She’s always been unusual, and now she’s unusually late. Cyndi Lauper’s second solo LP has been along time coming – over two years. Chalk it up to her deciding to reveal her True Colors instead of camouflaging herself under the bohemian Raggedy Ann persona she displayed on She’s So Unusual. And to a couple of other things.
For one, Cyndi insisted to her record label – Epic – that she co-produce the new album. Even though until Whitney Houston’s record came along Cyndi’s was the most successful debut LP ever, her record company still thought she mind use the help of a big-name star producer. Cyndi wouldn’t have it. She also fought them tooth and nail when they asked her to record some established Hollywood songwriters’ would-be blockbusters.
She insisted on doing mostly her own tunes, which at one point the record comp any said “didn’t sound like surefire hits!” There were battles aplenty during the making of True Colors, and in the end, a co-producer’s credit goes to Lenny Petze, one of Epic’s Vice Presidents.
There was also the problem of Cyndi’s health. About a year ago, Cyndi was hospitalized for what her press people called “abdominal surgery.” It was even rumored she might have some nebulous fatal disease, possibly even cancer. The whale thing was kept very much under wraps pretty hard to do if you’re Cyndi Lauper and you love to talk. But whatever the mysterious disease was, Cyndi made a healthy recovery and has, in the last six months, shown up at all kinds of public events, putting in her inimitable Queens-accented two cents.
Then there was the old over-exposure excuse. Cyndi wanted to get out of the public eye for a while – as well as the public ear – and Epic functions on the theory that when you disappear, you have to disappear big – from the street, magazines, and especially, the radio. They’ve been successful in having another artist, Michael Jackson, almost completely disappear, so it seems they know what they’re doing.
When Cyndi finally reemerges, performing on Patti LaBelle’s Thanksgiving special, it seemed she’d been reborn – or at least reshorn. Well-known for flame-colored tresses, which graduated to shades of tangerine at some points, Cyndi’s lately been wearing her perennially conspicuous locks a shade of platinum blonde And stick straight like a 1963 London girl – very Mod. This shocked some people who’ve also observed Annie Lennox’s conversion from flame to platinum. But Cyndi’s first experiment with haircolor dates back to when she was nine. “I wanted green hair for Saint Patrick’s Day, so used green food coloring,” she recalls fondly. “At twelve, used Sun-In, then went on to Nice n’ Easy. Before I knew it, every month I needed another bottle. So I went on to the hard stuff. I once tried to dye it back to brown-my natural color – but it turned red by mistake. But I liked it pretty much, so I kept it.”
The reason she’s now dispensed with the red hair is that it’s become a little too popular – not very unusual at all. “It’s fun to look different,” she squeals. “After you finish getting dressed and having a great time doing it, you go out and deal with everybody. Then you realize nobody else looks like that and you have a problem going to the grocer. But the biggest problem happens when it becomes too accepted, to the point where everyone is doing it. That’s the Catch-22 I got caught in. But I like to change all the time – maybe I’m just an amoeba. I don’t know.”
No, Cyndi, you’re not an amoeba. It’s OK to change. You don’t have to wear all that jewelry anymore or all those Aunt Jemima get ups. But you already decided that, right? Just like you already decided you’re going to tie the knot with your longtime manager, boyfriend, video co-star Dave Wolff sometime this fall. There’s no reason why you – Cyndi Lauper, unusual girl – can’t be a grown-up and still be unusual. You don’t have to wear your uniqueness on your sleeve anymore; everyone knows it’s there.
Actually it seems the real innovations will be going into Cyndi’s music. Another major change Cyndi’s enacted is collaboration – for her own record and for other people’s. Her tavern, collaborator, she says, is Patti LaBelle “Singing with her is like being in a different world,’ croaks Cyndi, who wrote one cut with Patti’s voice in mind which will probably be on Patti’s next LP. Meanwhile, the pair recorded the duet Iko Iko which was intended for inclusion on True Colors. Patti absolutely loves Cyndi and is proud to be one of her biggest vocal influences. “She told me,” Patti beams. “I’m part of the reason she’s singing now.” The two songbirds met when Cyndi jumped onstage with Patti in Philadelphia just a few years ago, then followed her backstage, telling her how great she thought Patti was. Now they love to exchange their favorite things – recipes.
As for other sharing Cyndi also wrote and sings Code of Silence with Billy Joel on his new record The Bridge. (The song has nothing to do with Chuck Norris – it’s about preserving one’s soul, something Cyndi obviously knows a bit about.) And she’s also slated to co-produce and co-direct all her upcoming videos, of which there will be many. There’s Hulk Hogan and company, and her mother will be in them. Maybe Cyndi’s grown up enough to go it alone.
One thing we do know is that she’ll be going behind the big-big cameras in late ’86. Cyndi will have her first acting role, opposite Dan Aykroyd, in a comedy film called Vibes. Cyndi is angling to get out of the teen bracket. She wants to sing adult songs, to produce and to move from comedy to singing the way Barbra Streisand – another New York girl – does. And it wouldn’t be at all unusual if she pulls it off.