Cyndi Lauper Tries to Buy Success: No Sale

Can it really be nearly six years since Cyndi Lauper erupted with her debut album, “She’s So Unusual”? That album presented an artist with unlimited promise. She was a virtuosic singer with a vivid, irrepressible personality. A songwriter of no small merit (she co-authored the soon-to-be-standard “Time After Time”), Lauper was also a shrewd judge of which songs by others would fit her beguiling style. “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” and Cyndi did.

The follow-up, “True Colors,” was a more sober work, yet Lauper was still able to put an eccentric spin on such oldies as “Iko Iko” and “What’s Going On.” The title song, by Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly, was a metaphor for relationships that Lauper could identify with, and she sang it passionately.

There’s no such passion on “A Night to Remember,” Lauper’s third and most disappointing album. It seems to be a work of premature panic. Lauper’s acting debut last year in the movie “Vibes” with Jeff Goldblum was a fiasco, but Lauper should have been able to slough it off the way Madonna simply ignored cinematic bummers like “Shanghai Surprise.” Lauper’s single “There’s a Hole in My Heart (All the Way To China)” was also a flop, and therein lies the biggest mistake of her career: taking that setback personally.

Instead of forging ahead and reasserting herself with confidence and vision, Lauper has attempted to buy success on “A Night to Remember.” Many artists, including Heart and Pat Benatar as well as the Lauper of “True Colors,” have gone to Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly for sugarcoated, format-adaptable pop-rock hits. But their self-consciously commercial songs should be kept behind a pane of glass with the warning: “Break only in case of emergency.”

Lauper must have felt the house was burning down, because there are six Steinberg-Kelly songs here. One of them, “Like A Cat,” (written with Christina Amphlett of the Divynyls), amusingly suits Lauper’s quirky personality. The rest range from formulaic to banal. “I Drove All Night” would be a perfectly pleasant Sheena Easton tune; Lauper sings it with so little urgency that you get the feeling she saw the lyrics for the first time when the session began.

She doesn’t fare much better on “My First Night Without You,” on which she shares writing credit with Steinberg and Kelly. Lauper relies too heavily on her flawless technique in an attempt to compensate for the fact that she doesn’t believe a word she’s singing. “Unconditional Love” is one of Steinberg and Kelly’s better formula songs – it certainly has an agreeable enough hook – but the lyrics ring false. “When I see you I surrender . . . ” she sings, but that’s exactly wrong: Unconditional love shouldn’t require surrender.

“Heading West” has promise, but Lauper again sounds alienated from the lyrics – you doubt that she’s experienced the emotions about which she’s singing. “Primitive” is a “Billie Jean” knockoff that’s anything but primitive: It’s too elaborately conceived to be of interest.

To satisfy this desperate, and really unnecessary, craving for a hit, Lauper collaborates with other big-name writers. “Insecurious” (I’ll say!), by Lauper, Desmond Child and Diane Warren, is as cute as the wordplay in the title. But Warren’s “I Don’t Want to Be Your Friend” is boring schlock that Lauper sings with so little enthusiasm you wonder what she was threatened with. “Dancing With a Stranger,” one of two collaborations that include Frankie Previte (he wrote some “Dirty Dancing” hits) is an awkward mix of inappropriate styles: late 1970s disco with half-hearted heavy metal.

The feisty, flamboyant Cyndi Lauper we used to know is all but inaudible in these contrived settings. Before the songs start and after they’re over, we hear a few faint snatches of Lauper singing what sounds like an Appalachian folk tune which she’s titled “Kindred Spirit.” What the voice seems to be saying is: `Help! I’m being held prisoner in someone else’s vision of what my career should be!” The message of “A Night To Remember” is: Free Cyndi Lauper.

Vibes Movie, tries too hard, Lauper Deserve a Better Film

there were an Academy Award for Most Instantly Forgettable Film, the odds-on early favorite would be “Vibes.” This comedy, which tries so hard to be wacky you almost can hear huffing and puffing on the soundtrack, isn’t offensive or moronic or devoid of laughs. It’s just thoroughly unexceptional.

The story is about two psychics, played by Jeff Goldblum and Cyndi Lauper, who’re hired by a wacky eccentric, played by Peter Falk, to go to Ecuador and find a ruin.

Cyndi Lauper at the Crossroads

HERE SHE WAS IN 1984, A BLUE-LIPPED, ORANGE-HAIRED, golden-voiced, self-proclaimed misfit whose odes to fun, loyalty, and masturbation elevated her to instant international glitterati status and turned her into the world’s most incongruous feminist heroine. Who else would have come up with that image but the inimitable Cyndi Lauper? And who else would have thought it would work?

Onstage she resembled a wacked-out Lucy Ricardo who’d finally hogtied Ricky to his conga drum. Lauper’s debut video came closer to Judy Holliday than to Billie Holiday. With her Archie Bunker accent, ragtag retro wear from mix-and-match decades, and cheery ding battiness, she could easily have been written off as just another record biz gimmick. Once the audio caught up with the visuals, though, you realized something else was happening. Underneath the Technicolor flamboyance was a phenomenal voice with a four-octave range. When you finished looking at the music and began to listen to it, you realized there was a message to the madness: girls should be free to play with their friends, their men, or themselves.

Four years later Cyndi Lauper is trying to re-create the breakthrough vision that put her over the top. She’s just released a single, “There’s a Hole in My Heart That Goes All the Way to China,” and its companion video, a high energy, hysterically funny action/adventure romp through a Chinese laundry. Her first album in two years, tentatively titled Kindred Spirits, is about to be released. And Vibes, her first feature, will be appearing nationwide. If Cyndi Lauper used to look like a street urchin, her new image, just in time for the release of the album and film, gives new meaning to the phrase “radical chic.” Posing for Ms. wearing three different colored slips, nine belts, and a fake flower, bi-colored hair done in a lopped-off modified bride of Frankenstein with circa 1959 spit curls, she looks, ummmm, elegant.

At the time that we meet to talk, she’s been working 10-hour days, recording, dubbing, producing. The video needs final editing; the album cover has to be completed; commercials for the movie must be made. Wearing no makeup, dressed in a June Cleaver housedress, hair chopped short and dyed to a relatively conservative platinum blond-the image is of a pure businesswoman exercising quality control over her product. The success of this album is crucial at this juncture in her career. The walls of the record companies are lined with platinum albums made by one-trick ponies; people who never repeated their initial spectacular success. The novelty wears off quickly in a business that eats its young for breakfast. And with audiences constantly bombarded with newer/better/different images, loyalty is not something you can count on taking to the bank.

Cyndi Lauper set a standard for herself that’s hard to duplicate. Her first album, She’s So Unusual, sold 4.5 million copies in the United States alone. It was the first album by a female artist to spin off four Top Ten singles and earned her a Grammy, Rolling Stone’s “Best New Artist” of the year award, MTV’s “Best Female Video” artist award, and the title of Ms. Woman of the Year. According to an executive at Epic Records her second album, True Colors, was “a little to the left of the public.” It sold well, but despite a hauntingly beautiful Top Ten title-track single, other cuts, like a remake of Marvin Gaye’s politically explosive “What’s Going On,” failed to match her initial success.

Besides her extraordinary musical ability-which doesn’t necessarily count for much in the music business-the one thing Lauper has going that might propel her past the too-big too-soon jinx is an image of uncompromising outrageousness and insistent individuality, that a public overwhelmed by New Wave clones instantly took to heart. Her free-to-be-you-and-me appeal cut across class, gender, and age lines. In case anybody doubts this, they should have been in the streets of New York trying to manage a Sunday afternoon for Ms. Tourists from Sweden stopped in their tracks and pulled out their Hasselblads. Street people and Bowery winos waved as if greeting an old friend. A carload of non_english-speaking locals from nearby Chinatown held up traffic. Finally, a prototype preppie with Wellesley emblazoned across her chest approached, ignored the “get lost” gestures from the assistants, stuck out her hand to Lauper and said, “I have all your albums and I think you’re wonderful. I really admire you.”

L.L. Bean meets the shmatta queen. In person, without the living color accoutrements of her performing persona, she is a juxtaposition of opposites. A streetwise tough guy who seems soft, younger than just-turned 35, vulnerable. A woman who managed to flunk out of four schools, yet whose most obvious attribute is a razor-sharp mind. A nonstop comedian with an intense need to be taken seriously. The reason there seems to be two Cyndi Laupers is because, her current incarnation consciously refuses to discard the former Cyndi Lauper.

She once was a tough guy; homeless, destitute, hospitalized for malnutrition, living on handouts in the streets of New York. She once had no choice but to dress in odds and ends, using her outer artistic sense as compensation. jokes were a survival method for a woman who, for years, no one ever took seriously. It’s as if she now wants her “I’m still one of the kids from the neighborhood” attitude to be a notice to people still stuck in her former life that if she escaped, maybe they can too.

What she escaped from was hardscrabble poverty, Catholic rigidity, and what she terms “Immigrant ignorance.” Scrambling, struggling, barely surviving were conditions she inherited not long after birth. Her parents divorced when she was five and her mother, left to support three children on her own, worked 12-hour days as a waitress. “There wasn’t any child care and my grandfather wouldn’t allow my grandmother to baby-sit for us because he felt that this way my mother would go back to my father. He was trying to help her.”

The irony of the memory, though obviously palpful: is tinged with a modicum of forgiveness. “Italian immigrant mentality. He was taught that way so it wasn’t his fault. He was taught to be ignorant.” The Catholic Church that her family faithfully supported didn’t offer any solace. “They kicked me out of Catholic school because my mother was divorced. That didn’t make any sense to me as a kid because I could see my mother working, breaking her back to put food on the table, but she still wasn’t good enough to be a Catholic. Pissed me off.”

Home was not a heaven in any way, shape, or form. Things happened there that she still feels uncomfortable discussing. “There was a conspiracy of silence at that time that let people have power over us. I didn’t know then that if you broke the silence, if you just told someone else, the power would disappear. I just knew that I felt like nobody could protect us and nobody could protect my mom except us and we sort of grew up like strong little soldiers.” Her escape, her only haven, was always her voice. “Even when I talked, I sang. Always. As a kid I knew that all my power as a person came from my voice.”

New York is known for its performing arts high schools-remember Fame? But getting admitted takes knowledgeable parents wit political savvy. Talent wasn’t enough to get her over. “I wanted to go to Performing Arts but they put me in a fashion industry trade school. I failed everything. I really felt stupid. Someone even called me a simp. Then they put me in a special class for nonachieving geniuses, so I figured here’s my chance. I failed that one too. Then I felt like I was failing everything and I had these horrible headaches [later diagnosed as TMJ and a severe sinus condition]. Finally a doctor prescribed barbiturates and I got into them. The only escape I had was drugs because I figured the craziest person would be left alone.”

Money and fame haven’t eased the memories. Lauper admits the difficulty in talking about that painful period in her life, but in a manner that has become part of her trademark, she quickly turns it into a joke. “So one of the high schools that expelled me just decided to give me a diploma, and look what that piece of paper’s done for me: I got an album coming out, I got a movie. See, you need that diploma. You need that education. Like my grandpa always said, ‘When you loin, you oin.” Humor is the Lauper way.

In an offhand conversation with an assistant, she’s overheard saying, “I studied voice for seven and a half years and then I said fuck it. What was I gonna be-an opera singer?” This belies the fact that talking with her about voice is only a little less technical than talking to Einstein about physics . She may be a natural talent, but she took her training seriously, learning phrasing studying Billie Holiday records, singing Charlie Parker solos, writing out Ella Fitzgerald’s scats until she could reproduce them. Since no one ever took her aspirations seriously, maybe she feels it’s easier to pretend not to take them seriously herself.

A girl having fun was the image, and girls who spend hours a day perfecting their craft are more complex than “funlovin” suggests. If people assume you are a spontaneous lightweight, why not give them what they want? That way you’re in control, you have the power. Underestimation has its advantages. Control was a thing Lauper desperately needed as she battled to succeed in music. She ran across hustlers, con men, people who had no qualms about abusing her talent, and they all had their own image of what would make her a star. That was only part of the problem. There was still the fact that when people have misjudeged your talents all your life, it’s not easy to put say “Run with it.”

Particularly in a male-dominated industry where female vocalists referred to as “girl singers” are marketed by being dressed in just enough leather to cover their pubic hair and forced to sing about pleasin’/teasin’/sleazin’. Lauper became intransigent about compromise, believing she was the only one with the magic secret of how to get over. This didn’t endear her to industry executives and although her voice had become legendary within the New York club scene, so too had her reputation as a woman with a mind of her own. She eventually won the battles and the war, and her first album is a tribute to the soundness of her unique vision.

It seems ironic that in the final analysis what seemed to be a risky venture in the wild, iconoclastic image she presented-the oddball feminist who goofily danced across the MTV creen-was actually the most conservative way she could have marketed herself. It was just Cyndi being Cyndi. The question is, now that she’s “made it,” now that she’s successfully done it her way, will she be flexible enough to change if that’s what it takes to keep selling records? Having read The Managerial Woman, she should know when to run with the ball and when to pass it. She’s been through therapy, because “the kind of computer I had in my brain worked like this: when you put in stress, you pull out freak.”

Yet neither of those was enough to prevent her from a virtually unexplainable foray into wrestling management. If anything has slowed the career she worked so hard to create, it’s her bout with the Hulk Hogan crowd. Audiences kept waiting for the joke and there wasn’t one. Some industry insiders blame the semisoft sales of True Colors on the fact that she confused the public. It will be interesting to see how the public reacts to her feature film debut, especially since this is the first major project she’s been involved in over which she didn’t maintain complete control.

At first she turned down the role because “I didn’t want to look like an idiot,” but she reconsidered because she felt a special kinship with her character, a psychic who consults with an unseen spiritual guide named Louise. Lauper describes the experience of making Vibes by saying, “I was a hired hand and when you’re a hired hand you’re learning.”

But although Lauper may see this first film as part of her education, the critics may not take her neophyte status into account. They can be brutal with musicians turned actors (witness the reviews of Madonna’s last two films and her Broadway debut). The fact that Lauper has always had acting aspirations should be obvious to anyone who understands the music video revolution. Instead of trying to outmacho (or as she says, “macha”) Billy Idol, instead of slithering around in front of the camera in order to give some guy a hard bass line, in two-and-a-half minute vignettes she creates plots, characters, and subtext. “Of course I had my own preconceived notions about what acting in films was. I learned a lot about myself, and that was important. There were moments when it came through, like singing. That’s when I connected and that’s when I was centered. In my heart I wanted to be Ingrid Bergman or Vivien Leigh, but the best I could come up with was honest.”

Only Cyndi Lauper could hope to be Vivien Leigh her first time out, but then, only people with big dreams get big rewards. This is a woman who everyone else considered least likely to succeed, after all. “Every once in a while I’ll realize what happened in my life, what’s been accomplished, how far I’ve come, and that I’m not a dummy. Then I think of the person in high school who called me a simp and I say to myself, there’s a lot of justice in this world.” Here is a woman who moved past her past and looked the record industry in the eye, demanding more than she had a right to hope for. And she’s done it while refusing to disassociate herself from her days as a victim. Some in the industry may not believe that Lauper can keep her star in ascendancy.

But armed with the belief that “If there’s a will, there’s away,” Lauper has an alchemist’s conviction that she can create gold. “Success changes everything that happened before when nobody could be in control. It changes it; things are different now. And that’s the key to me: that no matter what happened it did develop me into this person. I’m not a child anymore. I’m not powerless. I can take a step backward, look at what’s really going on, and ignore the guy who’s freakin’ out inside.”

The Honeymooners Comic Book Interview

At first glance there is more similarities than differences between Cyndi Lauper and Jackie Gleason. Their shapes aren’t real similar. Neither are their tastes in clothes. Neither is their music.

But just as Gleason composed and co-wrote music, so does Cyndi Lauper. Justas Jackie made a point of watching every instrument and every piece of equipment, and informing himself of every aspect of his art from his earliest days in the business, so does Cyndi Lauper. And just as Jackie’s best works depended on the excellence of an entire team, so too — as Cyndi is quick to say –does Cyndi’s.

Besides she was almost born on Chauncey Street. Well anyhow, in Richmond Hill, Queens, which is a mere matter of subway stops away. A few months ago, she went back to Richmond Hill to participate in her high school graduation ceremony — having missed it the first time around, when she was a teenager.

Though she never appeared at a RALPH convention, Cyndi Lauper was one of the club’s first celebrity members. There is an unconfirmed rumor that when she joined, she yelled, “This is big, big, BIG ! Probably the biggest thing I ever got into….!”

Interview

HC: Are you really a Honeymooners fan?
CL: I watch them every night.

HC: Would you have enjoyed playing Alice ?
CL: I love to see her in action. I think she is pretty terrific. She was the best straight man I’ve ever seen. She was so good.

HC: The writers gave her some great lines.
CL: There are so many that stick out in my mind, like “Tell us, oh Richard the Chicken hearted. The peasants have a right to know.” That’s one of my favorite lines. And the time that she wants to buy a TV, but Ralph is too cheap to spring for one. So Alice explodes that she is tired of looking at the furniture and four walls. “I want to look at Liberace!!!”

HC: You sounded just like her.
CL: Thanks… I think. But really, I enjoy all of them. All of them. I love Norton. His body language was so excellent. Trixie, she’s very subtle. Shereally didn’t get a big chance. But she’s great. And some people were so much fun that they stay with you even though they were on only a few times, like Mrs. Manicotti. Or Carlos the mambo dancer who was on only once. And Gleason of course.

HC: Your friend Lou Albano did a superb ob of playing Ralph when they’re-created the famous Ralph and Ed grape juice sketch at a RALPH convention a few years ago. I couldn’t get over how much of Gleason he managed to project -his voice, his body language, his timing.
CL: Lou’s a funny guy.

HC: He is also very sweet and caring. We interviewed him for our number 7issue, which just coincidentally happened to feature him in a story.
In the interview, he mentioned that you and he have worked together to raise money for multiple sclerosis.
CL: I think it’s good to able to give something back, and it’s good to use your talent for something good.

HC: Was the same thing true when you recorded “We are the World”?
CL: It was an amazing experience, just to see all those people in one room.
At first I didn’t understand the song. But once I heard all the voices, and once I saw everybody sing, I got the feeling.

HC: Getting back to Lou Albano, what did you think of his role as Frankie the Fixer in Wise guys ?
CL: It was hard for me to get used to it at first, because I know Lou as a friend. Then I got into watching it, and I thought he was really good. I enjoyed that movie anyway, the whole thing.

HC: And now, like Lou Albano, are about to take a plunge into comedy. With Peter Falk and Jeff Goldblum.
CL: I play a psychic studying to be a beautician. Which sounds bizarre, but not as bizarre as.. I don’t think she’s as bizarre when I fool around.
The character is funny though, and she has very strong instinct. She doesn’t think of herself as very smart, but throughout the movie, she’s the one coming up with the ideas. She’s the one saying, “Lets go to Ecuador.” Even though it seems like she isn’t doing anything, she is.

HC: By doing what?
CL: I can’t tell you the end.

HC: I know that you are making a new album. When will that be released ?
CL: In August.

HC: Is that about the same time your movie is opening up ?
CL: Yes.

HC: How was it to work with Peter Falk and Jeff Goldblum on the movie ? Did you learn a lot from them ?
CL: I loved it. I though they were terrific. They are really funny guys.
I had a coach with me, but also I watched them. Jeff comes from a completely different place than Peter. Totally opposite techniques.
But, you are always learning. The more things I do, the more things Understand about the different mediums. Rock video is real quick, so everything is real quick and large. A commercial is even quicker and even larger and it is even more shocking, it’s only fifteen seconds — so whatever you do, you’ve got to do quick and then you’re gone. A movie is a completely different approach. It’s slow enough for the camera to go in and catch your thoughts, without you’re having to come on like an explosion. You have more chance for depth.

HC: Are you a naturally free-spirited person ?
CL: I try– until I get uptight.

HC: Who have you been influenced by ? Did you used to sing to, say, the Supremes when you were a teenager ? Mama Cass ? Who did u enjoy ?
CL: I enjoyed everybody, but I really enjoyed the Beatles. I really listened to an awful lot of John Lennon. I didn’t even realize it as a kid, but when Listened to the Beatles, and we used to sing along, what I was actually learning was harmony, and I didn’t know what I was learning, but I would sing-along with the harmony voice. I guess my voice developed from listening to those kind of harmonies.
I listened to a lot of people. I though Joni Mitchell was the living end.
Of course, Listening to and watching Norton do the hucklebuck, watching Ralphdo his kind of dances, inspired me. And many times as I would be writing, I’dfind myself saying – you know, like Norton did – “why oh why was I born with this musical gift?”

HC: Do you write your own music ?
CL: I co-write. I co-produce. I co-art direct. I co-write the videos. Iwork on every aspect.
But I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. Let me say that you’re only asgood as the people you work with. If I didn’t have the people I am working with, I could never do it myself. You learn more and more about people, andgood leadership, which you always have to learn as you get on.

HC: No wonder you’re so great at what you do.
CL: That’s really sweet of you to say.

HC: But it’s true. Baby, you’re the greatest.

Cyndi Lauper in New Movie Vives

“Cyndi Lauper was a sickly-looking kid who just wanted to have fun. Unfortunately, it never seemed to work out that way. The worms she kept in a jar dried up and died and her fish tank boiled over, blanching her baby swordfish. Then she grew up, found that famous pot at the end of the rainbow, washed her hair in it and became rich and famous. Money changes everything.”


REVIEW FOR VIBES

“It probably seemed a good idea at the time to make this 1988 comedy adventure but results are unfortunate. Cyndi Lauper and Jeff Goldblum are psychics hired by shiftly Peter Falk to find lost treasure in South America. They hate each other and the vibes aren’t right for treasure hunting or a successful movie, either. Julian Sands is wasted in a silly role. Watchable if you have nothing to do”.

Cyndi Lauper – She bops back

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.

Laupers Talent Shines Through

“Ha-wa-ya?” Cyndi Lauper screamed. Roughly translated, that was Lauper’s way of asking “how are you” in her Minnie Mouse, bronx whine. Dressed down and up in red stockings, a black net skirt and a black halter, with shining gold locks cascading down her back, Lauper was the visual equivalent of her accent.

And as she bopped and bounced about the stage like a kwepie doll come to life-Cyndi the queen of kitsch had come to… be herself? In fact, she was, but not the Cyndi Lauper that the crowd might have expected. Instead, Lauper the celebrity and Lauper the image gave way to Lauper the performer.

Her show at the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center was a dazzling display of musical invention, emotion and, there’s no other word for it, beauty. Yes, she danced and posed and slurred her vowels just the way she always has, but she also sang with power and range that sent chills. Whether screeching “Good enough for me” or crooning the luxurious melody of “True Colors” Lauper managed to infuse her songs with a sense of commitment that had nothing to do with “playing the hits” this was particularly apparent on Boy Blue in which she bewailed the loss of a friend, her voice trembling with feeling. at the end of the song, she lay on stage, alone in the spotlight. It was part of the show, of course, carefully staged and rehearsed for effect. But the way she sang made the staging seem real and affecting.

When that song ended and the first delicate notes of all through the night wlled up, the sense of release and rebirth was palpable. Stunning. As soon as that song was finished, Lauper was back to the image again, spouting off in her dizzy way about her autoerotic masterpiece “She Bop”.

“The abuse I took about this song changed my life”, she vamped, camping it up for the crowd. Pure Lauper. But then she sang the song with a nervous energy that was affecting in its way. And all the while the hits kept coming. Time After Time was delivered with a melodic loveliness that was equaled only by that of True Colors. On both these songs, Lauper transcended the screams and the the visual glitz with a voice that ached with emotion.

She didn’t perform these songs, she sang them. Actually, the same could be said for all of the songs of the show. At a time when many performers are content to parade their hits before fans who, in turn, ask for nothing more, Lauper has a certain integrity-musical integrity-that is as strong and singular as her public persona, the fact that she is able to be both simultaneously makes her truly amazing and “unusual”.

Lauper Shows Her True Colors

CYNDI LAUPER, EDDIE MONEY. The WNEW-FM Christmas Concert, Friday night at Madison Square Garden. Deck the halls with paper dresses, orange hair and Queens charisma.

CYNDI LAUPER, TO ME, is at least one version of the feminine (and feminist) ideal: self-possessed and self-confident, girlish and womanly, funny, smart, vulnerable and supremely independent.

And that’s all before she sings. I’m never quite sure what to make of Lauper’s voice – I wouldn’t try to describe it – but sometimes it makes me anxious and sometimes it makes me shiver. Sometimes, when she sings on the radio, I turn up the volume, and sometimes I turn it down.

No prima donna she, Lauper is rock’s equivalent of the German sports sedan: glossy, streamlined, loaded with torque and horsepower. She moved like a human Mixmaster Friday night on stage at Madison Square Garden, filling up a 90-minute set with material from her two very flavorful albums, “She’s So Unusual” and “True Colors.”

Lauper emerged like a Barbie doll, gussied up in a black cape, sky-high heels and a strawberry-red dress shaped like a tire tube. Whirling like a demonic ballerina in the pink spotlight, Lauper gave the stage the aura of a dainty music box, an aura quickly shattered as she hiccuped her way through the highs of “Change of Heart.” While some of her vocal habits are annoying, her stamina is startling. She had so much spirit and volume, that even the percussion section and Rick Derringer’s guitar weren’t much competition.

Lauper’s vacuous act – and it is an act – is in sharp contrast to the intelligence of her music, but it’s a laugh. Referring to the dawning of the age of Aquarius, Lauper explained in Queens-ese that, “Y’know, tonight Jupiter does align with Mars. They’re celebrating in the borealis, and I thought I’d tell ya, cause I hate to be left out of parties.”

Her lengthy hiatus between records and hits makes all the more obvious the strengths of Lauper’s earlier material. A big chunk of “True Colors” was threaded through the evening, including the idiosyncratic “Iko Iko” and the slightly surreal sounds of “The Faraway Nearby.” Lauper poured as much passion as she could into Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” but, in performance as on record, it’s not a song that fits her well.

“True Colors” the single, is a marked departure from the Lauper-esque histrionics of much of her music, and she sang it beautifully and with feeling, both during the set and as an a cappella closer to the evening.

Yet it was the less ambitious rhythms and swells of “Time After Time” and “Money Changes Everything” that ignited the crowd. On “She Bop” and “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” with Lauper acting out each lyric, stomping on each syllable, she’s charted some ambitious territory. Even the rainbow spectrum of “True Colors” seems to pale by comparison.

As is expected at these United Cerebral Palsy affairs, some time was taken up by introducing the folks who work at WNEW-FM, which has sponsored the benefits for 14 years. Radio personality Dave Herman dispensed the customary platitudes and Yoko Ono and son Sean showed up to wish the crowd a happy Christmas. They seem to show up every year, too.

Eddie Money, in rough voice, sang a few of his hits loudly and left the stage after about 30 minutes.

These Big Girls Don`t Cry

Wait, wait, wait! Don’t go away yet. “I think,” laughs Cyndi Lauper, “we all need a break from me.”

Cyndi Lauper’s She’s So Unusual, for anyone without access to electric entertainment of any form, has become the first debut album in history to rack up four top five singles. Name those tunes and, very likely, you can sing a chorus, along with all the Lauper loopies who cover the age spectrum, from dress-alike five-year-olds to grannies gone groovy: All Through the Night, She Bop, which inverted Gene Vincent’s classic Be-Bop-a-Lula into a thoroughly unapologetic paean to female autoeroticism; Time After Time, and Girls Just Want to Have Fun, a kind of antic feminist anthem that helped get Cyndi on the cover of Ms. As one of its women of the year. No other women has made an album at any point in her career that launched so many heavy hits.

Lauper is nominated for five Grammies, including Best New Artist. She is also a) nice to her mom, with whom she frequently appears in photos and whom she cast in three of her wacky videos; b) tireless, until very recently, in her pursuit of media exposure (appearances during the past six months have included telethons and Dr. Ruth Westheimer’s TV sex-advice-show); and c) a wrestling fan, who has shown up at ringside to bait her sometime buddy, Captain Lou Albano, with a rush of feminist banter and a fan’s hortatory impertinence.

Cyndi Lauper is the manic outsider in every high school class – brassy and sensitive, dippy and shrewd – whose hair seems to have been colored by a box of melted Crayolas and who dresses in the kinds of duds gypsies might wear if they had proms. Part Piaf, party Little Peggy March, she also has a razzle-dazzle, multi-ocave range, a voice that can coax a broken promise out of a ballad or pin a rocker right to the mat. She has the whole package.

Lauper, 32, has her own plans, a new album for one. She will finish a theme song for a Steven Spielberg-produced adventure film called Goonies, and there were discussions about the master directing her new rock video. Nothing came of them in the end, but still it is not difficult to see how Lauper’s slapstick winsomeness and unexpected soulfulness could attract a director who has such a proximate relationship to fantasy fulfilled.

Lauper too had a very bumpy childhood, from the time she grew up in Queens, N.Y., watching her mother break up with her father and try to keep the family together with waitress jobs. Both Madonna and Lauper floundered for a time in parochial schools. Lauper eventually dropped out and stumbled around, while Madonna made a beeline for the big time. Lauper did not even know where it was. She walked racehorses; she sang in bar bands and about burned out her vocal cords before getting help from a voice coach. She felt, as she says, “so crumbled.” She was vocalist for a band called Blue Angel. They made one album that, as she says, “went lead,” and soon Lauper was back, solo, singing in a local Japanese piano bar.

But she found a manager in David Wolff, who brought her to Portrait Records to make a deal. By the time the album was in the works, Wolff and Lauper were living as well as working together, and it is now Wolff who is doing the career engineering. “If you want to build a major superstar nowadays,” he observes, “you gotta deal with an amazing number of problems. And we aren’t even very far yet either.”

Rock Singer Cyndi Lauper

Her Father walked out when she was 5 years old. Her mother remarried, divorced again and went to work as a waitress to support the three kids, she was expelled from Catholic school, dropped out of high school and left home “with a brown paper bag” when she was 17. “I was such a failure”, she says, “I didn’t know what I was on this earth for, ‘cause I couldn’t take just failin'”

Cyndi Lauper-rock star, feminist, wrestling fan-is in the backseat of a long silver limo, headed to the airport with live-in boyfriend and manager Dave Wolff. They are on their way to Minneapolis, where Cyndi will be the surprise guest at a convention of disc jockeys. “They’re the ones who make it happen.”

It certainly has happened for Cyndi Lauper, the funny-looking girl with the funny sounding voice, Her latest single, the theme song from Steven Spielberg’s Goonies movie, a kind of anthem for misfits, was one of hits of the summer.

Her previous five hits – “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”, “Time After Time”, “She Bop”, “All Through the Night” and “Money Changes Everything” – all came off her She’s So Unusual LP, Which broke the record, set by the Beatles in 1963, for most Top 10 singles from a debut album. The album itself has sold almost 7 million copies worldwide and earned Cyndi a Grammy in 1984 as Best New Artist. She’s also won several MTV awards and been honored by the Women in Film organization for her fresh and funny videos, which co-star her mother, her dog, her friends from Queens, N.Y., and Dave Wolff.

That cozy familial cast of characters is one of many signs that success has not gone to Cyndi’s tie-dyed head. Another is her sense of humor, which she often directs at herself.” She tells me on the plane after she’s settled into her first-class seat with a diet soda and a box of high-nutrition crackers, “I thought I’d wear something conventional.”

She’s wearing a long green tunic over a short Hawaiian shirt dress, black mesh stockings, black flats and a straw Chinese straw hat that is almost as wide as she is tall-about 5 feet 2. Her purple-browed eyes are sheltered by silver sunglasses rimmed in rhinestones. Other accessories include a brassy palm-tree brooch, a khaki plastic Japanese watch that opens into a miniature mechanical turtle, a fake leopard-skin satchel and the paperback edition of Alice Walker’s “You Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down.” To top it all off, her hair is a rainbow of yellow, pink and blue.

“I’ve been dyeing’ my hair since I was 12 years old,” she says in her disarming Queens accent, which is not a put on. But you gotta understand. I never set out to look real crazy. This is what I thought looked nice. I feel better about myself when I fix myself up.”

Cyndi’s style is as much a statement as Cyndi’s music -as an act of rebellion against the sameness of fashion, a declaration of independence. “Nobody should tell you what you should look like,” she says. “Nobody but yourself.” Ironically, young girls, who are her biggest fans turn up at her concerts dressed exactly like Cyndi, which she finds disturbing.

The whole idea of this,” she explains, “was to tell people to do their own thing, that they could be free enough to do that,” it has taken Cyndi Lauper 32 years to become free enough to do her own thing. “I had a lot to fight through to get where I am,” she says, “but I’m a fighter. When you’re down, when you’re always fighting your way up, that’s just a natural thing after a while, you become a fighter for what you believe in. But it’s OK.” She smiles “It’s the good fight, as everybody calls it.”

Cynthia Lauper was born on June 20,1953, in Astoria Queens. Her father was a shipping clerk who played the xylophone for fun. “He left when I was 5 years old,” Cyndi says “Yeah, I see him sometimes. But I talk about him in interviews.” Cyndi’s mother moved the family to Ozone Park, a neighborhood of small frame houses near Kennedy Airport. She got remarried, “Cyndi says. defensive edge coming through, as if the wounds have yet to heal. She had problems with her second husband. A lot of people do. See, she was a workin’ woman tryin’ to support three children. A waitress. She had it rough.”

Throughout the interview, Cyndi jumps from her own experiences to larger issues, not unlike the way she does in the songs she writes. Now she tells me, “You know, I think the big campaign against alcohol and drugs is very good. But there’s another thing that I think Nancy Reagan should consider: Kids do drugs to escape. I mean, kids are beaten at home, or molested, or they’re not understood. And when they’re poor, they have no choices, you see they feel trapped. That’s why they start doing things that make them feel they can escape. I know, ’cause I was there.

Thank God, cause God put his hand on my shoulder and gave me a voice- without it, who knows where I’d be. I thought I’d be dead by the time I was 21. But I’m not, you know.”

Music was Cyndi’s escape and, ultimately, her salvation, though it took her a long time to realize that. There are voices that soothed me from when I was a child that I will always love,” she says. “Judy Garland, Billie Holliday, Ella Fitgerald. And I love the Beatles. I did not like the Rolling Stones. Cause when I was growin’ up, I needed hope. I didn’t need to be told that I was just a piece of trash who should be clamoring around after some man who was going to treat me like garbage for it afterwards. That was always the impression I got from the Stones. It was just an image, but when I was little I took everything so seriously.”

Unfortunately, no one seemed to take Cyndi or her artistic and musical ambitions seriously, maybe because she herself didn’t. Though she was accepted in a special public high school for students with talent in the visual arts, she was left back several times and finally quit altogether, without a diploma, in 1970. She also left home “I lived with my sister and her girlfriend,” she says. “Then I moved in with this older guy, thinkin’ I was gonna be the next to be married.

Only I didn’t fit in with that… that thing, you know? You have to get up, vacuum, make the beds, clean everything up, then make sure the laundry’s done, then prepare for the evenin’, so when he comes home, you have dinner all ready for him. And everybody’s happy. Now, I liked macrobiotics. This guy was a meat-and-potatoes man. And I liked to sleep to 12 o’clock, and when I get up I don’t wanna vacuum. I want to sit down and do a pastel. Of course, that relationship didn’t last too long.”

Cyndi moved on, groping for a way out of her unhappiness. Inspired by Horeau, she even spent two weeks in the woods in Canada, living in a tent with her dog, Sparkle, “tryin’ to find out about myself, life and nature.” She worked as a waitress, a life-class model, a door-to-door peddler of karate lessons and a horse walker at Belmont Racetrack.

I was very poor,” she says, “I couldn’t keep livin’ like that. So I went to this office one day, and said, “listen, I just don’t wanna be like this all my life. You got any trainin’ programs?

The training program led to a clerical job, high school equivalency diploma and an attempt at college. But Cyndi still wasn’t doing what she really wanted. “Sometimes,” She says, “you’ll find you have a talent that other people around you don’t know you have. So you have to seek out in yourself what you love to do. And that’s what you should do for a livin’. And you’ll do a your job better, and you’ll love to go to work, and you’ll have a good time in life.”

”Poor people,” she continues, “people who never lived happy, they will always tell people who are struggling to be happy that it’s not worth it…you may as well be miserable like everybody else. But you have to look at that as comedy of error and move on to what you love to do, I always knew I wanted to sing. But the idea was frightenin’. I didn’t know how to go about it. Till I just said, “forget it I’m just goin’ on auditions. And that’s what I did.”

That was in 1974, and though it took a decade more to make it to the top, at least Cyndi was finally singing, if only in a Long Island disco band. In 1978, she helped form a band called Blue Angel. Their first and only album was released in 1980 to good reviews but never made the charts.

Management disputes followed, and Cyndi filed for bankruptcy. But she says “I wasn’t gonna be stopped. I was meant to create. If I had to fight for that , I did – I was gonna continue my career despite anybody.”

Three years ago, she met Dave Wolff at a party, “He had a car,” she says, “so he saved me a $4 cab ride home. Then he called me the next day. By the second night, I knew this was it. So I lucked out, I work very closely with Dave, and he’s also my best friend.” Does she think she’d be where she is today without him? “No,” she answers. I’d be singin’. But I think that Dave is really a brilliant manager, ’cause he knows how to take what I do and make it commercial. See, we’re a team, and I think that’s why I’m successful.”

Will they marry someday? “I don’t know,” Cyndi says. “I always look at marriage now as just something that brings you closer together. But I know I won’t be married in the traditional way. I would never give up my name, my identity, my social security number, everything that makes me equal-which ain’t much in this country.

How does Cyndi, who is probably a millionaire by now, feel about her new wealth? Has money changed everything? “I have more clothes now, “she replies. “But aside from that, I don’t really live any differently than I did. I mean, I care about havin’ enough money to make the quality stuff that I want and to be able to come home and relax and not feel claustrophobic. And I like to take care of people I love. Does she help her mother?

She works in my videos. She gets paid for that. She has a stage name Catrine Dominique, and she’s getting better and better.” Cyndi says proudly. “You know, for a long time we didn’t talk my mother and me. We had different views, we talked it out, and we’re better friends now. So, if you’re not getting along with your mother, finally you got to say, “I’m this way and she’s that way. You gotta realize she’s another person. you gotta cut the cord sometime and just become like two people.”

Making a movie is Cyndi’s next goal, after she finishes her second album, due in early 1986. She’d like to write the script as well as star “And get a wonderful director who understands me and isn’t threatened .” she adds, “Somebody who’s a master and shares.”

How does she feel about the success of Madonna, whom the press likes to portray as her archrival? ”I say: ‘Way to go,’” she replies, “ Women are on the go, and they’re doin’ good. Now maybe women will be considered like other musicians and not be separated.”

But we’re opposites in a lot of ways,” she adds, “she likes to wear a lot of jewelry too, but I wouldn’t wanna have real diamonds ‘cause I’d feel bad if I lost them. I love rhinestones./dd

In a sense, pop stars are the archetypes of our age, Madonna, undoubtedly, is the Material Girl. Cyndi Lauper on the other hand, can be called the Committed Woman, carrying the weight of the world on her frail shoulders. ” I get depressed,” she says, ” when I follow the news. I mean, I’m a citizen of this earth. I can’t ignore it. But sometimes I can’t watch, it’s so awful”

Her concern is believable, as is her anger. ” You know what I wish for the Ayatollah Khomeini ? she asserts. “I wish he would die and come back as a woman- under his regime See I care about the whole world, cause if you just cutoff America from the rest of the world, honey, it ain’t going to be long before the rest of the world is knocking at your door. Same thing with pollution. You think it’s polluted in New Jersey or New York, But it ain’t gonna be long before it’s polluted everywhere.”

“I guess I do sound negative,”.she says. I’ve just seen a lot of negative things, and I know that they could be changed. ‘Cause I’ve seen change happen. I’ve seen it happen in my life.”