American kooks burned our flag to protest same-sex couples, so we might as well give equal time to a pair of visiting American performers who have different views on the subject.
One of them is Cyndi Lauper. Like Cher – who she’s opening for in Skyreach Centre tonight – the singer of Girls Just Want to Have Fun has attracted a large gay following. Lauper was grand marshal of the 1996 Gay Pride parade in New York, her signature tune has enjoyed a revival in gay circles and one of the key tracks from her last studio album was an ode to lesbian love.
While Lauper is heterosexual, married (to actor David Thornton in 1992; Little Richard performed the ceremony) and a new mom, she has gay friends and relatives. She’s obviously broached this topic during interviews before.
“I love the community”, she says. “I embrace it. I don’t know what (Cher’s) thing is, but then again, friends and family, you know? You got to stick by your friends and family and stand up for them, because in a world that’s run by fear of anybody who’s different, you got to be there and have their backs covered. Because if you don’t, all the fearful people take over and everything is run by fear, just because people are a little different. That community is made up of friends and family of mine. I am there for them. I enjoy it. It’s more fun. And I’m having a blast,” she pauses. “Does that answer your question or is that too strong? I never know what to say.”
A question was never actually asked. It’s hardly necessary when it comes to this particular entertainer. With refreshing candour (and a charming Brooklyn accent), Lauper conducts a stream-of-consciousness interview on the phone from a tour stop in Denver. The 46-year-old singer talks about everything from production techniques on her dance recordings (she used loops in 1993, long before it became the norm in pop music) and meeting her idol Joni Mitchell (whose chain-smoking gave her a headache) to details on giving birth (a 15-hour labour done the “natural” way, if you really want to know) – practically all in the same breath.
Since she and Epic Records “parted ways” shortly after her 1997 album Sisters of Avalon, Lauper is enjoying a comeback as an independent recording artist with a new version of Disco Inferno. A new full-length album is in the works.
“It’s a great summer song and it seems to be really taking off,” she says. “I don’t know where it is now, but it was No. 19 with a bullet last week.” (Another unusual trait – an artist talking about chart positions.)
Does Lauper feel any qualms about jumping on the cover song remake bandwagon? Everyone’s doing it.
“Listen. It was a fluke. Last year, my husband did a movie called The Last Days of Disco, and he played this guy Bernie in the movie and he would bring home these CDs of Studio 54 stuff so he could listen and get into character. The song goes, ‘Burn, baby burn,’ and his name was Bernie, so anyway ….”
So anyway – long story short – she did the song, and while The Last Days of Disco soundtrack producers passed, A Night at the Roxbury picked it up.
“And all of a sudden it was nominated for a Grammy!” she exclaims. “It’s extraordinary what’s happening. Honest to God, it’s a fluke. Who knew?”
Few could’ve predicted it. Tarred with the bubblegum label after her 1984 debut and the follow-up, 1986’s True Colors, Lauper’s career seemed to flounder. Many casual fans perhaps failed to realize the true depth of her talent, as a songwriter, as a producer, especially as a soul singer (if you caught her smokin’ performance on David Letterman’s 10th anniversary special, you’d know). She says she doesn’t dwell on what people might think of her any more, but she’s used to being misunderstood by now.
She recalls: “I used to chase a priest around when I was a little kid in Catholic school. And I’d always run up to him and say, ‘Fatha, fatha,’ just to walk with him as he was reading his book back and forth and he’d say, ‘And what’s your name?’ And I would say Cynthia (her given name). And he’d say, ‘Oh, that’s nice, Sylvia,’ because he was a little Irish and I’d say, ‘No, no: Cynthia.’ And he’d say, ‘Nice, Sylvia.’ And after a while, he said it so many times, I said OK, I’ll go with this: Sylvia. Good. Whatever.”
That seems to have been Lauper’s attitude for most of the ’90s – from experimenting in the studio, to landing a role on Mad About You, to being invited to tour with Cher, it all happened by happy accident. That’s what you get when you’re a girl who still just wants to have fun