Raised in Ozone Park, Queens, Cyndi Lauper swept onto the music scene in 1984 with her album She’s So Unusual, the first debut record by a solo artist to spin off four top five singles, including Girls Just Want to Have Fun and Time after Time. When the Grammy Award-winning singer married actor David Thornton in 1991 at the Friends Meeting House on Gramercy Park, Little Richard led the couple in the recitation of their non-traditional vows and Patti LaBelle sang the wedding theme. For Nick Cassavetes’ new film Unhook the stars, Lauper has contributed two haunting new songs to the soundtrack. The film stars Cassavetes’ mother, Gena Rowlands, and co-stars Lauper’s husband, who plays Marissa Tomei’s abusive spouse. The Kewpie-doll-voiced singer will release her latest album, Sisters of Avalon (Epic records), early next year.
Interview by Deborah Scott
I usually get up around nine – anytime before that is a little obscene for me. But no matter what time it is, I’m always late for whatever I have to do because there’s just not enough time in a day.
If I work out, it’s from 9 to 10:30. Since I never make it to the gym, I have to do one-on-one with my trainer. Right now we are into yoga and doing some weights.
Also I run around the reservoir. This summer I was doing five miles. My husband, David, just ran the New York City marathon for the fifth time. I live between my places on the Upper West Side and Connecticut, but mostly out of my suitcase, which is kind of disconnecting. All my friends are downtowners, so it’s strange to be “upstate” (that’s what we call it uptown). The good news is that Ricky’s, the beauty supply store, has moved up here, so there’s a lot of people running around with colored hair.
I grew up in Ozone Park, where I was really a geek. I didn’t have too many friends. I went back once, but it’s completely different; I don’t have a lot of ties there. The idea of buying a house in Connecticut was to be a New Englander, like in the Pepperidge Farm commercial where the guy is riding in the wagon and everything moves really slow.
I used to collect antiques until the house cleaners turned the heat up to 100 degrees and everything cracked. For awhile we were only buying armoires. Then we realized we had nothing to sit on and had to buy a sofa.
I always wanted to live in Cape Cod, like Lillian Hellman. I did once for about a minute, but it didn’t work out. Someday I’ll get back there.
I wrote and recorded a lot of my new record, Sisters of Avalon, in Connecticut and Tennessee, where my friend Jan Pulsford lives in the woods. I can’t write in the city except in the middle of the night. That’s when I wrote Fearless with Catherine Russell. In the city, the phones never stop, the traffic’s awful. It’s like a Monty Python film or something from Charlie Chaplin movie.
One day I was sitting having my hair done, and I looked around at who was in my appartment. There was my makeup artist, my dog trainer, my cat therapist, my stylist, assistant and cousin. When some men came in to move the furniture my stylist, Cheryl Wilson, said, “Where’s the flame thrower ?”
I hired the cat therapist about a year ago when I got a new dog, a chocolate Labrador, which upset the cats — two are Burmese and one is part Siamese, part Burmese.
The first therapist I hired was particularly nutty. My cousin was scared of her. The therapist sprinkled some catnip-like dust around and played the cats tapes. By the time I had finished paying her, I figured she had a racket and I should get into it.
I don’t have time for breakfast. Sometimes I forget to eat until dinner. This morning I just grabbed some cereal that David picked up; it’s called Kamutios and it’s made out of an ancient Egyptian grain.My diet is something I really have to conquer. When I need the energy, I tend toward coffee and sugar, or else pump myself full of vitamins, and that’s no good either. It makes you to yin, which means not enough fire. You feel cold at night and get colds.
Now that I am preparing for my tour to Japan, I go to rehearsals, where I have to remember my new songs, figure out how I arranged them with my partner, as well as do the lighting, the merchandising and the set list. We want to do mostly new songs, but have to do some of the old ones too.My favorite time is when I am writing. It usually takes a day to write a song – it depends what the song is. I wrote Fearless in about an hour.
Once you are in there and know what you are doing, it comes naturally. When you have to sit with other people to collaborate, its shell-shock. Lately I have been collaborating with my friend, Janet.
We sit down together and I play dulcimer or guitar – not well, but I write on these instruments – and Janet has a keyboard.The collaborative process is different each time. I don’t think lighting strikes in the same place twice. If you try and go back to the same formula, it may not work. It has to be a discovery.
We’re different Jan and I, but we kind of match. One day we sat together and she started to play keyboard and I just started singing. We wanted it to be kinda “ska” – I’m a fan of ska music.When I’m writing, I don’t do anything else; I just work. We might take a drive and get some lunch.
When I eat, ideally it’s chicken or fish. This summer I was good and ate a lot of protein and vegatables. If I’m throwing caution to the winds I’ll have carbs, rice and beans – but carbs mess me up.
I once had a cook, but I was never home to eat. I went to a nutritionist, who said, “Eat this amount of meat, grab an apple and put almond butter on it.” It sounded good but I couldn’t keep up with it.At night, if I’m not writing, I spend time with my husband, renting videos or going out to the movies or dinner.
There’s this great Sicilian resturant – I’m half Sicilian, a quarter Swiss and a quater German – at 10th street and fourth ave called Briscola that has the best gelato I’ve ever tasted. I get the hazelnut kind whenever I can. It’s tough, though, since I have a lactose intolerance – sinus stuff. We got married at the Friends Meeting House and had our reception at Briscola, where they have changed the look, but it stil has the same owners.
Davis’s an actor so he loves films. We look at them differently. I like to look at the backdrops, shots, clothes, and lighting. David opened a whole world to me. I have never heard of Satyajat Ray and I wasn’t at all familiar with the director Akira Kurosawa.
David went to Yale Drama School, so he’s a Yalie. The way I wrote the songs for Nick Cassevetes’ film, Unhook the Stars was through David. Nick sent me the script and I really related to it.
Basically at night, David and I talk about whatever happened during our day. I like to talk about him because I’m sick of what’s happening to me. You don’t want to wind up with that famous persons disease: You know, “Enough about me — how about more about me ?”