Hot Pink Racers Rock For A Cure

Listen to the Story

Hot Pink Racers band members(Left to Right): Bill Jingo, John Hetrick, Joe Cygan, Victor Erlanger, Matt Stoessner (Click on photo to enlarge)(Photo: Photo courtesy of Hot Pink Racers)
Hot Pink Racers band members(Left to Right): Bill Jingo, John Hetrick, Joe Cygan, Victor Erlanger, Matt Stoessner (Click on photo to enlarge)(Photo: Photo courtesy of Hot Pink Racers)

Saturday thousands of runners will race for the cure – a cure for breast cancer. Many of them will wear pink wigs in honor of Heather Pick, the TV news anchor who died from the disease in 2008. Her widower will be at the race but on stage, not on the course. WOSU’s Mandie Trimble reports Joe Cygen and his band hope some funky tunes will inspire runners and those fighting the disease.

It’s about 5 o’clock in the evening during the middle of the week. A middle aged man sits at a keyboard and computer and warms up for a rehearsal. He’s not part of a group of guys trying to fulfill some high school rock band dream. He’s the member of a band with a much greater purpose: to encourage those who face breast cancer.

They’re called the Hot Pink Racers.

“Sort of pink and punk rock at the same time,” Joe Cygan said.

Cygan was married to Channel 10 anchor Heather Pick who passed away a year and a half ago after a long and public fight against breast cancer.

Cygan and Pick shared a love for music, and often played together at breast cancer fundraisers. So it seemed only natural to say “yes” when the Columbus affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation asked Cygan and his band to play at the 2010 Race for the Cure. Only there was one small problem.

“I don’t really have a band, you know. So I wasn’t sure what that was going to be,” he said.

So Cygan called some of his friends. Most of them he had played with in the past. Drummer Matt Stoessner got one of the calls.

“My immediate reaction was absolutely I wanted to play. And I think all the guys felt that way. And it wasn’t even so much as we needed an answer; it’s like, alright, when? When are we going to get together? What are we going to do,” Stoessner recalled.

After a few jam sessions the band decided they could make it work with two guitarists, a guy manning the keyboard, a drummer. And Cygan at lead vocals and playing a third guitar. Cygan joked he was “to blame for the name,” Hot Pink Racers.

“You know, we wanted something that was sort of fun, but at the same time we’re doing it for a specific reason. So the name seemed to fit,” he said.

Pink for breast cancer awareness, and racer for those running in the Race for the Cure. The bands’ attire is reminiscent of Johnny Cash – all black – save for the hot pink ties. Their sound, though, is nothing like The Man in Black. Stoessner described their genre.

“We’re kind of like a punk rock, modern rock, anything goes type of sound,” Stoessner said.

Hot Pink Racers will not play any original tunes this go around, but they’ll put their own spin on bands like Angels and Airwaves, The Beetles and some Johnny Cash.

But one song that’s likely most important to the band, and those taking part in this year’s race, is one by Melissa Etheridge called “I Run for Life.”

Etheridge, who battled breast cancer herself, does not sugar coat the toll the disease takes on the body and spirit with lyrics that for some may be tough to hear.”

“It’s been years since they told her about it; The darkness her body possessed; And the scars are still there in the mirror; Every day that she gets herself dressed; Though the pain is miles and miles behind her; And the fear is now a docile beast; If you ask her why she is still running; She’ll tell you it makes her complete.”

The song is played at many Komen races as a tribute to those battling the disease.

“The song is very, it’s very real. I mean, Melissa Etheridge went through all of this personally. And there’s no other song that captures it that well,” Cygan noted.

And like everything else, as Cygan puts it, the band “[punked] it up” a little.

When asked what he thinks his late wife, Heather, would think of the band, their pink ties and punk music, Cygan said,”I think she would love it, and I think she would probably really get a kick out of the way we’re doing it. I’ve had a lot of friends say, yeah, you know, we’re sure she’d be kind of giggling about this. So, that’s a good thing.”

Cygan added that Heather would have wanted him to continue the fight.

“It’s for both Heather and women that are still going through it and might go through it in the future. You know, it’s not, it’s not something that’s ever going to go away for me. And it’s something that I, you know, will always feel very strongly about.”

The 2010 Komen Columbus Race for the Cure expects to draw a record 50,000 participants and raise more than $2.5 million dollars.