Cyndi Lauper on Lesbians in her Family, Joni Mitchell and Gay Pride

As 5’3″ Cyndi Lauper once noted, “You have to remember’ no matter what you’re told’ that God loves all the flowers, even the wild ones that grow on the side of the highway.” Ms. Lauper still believes that.

And she also believes she can act. You’ll be surprised to find that you agree when you see her emote as Christopher Walken’s girlfriend in The Opportunists, a tongue-in-cheek indie about a small time crime caper that takes place in Queens, New York. It’s not going to set film history on fire but it’s beautifully shot and does show off a newly toned-down Cyndi.

With a voice that doesn’t grate and a hair color your mother might choose, she’s utterly convincing as a tough but sensitive bar owner who wants her beau Walken to just be a good guy and marry her.

In person, however, Cyndi was back to purple tresses, although her hair style and her garb were rather classy. The girl was fit and ready to let loose.

PlanetOut: At the Joni Mitchell tribute concert which was recently broadcast over TBS, some folks said you gave the best performance. You were the one who brought the house down. Did you find many people shocked Cyndi Lauper was doing Joni? Most music fans probably only know of your early career.

CL: Oh, no! If you listen to “Time After Time,” you see how the poetry had to be influenced by somebody, and it certainly wasn’t the Beatles. I mean they were excellent and they influenced me in a lot of ways, and their writing was incredible … and I can’t say that John Lennon wasn’t a wonderful poet, but because, my God, he was, and he did influence me. But then there’s some stuff in there that definitely came from growing up and listening to Joni Mitchell.

PlanetOut: When you sing a song like “I’m Going to Be Strong,” you just milk it brilliantly. That’s a sensational performance. But do you get upset with folks who can’t see past your outrageous persona? Your outfits?

CL: You know, maybe for a time I did. But it’s been such a long time now, I’ve just come to settle on how I feel about myself. I like color. I do do funny things, and I am kind of funny sometimes even when I don’t mean to be. Maybe part of it’s stupidity. You know what I mean. But I think you’ve got to be who you are. It isn’t my issue to tell everybody what it is that I do. My issue is to keep doing it and to keep the channel open because while you’re doing it, and you’re in the moment of doing it, sometime greatness touches you.

PlanetOut: Well, being a great artist, one has to be selfish. Look at Tchaikovsky. [Cyndi laughs] Lots of gays are going to be seeing this film, The Opportunists, because they adore you. You have done so much for the gay community and AIDS.

CL: All right! Let me just say one thing. I’ve done what I could. I wish I could have done something really incredible. I only did what I could do, but it’s not like a separate community for me. I’m a friend and family member, OK, and when you have a gay person in your family or they are your close friends, you’ve got to stand up and say, “Hey, I’m proud of you. You’re a great guy. You’re a great gal. I’m proud of you.” Because if you don’t, and you really love that person, and you don’t show up, that’s really sending the wrong message to the person.

To the world. We’re all blessed to be born in this country because this is a wonderful country of real opportunity. I mean it’s hard but we weren’t born in a war torn country. We didn’t have major volcanoes all over us. You know we don’t have earthquakes. We do but we haven’t been devastated like other parts of the world, right? I mean Serbia. What if you were born in Serbia, what would your career be like then?

PlanetOut: Sadly, financially, not much different.

CL: Well, the only thing that I see that’s unfortunate about this country is not what happens to us, it’s what we do each other. And so if we can extend our arms and give support to each other and celebrate our differences, we got something. Me, growing up, my sister is a lesbian. She’s one of the most fantastic people I know. She’s always been heroic to me. She has always tried to do something good in the world. She’s been an inspiration to me, and I know I’m not just … I ain’t just talking, you know.
Everybody in this country has somebody in their family. Like I used to go to weddings, and they’d be like, “Oh, you’re sister’s the . . .” And I’d go, “The photographer” because you know … and I wore a tuxedo too because I knew they were going to give her a problem. And this is way before k.d. lang. So if you don’t stand up for each other, what’s going to happen? What are we going to do? Closet ourselves again? I’m not up for it. And that’s a little arrogant of me and it’s a little selfish of me because I’m comfortable within the community because that’s kind of like an extension of my own lifestyle except I’m not gay. I’m heterosexual, but I could give a (leaves a pause for an expletive) you know, if you are or not. It’s who you are. I have so many wonderful [gay] friends and my family whom I love deeply, you gotta show up. It’s just a … You gotta show up. It’s half-selfish, and half I feel an obligation, so I do what I can. I don’t see it as a heroic thing because it ain’t.

PlanetOut: So you’re a mother now. … What’s his name?

CL: Declyn. We spell it the Scottish way. … He’s 2 and 1/2. … He’s a great guy. He’s very funny. I’m enamored with the kid. Yeah, he’s my kid. He’s fantastic. He’s a lot like his dad. Unfortunately he has my temperament. I hope he has my voice. because if has my temperament and his father’s voice, we’re all in trouble.

PlanetOut: Getting back to the gay thing, you’re just being modest.

CL: No. No. No. If family members like me would stand up as opposed to not saying anything and if they’d say, “I’m loud and proud,” it would send a message out into this country that we’re not all bigots and homophobic and you know what I mean. You got to stand up and say it.


Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif., Aug. 7, 2000 — To find your favorite ’80s music icon, one can merely flip to VH-1’s “Behind the Music” special and learn about their bouts with depression, drugs, breakups and comeback attempts.

To find Cyndi Lauper, flip to a “Mad About You” rerun, and you’ll likely see her in her Emmy-winning role as Marianne, Ira’s loud ex-wife. Or check out the big screen this summer, where she’ll be costarring with Christopher Walken in First Look Pictures’ “The Opportunists.”

Walken plays an ex-con now trying to live an honest life as an auto mechanic. But when a stranger (Peter McDonald) who claims to be an old cousin arrives and asks him to help in a last heist, Walken risks his stable life for the money. Lauper plays his girlfriend Sally, who loves him but doesn’t want to watch him go to jail.

“That was the tough one,” Lauper says of her character’s dilemma. “But sometimes you gotta just do the right thing, otherwise it’s just gonna get worse, or that’s what I thought she was thinking.”

While Lauper is sporting a mane of purple/white/black hair nowadays (purple is a “healing color,” she says), her character in “The Opportunists” is much more subdued, the opposite of her gum-snapping “Mad About You” role. Lauper says she was attracted to the film, after previous big-screen turns in “Vibes” and “Life With Mikey,” because of its realistic portrayal of down-on-the-luck life in Queens.

“I’ve been told my whole life there’s a list of rules about what’s right and what’s wrong, but all my life there’s been a gray area where real people live. And I guess that’s what attracted me to this film, too, because this was the gray area where real people live,” Lauper says. “They don’t have cars blow up, big shoot ’em up, blah blah blah. … This is where real people live and where real people can’t deal with the rules cause they’re different or whatever.”

Lauper is no stranger to breaking rules; after all, her first album, appropriately titled “She’s So Unusual,” spawned four Top Five singles and established the singer-songwriter as the force behind the happy anthem “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” Fifteen years later, the wacky wife and mother (son Declyn Wallace was born in 1997) is still moving with the times.

“I oughtta tell all those people who used to yell at me all the time and call me ‘comedian,’ that now I have an Emmy to prove it,” Lauper laughs.

Lauper’s next album is due in 2001. In the meantime, “The Opportunists” is set to open Aug. 11.


The Land of Laupertunity

Cyndi Lauper’s career has been as unpredictable as her hair color, but her new movie, The Opportunists, might be her most surprising twist yet: silly singer goes serious thespian.

Girls just want to have fun, but for now a cup of coffee will do. Just hours off the red-eye back to New York from a weekend of shows in California, Cyndi Lauper is slumping in the makeup chair of a photo studio located between a housing project and the Fashion Institute of Technology, where the next generation of Dolces and Gabannas are honing their craft. Lauper says the California gigs-including an appearance at San Diego’s gay pride festival-were a blast, but it seems all they’ve left her with are exhaustion and rainbow-colored nails, which, she says, sadly, will have to be changed for the shoot. Pride’s become an annual tradition for married mama Lauper, and she speaks of it in terms of a deep obligation.

“You have to stand up for your friends and family and be proud of them,” she says simply.

Set in Lauper’s old Queens stomping grounds, The Opportunists (First Look Pictures) also stars Christopher Walken, but both he and Lauper have been cast against type-so don’t buy a ticket expecting him to play another psycho while she busts out the Betty Boop shtick for comic relief.

“It’s very simple, very to the point,” she says of the film. “No violence, no cursing, and it holds your attention with no sex.” It doesn’t have a lot of laughs either. From her riotous early videos through her Emmy-winning guest spot on TV’s Mad About You, Lauper has always been a crack-up, but as Walken’s long-suffering barkeep gal pal Sally, she holds her own in a dramatic setting and looks great doing it.

Like all the roles she chooses, the resilient Sally is reminiscent of “people I knew, who I grew up with, who were the foundation of what I thought the world was like. It’s shocking once you leave Queens!” More movie roles are a possibility if the right part comes along, though nothing’s set for now. Plans for a sitcom are on the back burner, too, while she plots her next musical direction.

Currently, Lauper’s writing new material with none other than Junior Vasquez. Their collaboration dates back to 1992’s Hat Full of Stars album, on which they shared writing and producing chores; most recently, they teamed up on a Grammy-nominated remake of Disco Inferno for the A Night at the Roxbury soundtrack.

Though Hat Full of Stars ran a gamut of moods and pop styles, Inferno was the kind of dance floor call-to-feet Vasquez is best known for.

“Junior feels like we should do a whole album of dance,” says Lauper, “but I can’t. I don’t wanna be homogenized.”

Though it’s been awhile since she’s been a presence on the radio, Lauper’s records have sold consistently, and with the recent rise of gutsy, flame-haired singers like Pink and Gwen Stefani-not to mention the return of the World Wrestling Federation-her tutti-frutti worldview has come full circle. It’s not that big a step from Girls Just Want to Have Fun in vintage petticoats to “girl power” in Union Jack platforms, so did Lauper feel any kind of kinship with the Spice Girls? She scoffs, “I like things with a little more edge, like Cibo Matto and Japanese musician Ryuichi Sakamoto.”

The makeup’s on, the pride manicure is gone, and the camera’s loaded. Jet lag be damned-suddenly, Lauper comes alive. The camera loves her, and the feeling is mutual. Having given lighting tips to the photographer, using the books of old silent movie stills she brought along as examples, she works those Clara-Bow-meets- Louise-Brooks features for all they’re worth.

Costume No.1, a vaguely monastic black getup, is rejected-“too Sister Mary Scary”-though the contrast of her pale skin is radiant in the Polaroids.

The studio office assistant doubles as a DJ and starts a set by spinning Prince’s Lady Cab Driver, while Lauper, in a marabou-trimmed number, makes like graduation day at the Barbizon modeling school, “I’m wearing feathers, and I’m happy,” she laughs. “You know, I saw Mahogany! I didn’t really-I just saw the coming attraction where the guy says ‘You’re fabulous, you’re fabulous!'”

It’s just as well she was spared the unhappy ending.

Costume No.3’s a purple brocade coat-“A steal!”-over a black skirt with roses. Soon she hikes those roses skyward and, with an imp ish grin, thrusts her bare foot at the camera. The rainbow manicure may have been painted over, but the gay-pride pedicure is taking a defiant turn in front of the lens. Beautiful like a rainbow, Lauper’s true colors are still shining through