Back in the early 80s, an independent public television show challenged the iron grip of the Solid Gold empire. Yes, straight out of KUHT in Houston, Texas, came Signing with Cindy. In each episode, your fearless hostess reinterpreted some of the hot hits of the day (circa 1982) for the deaf and hard of hearing.
That by itself was a great and noble goal, but creator Cindy Cochran was not satisfied with just transcribing lyrics. She hit upon the brilliant idea of creating her own music videos, with choreographed dancing, costumes, and all the cliches of low budget videography. And she had boatloads of spunk to make it all work.
Thanks to NYC-area drag legend Flloyd, you can now relive these classic moments on YouTube.
Start off with a memorable hit of the era, Pat Benatar's "Hit Me with Your Best Shot" (YouTube), then marvel at her work-out to the theme song from "Fame" (YouTube). But for a real taste of Cindy magic, you must not hesitate to witness her take on the lovely Barbara Streisand dance number "The Main Event" (YouTube or download a 13 meg Quicktime file). The film the song comes from was a lackluster boxing romance staring La Barbara and Ryan O'Neal. But Cindy and her dancers transcend even Hollywood aspirations with a knock-out performance that would not have been out of place if it were plopped right in the middle of the "Can't Stop the Music" (indeed, the thought of an all-signing Village People movie has made me more than a little excited).
Amazing as those production numbers are, it is the simplest of Cindy's performances that
really touch my heart. And so it is with this performance (YouTube), the serenity which harkens back to the simpler times of misty-framed K-Tel
I have vague fever-dream memories of this show airing on Sunday morning PBS stations in the Denver area, but I found precious little information on Ms. Cochran in the more modern internet world. She started working with the deaf through her church group, published a rather groovy companion book, and of course encouraged a whole generation of hard-of-hearing fans to get up and boogie. Oh, and let's not forget that she inspired several fan-fiction scripts for Cagney & Lacey.