Thomas Lauderdale


Thomas Lauderdale : biography

July 14, 1970 –

Political activism

Beginning in high school, Lauderdale became interested in politics. He worked in Portland City Hall, first under Mayor J.E. "Bud" Clark in the office of international relations, and later under City Commissioner Gretchen Kafoury on the city’s civil rights ordinance. He was appointed by Oregon governor Neil Goldschmidt to the Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee; by Mayor Clark to the Metropolitan Youth Commission and by City Commissioner Mike Lindberg to the Public Safety in the Parks Task Force. In 1992, he was involved in the No on 9 and No on 13 Campaigns, in response to measures that would amend the Oregon constitution to declare homosexuality illegal.

In June 2009, Lauderdale organized a rally of support for Portland Mayor Sam Adams, the first openly gay mayor of a major American city. He was caught up in an alleged sex scandal with intern Beau Breedlove, the times reports that the "Oregonian, the local police union and JustOut, a local gay periodical" were calling for his resignation. Portlanders at Lauderdale’s rally compared Adams to Bill Clinton, saying he only lied about sex and should not resign.

In October 2011, Lauderdale and Pink Martini organized and performed at a rally in support of the Occupy movement. The rally took place in downtown Portland, OR in Pioneer Courthouse Square and included speeches and performances by Storm Large as well as Oregon congressmen Earl Blumenauer & Peter DeFazio.

On February 12, 2013, Lauderdale attended Barack Obama’s State of the Union address at the United States Capitol. He was seated next to musician and gun-rights activist Ted Nugent.


In Portland, Oregon, Lauderdale began his studies with Sylvia Killman in 1982. Killman and Lauderdale remain close. Lauderdale won the Oregon Symphony’s annual Corbett Competition in 1985, marking the beginning of a long association with conductor Norman Leyden. He graduated from Portland’s Ulysses S. Grant High School in 1988, where he was student body president and editorial editor of The Grantonian. Lauderdale studied at Harvard University, where he graduated cum laude with a degree in History and Literature. He spent most of his time in college in cocktail dresses, throwing waltzes with live orchestras and ice sculptures; disco masquerades with gigantic pineapples on wheels; nude midnight swimming parties in the Adams House swimming pool; and operating a Tuesday night coffeehouse called Café Mardi.

Pink Martini

After seeing the Del Rubio Triplets on Pee-Wee Herman’s Christmas Special, Lauderdale flew them to Portland in October 1994 to do a series of concerts at retirement homes, nursing homes, and hospitals. After a week of performances and appearances, the Del Rubio Triplets performed at a fundraising concert at Cinema 21 in Northwest Portland. Stuck for an opening act for the group, Lauderdale threw on a Betsey Johnson cocktail dress, and joined by a bass player, a bongo player, and a singer, took to the stage as Pink Martini.

Pink Martini’s first concerts were often politically motivated, with performances at events for progressive causes such as the environment, affordable housing, civil rights, libraries, and public broadcasting. The band remains committed to its progressive and political roots. FundFest is a biennial four-day concert series produced by the band to raise money and visibility for four different organizations. Past recipients include Reach Community Development, Oregon Public Broadcasting, the ALS Association of Oregon and SW Washington, Children’s Cancer Association, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, Friends of Trees, and KBOO Community Radio.

Pink Martini has grown from four musicians to its current twelve. Singer China Forbes – who Lauderdale met at college – joined the band in 1995. The band has performed its multi-lingual repertoire on concert stages and with symphony orchestras throughout Europe, Asia, Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, Tunisia, Australia, Canada and the United States. In 1998, the ensemble made its European debut at the Cannes Film Festival, as well as its orchestral debut with the Oregon Symphony under the direction of Norman Leyden. Pink Martini has since performed with over 50 symphony orchestras around the world including the Boston Pops, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the BBC Orchestra, and with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center in Washington. Other appearances include two sold-out concerts at Carnegie Hall in 2007 & 2009; the grand opening of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall, with return sold-out engagements for New Year’s Eve 2003, 2004, 2008 & 2011; the opening party of the New York Museum of Modern Art; the Governor’s Ball at the 80th Annual Academy Awards in 2008; the opening of the 2008 Sydney Festival in Australia; two sold-out concerts at Paris’ legendary L’Olympia Theatre in 2011; and Paris’ fashion house Lanvin’s 10-year anniversary celebration for designer Alber Elbaz in 2012

The band has collaborated and performed with numerous artists, such as Jimmy Scott, Carol Channing, Rufus Wainwright, Martha Wainwright, Jane Powell, Henri Salvador, Chavela Vargas, New York performer Joey Arias, puppeteer Basil Twist, Georges Moustaki, Michael Feinstein, filmmaker Gus Van Sant, Courtney Taylor Taylor of The Dandy Warhols, clarinetist and conductor Norman Leyden, Japanese legend Hiroshi Wada, Italian actress and songwriter Alba Clemente, DJ Johnny Dynell and Chi Chi Valenti, NPR White House Correspondent Ari Shapiro, the original cast of Sesame Street, March Fourth Marching Band, the Bonita Vista High School Marching Band from Chula Vista, California, and the Pacific Youth Choir of Portland, Oregon.