“It was once written…that I am the love child of Harvey Fierstein, Bette Midler, and Anderson Cooper…” (Randy Rainbow)
At eight years old, Randy Rainbow (his real name) produced Snow White in his back yard. As the lead, he wore pajama pants on his head, tossed as a stand in for long hair. Despite being bullied, Randy was always himself. He had a funny mother, a funnier grandmother and grew up surrounded by musicals whose heroines he would play to the mirror in his childhood bedroom. “Show tunes have a way of perfectly marrying words to thoughts and feelings bringing order to chaos in a way I’ve always craved in reality.”
Left: Possibly in costume for a Purim play at school, or possibly just feeling myself on a typical Saturday night. Right: Pioneer Middle School’s production of Steamboatin’: A Musical Journey Down the Mississippi
The young man had no idea what to do with himself. College didn’t seem like a viable option. He worked on cruise ships, as a salesperson, receptionist, and ignominiously landed at the front desk of New York’s Hooters branch. (Yes, we actually had one of the big-breasted, tight-tee-shirted, waitress beer and burger chains.)
Comedy called to Randy. His first irreverent muse was Sarah Silverman who “sucked the venom out of cultural taboos floating in the zeitgeist… making herself the butt of the joke…” Somewhere along the way, bored as a temp, he started “The Randy Rainbow Bloggity Blahg Blahg.” “Remember the Nora Ephron movie Julie and Julia? I was totally Amy Adams.” His first camcorder video, “Randy Rainbow is Dating Mel Gibson,” quickly garnered 60,000 views, then climbed. A career was seeded.
“The persona I naturally slipped into was a heightened, scripted version of myself with shades of the slightly mischievous comedic characters that had always made me laugh.” Pieces he wrote for Broadway World began to incorporate song parodies. Further success came with “The Kim Davis Cell Block Tango” after the song in the musical Chicago. (In 2015, Davis defied a U.S. federal court order to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.)
Prettiest Hooters hostess in Manhattan. “Hey, girl, how many???”
Enter presidential candidate Donald Trump. Randy calls his “lying, cheating, narcissistic, con man father” his “own personal Trump variant…in some ways I’ve been talking to my father the whole time.” “Ya Got Trump Trouble” (From The Music Man’s “You Got Trouble”) opened doors. Jim Caruso of Birdland invited Randy to do a live election day concert. The club was packed. With plenty of unbelievably ridiculous fodder, parodies became more detailed and direct, though never mean-spirited. Randy is disappointed not to have been blocked by the administration on Twitter.
Hilary Clinton and Rosy O’Donnell wrote to him. Randy became long term friends with admirer Stephen Sondheim. He was nominated for the 71st Annual Creative Arts Emmys. (There were more nominations to come.) The artist took his show on the road. “America first hit a giant, bloated, orange asshole of an iceberg in 2016,” Randy writes referring to the sinking of the Titanic. “By 2020, it had struck a second one- the pandemic…I needed to play music louder…” (Musicians in First Class played until the ship sunk.)
Stuck at home, “I had everything I needed. With a video camera, green screen, MacBook, a well stocked costume closet and my cat Mushi… I was able to carry on.” He collaborated with Alan Menken (who offered) on a song called “Pink Glasses” about his signature accessory. (The glasses were lifted from a Halloween bag one day and stuck.) And Patti LuPone called, resulting in the duet video, “If Donald Were Fired” (from “If Mama Were Married”- Gypsy).
Randy Rainbow Live 2019 – “Finally got my own microphone!”
For the record, composers have never complained about the use of their music. Most have written fan letters.
Playing with Myself is chatty. Its author often address us as “gurl” much like Rudyard Kipling addressed his readers as “Best Beloved” in The Just So Stories. There are amusing and illuminating tidbits, gushing exclamations when meeting stars, gleeful astonishment about the perks that come with his notoriety. It’s also clear that this very talented personage does considerable research and gives his work a great deal of thought. That he’s still predominantly a one man band is astonishing.
Tune into his videos. Nobody does it better.
Author photo by Dirty Sugar Photography
Randy Rainbow- Playing with Myself
Published by St. Martin’s Press