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Candye Kane: Don’t mess with “The Toughest Girl Alive”

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SAN DIEGO — Candye Kane burst on the San Diego jazz and blues scene over two decades ago and immediately shot straight into the hearts of everyone who has seen her perform.

She’s played at a host of local venues over the years, including the Casbah, the Belly Up!, various Pride festivals and every street festival San Diego has had to offer. For many, she was the one reason to hit up all those local street fairs and festivals; because shopping was secondary if Candye Kane was on stage.

Most San Diegans think Candye Kane is theirs and theirs alone.

But her voluptuous onstage presence, colorful and sexy costumes, sultry and oft-times bawdy voice, very personal and heartfelt lyrics, and those copious 48 FF breasts – usually packaged almost as an alter-ego – have created a trail of mystically besotted followers up and down the county, the state, the nation and literally all over the world.

What many of her San Diegan fans may not know, are all the trials and tribulations – the bad circumstances and the equally bad choices – that made Candye Kane who she is today, as she stands in front of them with that big red smile, transfixing them with their favorite tawdry tune.

Well it appears they are about to find out.

All those songs are tawdry for a reason; they came from a great deal of personal experience. And now, based on her memoirs, Candye has developed a stage musical depiction of her life, called, “The Toughest Girl Alive.”

The play was adapted, directed and staged by Javier Velasco, a mainstay of local theater who is currently the artistic director for the San Diego Ballet.

After two preview nights this week, “The Toughest Girl Alive” has a six-week run at the MOXIE Theater, beginning on its already sold out World Premiere, Saturday, January 15th.

The blues legend herself will be taking center stage and belting out songs from her long career with very intimate and personal anecdotes in between, which woven together, tell the story of her very extraordinary life. It is a very bold endeavor, and as those who are familiar with Candye would expect, meant for mature audiences only.

“The Toughest Girl Alive” is also described in a song she wrote by the same name:

I’m the toughest girl alive
I walk thru the fire but I survived
I’ve been beat up, burned up, pushed around
but they just can’t keep me down.

I’m the toughest girl in town
Don’t mess with sister
Or you’ll go down
I’ve been put down, kicked out, messed around
But they just can’t keep me down.

If you aren’t aware of Candye’s colorful past, her story may raise a few eyebrows, but those aware are sure to be in for a treat, because she claims the show to be “99.9 percent true.” Although her sex-working days are in the distant past, her long resume of XXX movies and magazine covers are legends of their own, just from a different time.

Candye’s life couldn’t be told without music. A 20 song compilation CD, called “The best of Candye Kane” that mirrors the musical soundtrack, has also been released and will be a great way for fans to reconnect to the experience afterwards.

Always carrying around a bagful of causes that she champions wherever she goes (large-sized women, sexual abuse survivors, LGBT rights, abortion rights, sex worker rights, to name a few) Candye has been affected by each of these issues and been a part of each community. As such, these causes can be found threading through her life’s work of songs.

Her songs and gigs are consistently filled with messages of empowerment and affirmation, especially in the face of adversity, a place she knows well.

In one of her many songs she sings: “Love your body, if it’s a little or a lot.” As a large-sized woman who experienced years of discrimination due to her weight, there is no doubt she loves her body today and empowers others to do the same.

That message, along with many others, will undoubtably be described as what helped her become “The Toughest Girl Alive.”

In 2009 she added more adversity and yet another cause and community under her belt, when she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She’s currently cancer free. Despite her challenging past, Candye has a heart of gold behind that wonder chest, and she touches everyone she meets with it.

Candye’s autobiographical musical and plus-size stage presence help fill out MOXIE Theater’s Sixth Season, aptly called “In Celebration of Bad Girls.”

“MOXIE is thrilled to be producing the world premiere of a show that truly fulfills our mission to create more diverse and honest images of women for our culture,” said Delicia Turner Sonnenberg, Moxie’s Artistic Director. “There are few women who have lived a life as rich and diverse as Candye’s or who are as open and honest about how they’ve lived their lives.

“We believe the most thrilling part of her story is that she tells it without shame or regret and we at MOXIE say ‘hell yeah’ to that! We feel honored to know her and excited to share her story with our audience.”

Candye will be joined on stage once again by her long-time musical collaborator and friend, Sue Palmer, who was recently awarded the 2010 Jim Croce Award for Excellence and Dedication to music and whose latest CD “After Hours” won the 2010 San Diego Music Award’s Best Blues Album.

Palmer, along with her illustrious beehive hairdo and magically fast fingers, travelled the world with Candye and her Swinging Armadillos band back in the 1990s. Since those days, she has continued to collaborate on and off the stage with Candye, while keeping herself busy and fans on their feet with her own Motel Swing Band.

Palmer is the musical director and pianist for “Toughest Girl Alive” and will lead Candye’s road band on stage throughout the play, which also consists of musical genius Laura Chavez on guitar, 30-year industry great Kennan Shaw on bass, and Evan Caleb – Candye’s oldest son – on drums.

Renown local artist and teacher Julie Warren also lends her talent to the show, as Scenic and Visual Artist. Julie is the partner of California State Senator Christine Kehoe.

Candye’s personal wish is to take the play to theaters worldwide, “to inspire others to believe in themselves and their dreams,” she says on the inside sleeve of the compilation.

MOXIE’s marketing materials identify “The Toughest Girl Alive” as “the stranger-than-fiction story of an ex-gang member, unwed teen mother, rockabilly, punk rock, plus-sized, ex-adult film star, cancer surviving, multi-award-winning, bisexual blues phenomenon.”

That almost sums it up, but Candye’s song “Superhero” from her 2009 post-cancer, chart climbing blues album of the same name, adds the exclamation point:

I’m a superhero
I’ll keep on fighting
there’s no way
I’m laying down and dying
I’m wonder woman
I’m here to stay

Now that’s an understatement.

About the MOXIE Theater

The MOXIE Theater is a professional non-profit theater founded in 2005 by a group of four women performers and directors. Their mission is to create more diverse and honest images of women for our culture using the art of theater.

They focus on the production of plays with female playwrights or that defy the stereotypes of what women are writing about, and as a result, are expanding the idea of what is feminine.

The MOXIE is located at 6663 El Cajon Blvd. in Rolando (near SDSU). Tickets are $22 for Thursday nights and Sunday matinees, and $25 for Friday and Saturday nights. For more information contact the box office at (858) 598-7620 or visit their website.

About Candye Kane

Candye Kane is a larger than life talent who just happens to also be an amazing blues and jazz singer-songwriter. She was born and then raised herself up in East Los Angeles. She moved to San Diego in 1983 and currently resides in the Oceanside area.

To learn everything you ever wanted to know about Candye or see where she will be landing next, visit her website

You can also follow Candye on Facebook and on Twitter.

Morgan M. Hurley is the Copy Editor for SDGLN. She can be reached at (877) 727-5446, ext 710 or via email at [email protected].

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