Searching For Mr. Bullens

Just when I think I’ve heard every story about Westport’s rock ‘n’ roll history, I learn something new.

But I’ve never — ever — come across a tale quite like this one.

Cindy Bullens knew from age 4 that she’d be a rock star. In 1974 she left New England for fame and fortune. She arrived in Los Angeles with only $100, a backpack and guitar.

Elton John and Cindy Bullens.

Elton John and Cindy Bullens.

Fortune smiled. She met Bob Crewe — the legendary Four Seasons and Mitch Ryder producer. Six months later Cindy crashed a party, where she knew Elton John would be.

Two days after that, she was rehearsing to accompany him on his Rock of the Westies tour.

That meant turning down an invitation to play and sing with Bob Dylan. She’d been invited to join his Rolling Thunder Revue too.

Cindy went on to sing background on “Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart.” She had 3 lead vocals on the “Grease” movie soundtrack, released 2 solo albums, and was nominated for 2 Grammys.

But that’s not the story.

In 1979 Cindy married Crewe’s brother Dan. A couple of years later — after her record company folded —  the couple moved to Westport. It was an artistic community, close to New York. They had 2 daughters.

In 1996, one of the girls — Jessie — died of lymphoma. She was 11 years old.

The rocker’s world was rocked. As part of the grieving process, Cindy wrote 10 songs. She did not intend to record them — she had no label — but after asking friends like Bonnie Raitt and Bryan Adams to join her, she recorded “Somewhere Between Heaven and Earth.” It became her best-selling album.

By default, Cindy was back in the music business. More records followed.

But that’s not the story either.

When she was just 4 years old, Cindy knew she was really a boy. In those days no one talked about transgender issues. In her teens, Cindy decided she’d have to live as a woman. She “did a work-around. I made peace with myself as Cindy Bullens.”

Four years ago, an old friend told Cindy she was transitioning from female to male.

Young Cindy Bullens.

Jessie  Bullens

Cindy was shocked. “As close as we were, neither of us had ever talked about our genders and bodies.”

Cindy’s mind imploded. Her friend’s revelation “brought up everything in my life I’d hidden away, in a very remote place.”

The timing was propitious. Cindy “had the psychic space to deal with all this. I was not in a relationship.” (She and her husband had divorced.) “My daughter had grown up and moved away. I was not in crisis.”

Once the door opened, Cindy walked through it. After deciding to transition, she spent a couple of years out of the public eye.

“I let go of Cindy. I became Cidny — but everyone calls me Cid,” he says.

But that’s not the end of the story either.

For a long time, Cindy had wanted to write a one-person show about her unusual life. Now, as Cid, he realized his transition added an exceptionally powerful narrative arc.

The result is “Somewhere Between.” The multimedia musical — a “one wo/man show” — explores the bridge between Cindy and Cidny. But it’s not just about transitioning genders. “It’s a universal and human story,” Cid says. “My transition is just a part of my life. This is about a person — not only a transgender person.”

Cidny Bullens today. (Photo/Joanne Berman)

Cidny Bullens today. (Photo/Joanne Berman)

The show begins in 1974. It travels through Cindy’s music career, the birth of her daughter and her transition. It ends with the birth of her grandchildren.

One of the most poignant moments comes with the song “Mockingbird Hill.”

“In Westport, we lived on Minuteman Hill,” Cid says of his 9 years in this area.

“It was a beautiful home, with a view of the water. We completely renovated it. It was the house I wanted to live in forever. But I was a square peg in a round hole.”

The song describes his relationship with the house and his daughters. As he sings it, a video shows footage of their renovation project, and the girls playing there.

“It’s one of the best songs I’ve ever written,” Cid says.

“Somewhere Between” earned excellent reviews in Santa Fe and Nashville. Now he’s looking to book it elsewhere.

Westport seems like a natural venue. For nearly a decade, this town meant a lot to Cindy Bullens. It was her home.

Even as she searched for her true home, where Cidny Bullens now lives.

 

12 responses to “Searching For Mr. Bullens

  1. What a totally cool story. Congratulations to Cid for finding her true path.

  2. Michael Friedman

    This is both amazing and inspiring.
    It is a story that America is only just beginning to understand and accept.
    While we may be living in the absurd and disturbing age of Trump et al, Cid’s story and the fact that it can be told gives us hope that many are moving forward with compassion, understanding and acceptance.
    Keep on rockin’ Cid.

  3. Dan!
    Thanks so much for this terrific post. I missed Cindy/Cydny’s songs.
    “Somewhere Between Heaven and Earth” is lovely, her voice so clear. Reminds me of Sandy Denny of Fairport Convention fame. Just plain terrific! Listening now.

  4. Nancy Hunter Wilson

    Last night’s “60 Minutes” had an excellent segment about a Harvard swim team member who, thanks to the open-mindedness and rational thinking of both the coaches and his peers, was able to transition from the women’s team to the men’s… effortlessly.

  5. Denise Ewing

    I hope someone within the Westport Cinema Initiative sees Dan’s post and can bring this film to Westport – maybe even into Staples. That’s a powerful story with enough gravity to really make a difference in the lives of the transgendered population in Westport schools – and in the lives of the many students trying to learn more about their struggles and be the best friends they can be.

    • Thanks, Denise. I guess I didn’t make clear that this is a one-person musical performance — not a film. At any rate, it’s well worth watching — and, indeed, bringing to Westport.

  6. Gutsy — and I love a happy ending

  7. Wendy Crowther

    When I was the Westport YMCA’s Fitness Director in the late 80s, Cindy used to work out in the Y’s Fitness Center. She was so unique and so totally cool. Though I knew about her musical background and talent, I didn’t fully realize at the time how accomplished she truly was. When working out at the Y (and BS-ing with us staff between sets), her rocker vibe gave her a confident swagger that I thoroughly liked and admired.

    Back then, she gave me a promo copy of her latest “cassette” entitled “Cindy Bullens.” It was released by MCA Records in 1989 and it included a background vocal by Bryan Adams. I still have it.

    I also still have the autographed photo that she gave me. The photo shows Cindy sitting on the floor wearing a sleeveless tank top (great arms), jeans and cowboy boots as she cradles an electric guitar. I loved her edgy look. She wrote on the photo, “To Wendy and the Fitness Center Staff – Thanks!” I was so flattered that she’d say and do such a nice thing.

    She stopped coming into the Y after that – I can no longer remember why – perhaps she went on tour. In the decades that have passed, I occasionally wondered where life might have taken her. Now I know. I’m so glad to hear about her transition to Cid and to know that he is alive and well – in fact, better than ever.

    I hope Cid will consider bringing “Somewhere Between” to Westport. Its message and music are so important to so many. It’s now my turn to say to Cid, “Thanks back at ya.”

  8. If she had lived in a small town in Mississippi, he would not be considering coming back to for a show. Kudos to him AND to our wonderful town

  9. Jack Goldenberg

    You’re so much fun to read. First there was story, but that wasn’t the story, Then, I think, there were two more stories. But they weren’t the story either. Finally, the story was revealed and it was worth waiting for.

    Cid’s story was interesting and inspiring. Like so many anomalies in life, no one can know what it’s like to be “Somewhere in Between,” but Cid’s book may make it easier for people who are different to hold their head up high and be who they are. Jack