Cyndi Lauper should make a pop-umentary film. It could be a fruit punch montage. With comedic flip footage of Cyndi sporting her manic-panic hair-do on the street in “Girls just wanna have fun” and spots of her talking to a ceramic dalmatian in her “Time after Time” video, it’d be a smash. For the art-house folks, rushes of Lauper wandering on a beach with a chandelier on her head during her “True Colors” phase complemented by voice clips of her acceptance speeches form her Grammy (Best New Artist) and Emmy (guest appearances in Mad About You) would be sure to astound.
For the intellectual, a portion of the film could be devoted to Gloria Steinem and Camille Paglia discussing whether Lauper was worthy enough to be Ms magazine’s woman of the year in 1985 and whether or not “She-Bop” is really a song about female masturbation. Enter Polaroids of Captain Lou Albano, slides of her zany fruit basket concerts and overlapping images of every album she released (with transparent floating Billboard charts as background) and “She-Bop!” the film is almost over.
Towards the ending of this imaginary flick, a home movie premise: Cyndi’s newest album Sisters Of Avalon is being recorded in Tennessee, New York, New England and finished with Cyndi meeting Japan’s rock group Shang Shang Typhoon to record “Mother”. The one through line: The fabulous muddle that Lauper was, is and presumably, will continue to be. Elio Iannacci: IT SEEMS THAT YOU, LADY MISS KIER AND CRYSTAL WATERS ARE THE LAST GROUP OF POP SOCIALISTES IN NEW YORK.
Cyndi Lauper: Oh, you’re kidding me, no. I don’t think so, really ? I don’t know if [the places I hang out] are really hobnob. Maybe I go to Lips, and hang out, that’s pretty slick. I adore Junior [Vasquez], so when he’s playing I go and sneak in.
EI: YOU MADE QUITE AN IMPRESSION AT THE GAY GAMES WITH YOUR DRAG TROUP…
CL: The Gay Games were really important to me. And I just try to make time for things that are really very important. I actually did the Gay Games [because] I’ve always wanted to. I have a very close friend [Chris Tanner] who is an artist and performs in drag. He helped put [everything] together for me. He was saying, “You should have your own float with all of us on it”, and I said “Well how am I going to do that in two weeks ?” He said “You can do it, you’re Cyndi Lauper !” And actually it was fabulous. I really felt gay pride. I was with my friends and my sister, and it just made me feel so proud. Greg Louganis was on our float so we felt very important.
EI: SO YOU’VE SPENT A LOT OF TIME WITH THE QUEENS.
CL: Well, I was on tour with these drag queens when I had to do some promotion in Europe. I toured through Italy and Spain and Copenhagen. We were in Amsterdam, we were wild. And in Italy we were in a tour bus driving.
EI: JUST YOU AND THE DRAG QUEENS IN FULL DRAG ?
CL: Well, they were…They live like that ?
EI: IN THE MIDDLE OF ITALY ?
CL: Yeah. It was wild. They were yelling out: “Daddy !Daddy !”- it was hysterical ! When we were in Spain we went on this TV show and we really did this number and it was kind of hysterical ’cause I’m not a dancer, so it was kind of camp. When you do something camp, you can do anything. We got there, we run on stage, we do our number, and it’s for Spain, and they’re all just sitting there, just looking at us. I felt like we were bad, like I was in Catholic school again, and I did something really bad. [The audience] was kind of shocked.
EI: WAS “THE BALLAD OF JOE AND CLEO” BASED ON YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH THEM ?
CL: The people that I wrote it for will know that it’s not really [directly] about them, it’s just the human side of being different. Like my friend Chris Tanner told me once, “You know, when I dress up in drag I dress like a woman, but because I feel like more of a man when I do.” And I thought, I understand that, so I wrote it.
EI: HOW WOULD YOU SAY SISTERS OF AVALON IS DIFFERENT FROM YOUR EARLIER WORK ?
CL: Sisters of Avalon is more relaxed. I think there’s more of me. And I always try to write about the people I know and love because if you’re a writer, that’s the one thing you’ve gotta do. Obviously from listening to this record, my circle of friends are…(laughs)… well, this is my circle of friends, you know. I always felt that in life there’s that grey area [that is] always more difficult. There’s people who don’t fit into the square pegs and round holes.
EI: YOU ONCE SAID IN ROLLING STONE THAT “IT’S NOT TOUGH TO BE YOURSELF.” DO YOU STILL BELIEVE IT ?
CL: It’s harder to be someone else. Although, you’re always refining yourself. There are some habits that you have that stink, So you have to change them. I just think that sometimes people refine the fabulous out of themselves and make themselves very humdrum, plain and have strange values on what they think is important, and just for me, with music I had to remember the joy of music because I’d forgotten. I got tied up in being a star.
EI: WHEN AND HOW DID THAT HAPPEN ?
CL: About 1986 and 1989 was the worst of it, and I just said “forget it.” I walked away. If I didn’t walk away I’d still be a hamster on a treadmill. It’s still hard to maintain what it is you want, what makes you happy, to keep it all in balance.
EI: IT SEEMS THAT IN THE 80’s WITH “TRUE COLORS”, YOU COINED THE PHRASE FOR A WAY OF LIFE. WHAT’S YOUR NEW MESSAGE TO US ?
CL: Oh my. Me, a new message ? I don’t know. I just wrote these stories. I write what I know but I don’t know about new messages. [Sisters] is a journey, I just hope that people can listen to the music and that it will be empowering. In the 80’s I tried to write about what I say and heard around me. I tried to capture the pulse and the sound. But this record is about now. There’s great moments right now.
EI: DID YOU READ THE FILM SCRIPT BEFORE WRITING “UNHOOK THE STARS” ?
CL: I read it, and of course I say it. That’s my husband in it, he played Frankie [David Thorton]. I read script first, and that’s when I started writing it. I had spoken with a lot of women who told me [how] their husbands passed away- they were older and one woman especially really moved me. [After talking with her] I read the script [again] and I said “Oh, my god, I know what this is.”
EI: IN AN ARTICLE YOU WROTE IN THE MELODY MAKER, YOU LISTED CELIA CRUZ AS AN IDOL. HAVE YOU MET HER YET ?
CL: I did ! I burst out crying…I was such a jerk…I could hardly talk to her. So stupid though, ‘cuz you feel like an idiot. She’s fabulous, she still dances and sings ! She’s a hot woman !