Metro Weekly

Pink Martini’s Thomas Lauderdale loves to get naked and build forts

Lauderdale's effervescent Pink Martini celebrates its 25th birthday with a Kennedy Center bash!

Meow Meow with Lauderdale

In his spare time, Thomas Lauderdale likes to build forts. In the nude.

“In the summer, if I’m home, I go every day that I can out to Rooster Rock State Park,” says the native Oregonian. “It’s a nude beach. And my partner, Hunter, and I build forts out of driftwood. So I spend all of my time that I can naked in the sun hauling lumber to build these forts.”

He documents his progress on Instagram (see for yourself at @thomasmlauderdale). “Hauling wood half a mile or a sandy beach and building a fort with posts that are sort of six feet deep — that’s the best thing in the world. It’s my favorite thing to do. When I’m on tour, mostly what I think about is the forts.”

Lauderdale is the founder and leader of Pink Martini. If you’ve never seen the internationally-flavored, 12-member orchestra in concert, do yourself a favor and find your way to their upcoming Washington Performing Arts-sponsored birthday show at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall this Sunday, Oct. 13. Watching the band and its rotating stable of sublime vocalists, such as Storm Large, China Forbes, and NPR’s Ari Shapiro, is, to put it mildly, an experience of complete and unmitigated joy.

Though its roots are in LGBTQ activism, Pink Martini is not political — at least not inherently. “In different times in the band’s history, there have been times where it seemed necessary to make political statements from the stage,” says Lauderdale. “In recent years, I realized that because we have a really diverse audience, people don’t necessarily want to be backed into a corner politically and that it’s probably better not to say too much. But that’s why we do songs in different languages. [It] has to do with being inclusive.”

The band will be joined on Sunday by special guest Meow Meow. “She is hysterically funny,” says Lauderdale. “I’ve never seen people laugh harder at any concert than when Meow Meow is on the stage.” Lauderdale also notes that Sunday’s performance marks the exact 25-year point from when the band first played. “There will be a couple of original members who are flying in who haven’t played with the band for years,” he says. He’s hopeful Storm Large will make an appearance alongside Forbes and NPR’s Shapiro, and coyly notes that another NPR luminary may be making a surprise Pink Martini debut. “Who knows what’ll happen between now and the 13th?” he laughs. “Any number of things could happen.”

Asked to best describe what Pink Martini is, the 49-year-old bandleader bubbles over. “It’s whimsical and global and inclusive and lovely and hypnotic! Somebody once said — or maybe I said it — it’s like Lawrence Welk on acid.”

Pink Martini, with special guests Meow Meow and Ari Shapiro, performs Sunday, Oct. 13, at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall. Tickets are $35 to $85. Call 202-785-9727 or visit

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