The Woman who didn’t want to be Madonna.
Louise Gannon meets Cyndi Lauper, the singer whose look and attitudes predated the Material Girl.
Cyndi Lauper is standing in a hotel suite holding two copies of her latest CD’s in front of her naked breasts. A photographer snaps away. “It’s for the Sun,” she yelps in her Betty Boop comic-strip voice. “They’re gonna put me on Page Three.”
Ten minutes later and dressed in a grey jumper with her hair coloured blue and green, she shrugs her shoulders: “They’re not exploiting me. Hell, I’m exploiting them. I used the album and the single. You won’t be able to miss them in that shot.” She lets out a quick burst of laughter. Cyndi Lauper hasn’t had a hit in a while. Fifteen years ago, it might all have been different – if Cyndi had wanted it to be. There was a time when her look, her attitude and even her voice proved the inspiration for another New York wannabe.
“In the early Eighties I got famous,” She recalls. “I found it terrifying. I felt embarrassed because I thought I wasn’t good enough. I spent the first few years trying to find places to hide away. “I remember the first time I saw pictures in a magazine of a girl wearing the same sort of freaked-out clothes I wore. I went cold. I felt that my identity had been stolen. It probably explains why I changed my look so often. I’m always running away.”
So when the fellow New York lost girl Madonna came along with her similar image and similar songs, Cyndi stepped back and allowed her to get on with it. Many have attacked Madonna for cashing in on Lauper’s ideas but she just smiles; “I could never had done what she did or live the life she does.” At 43, Cyndi seems to be having fun again. She looks in excellent shape. Her figure is tiny and toned (yoga and jogging) and her skin appears unlined. “It’s a family secret,” she says. “I’ve been putting moisturizing creams on my face since I was nine.
My grandmother is 96 and she has the skin of a baby.” But Cyndi doesn’t want to talk about skin-care. She wants to talk about her music. “People are still more hung up about how I look than how I perform.” Her new album, Sisters of Avalon, is released on February 10th and the single, You Don’t Know, should enter the charts this Sunday. She is excited about the project, believing that it’s one of her best albums.
“When I was a kid I really, really wanted to be famous. I loved to sing, I loved to dress up. I loved to live in an alternative world to the one I was stuck with. I had a lot of misery with a step-father who physically abused my mother and terrified me, my brother and my sister.” Cyndi has since found her own happiness. In 1992 she married Scots-born film director David Thornton (he is currently working on Home Alone III). “He sorted my head out. I have a lot of daemons but he can handle them. I’d split up with my fiancé, who was also my manager, and fallen into a really abusive relationship. David came along and I was calm again.”
She would like children, but refuses to be traumatized if nothing happens. “I love that I am working again even though it keeps me away from David. He encourages me to put down my thoughts and feelings on paper. At first I hated it because I’m dyslexic, but now I love it. David told me that I was a poet and I could express myself better than anyone, even if the spellings are all wrong.” She smiles and adds: “And with a man like that, you can see why I am so happy.”
Which is definitely something Madonna can’t say.