dates it was hard to herd the cats.
However, everyone involved agreed raising awareness of gay and lesbian and human rights issues was too important.
"It seems like things are deteriorating for the gay community," Barbaris said, adding that a person can be fired for being gay in 33 states, and that several hate-crime laws exclude the gay community.
"There are over a thousand benefits afforded to heterosexual couples that aren’t afforded to same-sex couples, and when you’re raising a kid or you’re older, all that stuff matters a lot," Lauper said. "This is America. You can’t make laws that just extend to a few people."
So after another year of preparation and hard work, plus bringing in the Human Rights Campaign (which a portion of every ticket will be donated to), The Matthew Shepard Foundation, PFLAG and the LOGO cable network, they were able to pull it off.
"I’m so thrilled to have this come together," Lauper said. "I have wonderful partners who worked very hard."
Podell said they’ve gotten a lot of cooperation and understanding.
"Everybody has been really wonderful about kind of overlooking, let’s say, some of our lack of being buttoned up in some areas," he said, adding that the artists were cooperative about lineup changes and doing press. "The attitude among the artists is almost like it’s their tour, which is really amazing."
Only one artist said no, and Podell speculated it was because of the package tour, not because of the cause.
"I can tell by the respect that we’re getting now when we mention it within the industry," he said. "I think people really had a wait-and-see attitude."
Barbaris thinks that perhaps the hesitance wasn’t even with the artists.
"I think some managers didn’t even tell their artists, because I know their artists would very much like to support something like this," she said. "People are afraid, and with the business being so unhealthy, no one’s willing to take a chance"
One act that didn’t hesitate to say yes was Erasure.
"I think it’s quite important, because of things like Guantanamo Bay," the band’s Andy Bell told Pollstar. "I think human rights have kind of been put onto the back burner. … I think that the gay and lesbian movement is kind of at the forefront of that, of campaigning for human rights and equality."
Other artists who answered the call include Lauper’s friend Deborah Harry, The Dresden Dolls, The Gossip, The Cliks, The Misshapes and host Margaret Cho, as well as a few who will make special appearances along the way, like Rufus Wainwright, Indigo Girls and Rosie O’Donnell.
"Cyndi wanted to do a festival where there would be a couple of name acts that people recognize but also – because it’s very hard for new acts, new music period, to be discovered – some newer ones," Barbaris said.
For Podell, bringing along some new acts is another example of the tour’s spirit.
"I personally – this is me Jonny Podell – love giving back," he said. "I’ve been a very lucky guy. I’m in a business that’s accepted my weaknesses and flaws, and given me a second chance.
"So if I have anything to do with launching the careers of artists – specifically that aren’t mine, so there’s no agenda – I’d feel great about it. And it would be nice for the tour and the True Colors brand if it became known for that."
The tour begins June 8th and includes stops at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre, New York’s Radio City Music Hall, Atlanta’s Chastain Park Amphitheatre and both of California’s Greek Theatres – Berkeley and Los Angeles.
Lauper is also getting to play a venue she’s had her sights on for a long time.
"Oh, my God, we’re playing Red Rocks," she said. "My whole life I wanted to play Red Rocks, and we’re playing there. Isn’t that great?"
In the end, everyone involved has pretty much the same hopes for what the tour can accomplish this year and what the future holds for it.
"I just want everybody in the business, when they think of True Colors, to say ‘Successful,’" Podell said. "I want the artists to feel it was a positive experience, and I want the gay community to feel some ownership and to feel really good about the way we executed it."
For her part, Lauper, sticking close to the sentiments of her biggest hit, says most of all she just wants everybody to have fun.
"We’re going to get together and have a party and celebrate each other and sing together and be together," she said. "It’s five hours of fun and music and we’re going to celebrate. We’re going to celebrate our differences."