Kind of a long story how it happened but the short version is, I invited Cyndi Lauper to see Salty Brine‘s reimagining of her classic album, She’s So Unusual and she came. We have many friends in common, but I didn’t know Cyndi personally, but I know her “people” (namely Carmen Cacciatore.) So, when my friend Lori Schwarz invited me to The Red Room to see Salty Brine’s Spectacular Living Record Collection Cabaret, I was in. Salty has a rep downtown of putting on quite a show and when I heard it was a 1930’s pansy-fied reimagining of Lauper’s album retitled, He’s So Unusual I had to at least TRY to get Cyndi to see it. I didn’t think it would really happen, but it DID and we all had quite a night. During the show, all in the interest of entertainment you know, we were all instructed to put on red lipstick for Girls just Wanna Have Fun, (provided by Salty), taught the lost art of cruising for Witness and given 80s gay porn for She Bop (Salty took the mags back, damn it. Blueboy!)
I asked Cyndi later if, based on his set-up, she knew which song was next and found out, the show’s set order was based on the order of the original album. (If you aren’t familiar, Cyndi’s debut album was nominated for 6 Grammys, like Best Record, Song & Album of the Year and won 2 including, Best New Artist. It’s also on Rolling Stone‘s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.) None of us had seen the show, so it was a risk to bring her, not knowing what to expect, but Salty delivered BIG TIME. Cyndi just toured performing the album for its 30th anniversary, so she said she sort of expected a campy send-up of it, but said it was FAR from that. It’s a personal journey of a young gay boy’s coming of age, told through 30s racy, clandestine cabaret act. Time Out called Salty,
“…the love child of a Paul Lynde, Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey in Cabaret threeway.”
That pretty much nails his persona in this performance. The show makes perfect use of the songs and lyrics, but the arrangements were SO different than the originals, I strained to see where were all being led, song by song. Time After Time was slowed down and Salty sung to a video projection of his younger self, promising to be there time after time. I shed a tear, I’ll admit. The audience didn’t know Cyndi was there and after stripping down a bit, Salty donned a “Cyndi” wig and thanked her in the abstract, which was sweet. After a particularly raunchy segment, he also said,
“My mother is here.”
I thought it was just for effect until Mom actually showed up later to get a picture with Cyndi and Salty. (And like everyone’s tech-challenged Mom, couldn’t get the flash to work… we did get it working.)
After the show, Salty and Cyndi had a few moments of mutual admiration that was a thrill to witness and honestly, that was my big pay-off. To see them together, sans ego, with such respect for what the other had done, was a great moment. Cyndi’s True Colors Fund supports LGBT homeless teens and they just opened a second home in the Bronx. She told Salty that she hears all these kid’s stories and it makes her sad, but it was so uplifting and inspiring to see that this young gay kid, took her album to heart and let it uplift him – and he came out on the other side. You know, that’s gotta be Cyndi’s big payoff.
Salty Brine’s Spectacular Living Record Collection Cabaret is at The Red Room at KGB Bar every Wednesday in New York City’s East Village. He’s So Unusual is directed by Max Reuben and incudes dramaturgy by Taylor Adamson and arrangements by Ben Langhorst. The show features lighting design by Michael McGee, sound design by AJ Surasky and costume design by nightlife personality One-Half Nelson.
For tickets and more info, go here.