Viva (Holland) - August 21st, 1995
This article has been translated from Dutch and typed by Andre de Koning. He also scanned the picture.
'I am not strange !'
by Monique Punter
Cyndi Lauper ? Isn't she that pale woman with that yellow hair and that beautiful voice ? That selfassured auntie from 'Girls just want to have fun' ? Right. But Viva's Monique Punter discovered that there is also an other Cyndi Lauper.
In a warm Hilversum television studio Cyndi Lauper drives everyone to desperation. She already has had the stage rebuilt, shortened the music tape, disrupted the lightshow and changed the shooting script. Now she is drilling a group of young dancers. "No ! Not on the fourth count. That turn must be on the sixth count. Again !" Sighing everybody goes back to work. There was half an hour reserved for this repetition, but Cyndi is now busy for about three hours. The director is developing nervous tics. "I'm sorry," says La Lauper without a trace of regret. "I just wanna do it right, you know."
'You won't talk about sex ! Do you hear me ?'
A few months later I sit with a complete different Cyndi Lauper in the restaurant of a Amsterdam hotel. She invites me for a pleasant lunch with her manager and her husband David Thorton. Afterwards David leaves Cyndi behind with a last instruction for the interview: "And you won't talk about sex ! Do you hear me Cyndi ? No s.e.x. !" She watches him walk out with amorous looks. "He is so funny and so sweet. I am so happy. It really is a man to grow old with." I look surprised. How can somebody at one encounter be a selfassured bitch and at the next one giggle like a little girl ? Let's start at the beginning: Cyndi Lauper was born 42 years ago in Queens, New York. Her mother was a waitress, her father disappeared quickly. Cyndi was put in a strict nuns boarding school. All together enough ingridients for a not too happy childhood. "I was terribly afraid to conspicuous. I wanted to be like everybody else. But no matter how much I tried, it never worked completely. Even if I was wearing exactly the same clothes as the other children, with me it looked a little odd. I was a desparatly lonely child. Looking back I find that child at the same time sad and funny. To be honest, I think that deep inside of my heart I didn't WANT to keep the same steps as the rest. I saw how my mother, and other mothers, worked themselves halfway to death and then I also still had that nun school. They weren't attractive examples. I pretended that I was trying to adapt. I wanted to be a good child and do what was expected of me. It took me a long time before I realised that I couldn't succeed in being normal, because I didn't want that."
'I will do my best to send you into the curtains'
"Unfortunately that knowledge didn't automaticly lead to selfacceptance. Instead of that it became: 'Am I not normal ? Are you afraid of me ? Oh, that is a pity. Do you know what ? I think I will do my best to send you into the curtains'. I was troubled with feelings of revenge, you see." In school Cyndi was not quite brilliant. But maybe that also had to do everything with how the nuns behaved themselves. She remembers how she once, in the dormitory of the boarding school, scratched the back of a girl because she had an itch. A nun came in who dragged her out of bed, threw her against the wardrobe and beat her up, while shouting that Cyndi was a lesbian. The girl was twelve, Cyndi was nine. She didn't even know what the word lesbian meant. "I am recovering from Catholicism," says Cyndi. "I think that I will need the rest of my life for that." But about that later. First the music.
"No matter how bad I was doing, I always had my music. I love music so terribly much. Singing is for me something magic. When I ended up in a band, everything fell into place. I thought: oh, so this is who I am. That is why it always looked as if I was strange. I am not strange. This is who I should be."
For fifteen years Cyndi sang in every club, every cafe that would have her. In 1983 she broke though. And how ! The singles _Girls just want to have fun_ and the record _She's so Unusual_ became worldwide hits. Cyndi was chosen for woman of the year and received a Grammy Award for the best new artist. But was she happy ? "When I suddenly became famous, I couldn't handle the pressure. I felt like a turtle that was lying on it's back. I was lying there wobbling helplessly and there was so much coming at me. It just was too much. I suddenly stood at the head of the enterprise Cyndi Lauper. I had to guide people who worked for me, but I of course never studied for that. I went from one extreme to the other. I started to use more and more war-colours as make-up and suddenly I realised what that meant: I was on the war-path. I wanted to do nothing better than being a good person, but instead I was in war with everyone who crossed my path. And if I thought about it good, I had to admit that I always had done that."
"And so I have translated more and more things in myself phisically. I can't explain it easily, but I made it into a sort of art. I shaved off my hair on the sides of my head and so got the hairdo of a warrior. And if I felt trapped, I wore chains on my wrists and ancles. I had the feeling that I had to literally turn myself inside out. I had to find out why I felt like I felt. Slowly I realized that my private war had to do with things I saw and experienced as a child. And I decided I wanted to change. I went through a phase in which I tried as hard as I could to change myself, including buying stones for a better peace of mind. You know: I put my chrystal ball next to my bed. Then I put this yellow one to the right, that purple one to the left and this transparent one at the footend. That then forms a perfect triangle and hopefully I will wake up in the morning as a different person. My fiancee at that time got crazy about that. One afternoon he came in with two arms full of purple chrystal. He put it down in the bedroom and said: 'I really hope this is sufficient, because I'm tired of breaking my neck over those pebbles'.
Look, I try as best as I can to understand how people are put together. I try to be the person that I would like to be. All my lyrics are about that. I write songs about what touches me. And I like to share it with others. Not that I think I know everything. But I think that a lot of people recognize something in my lyrics. Because aren't we all looking at ourselves in the mirror with the thought: I am not so sure if that one there is so pleasant ? We always work at ourselves. That is what people do."
'I have always thought that I wasn't good enough'
It is quite a task she has given herself. Isn't she going crackers from it now and then ? "I think that I, if I didn't have my work, maybe would have gone mad. I need that safety-valve. In a certain way I have always thought that I wasn't good enough. While I did always wanted to do something that was good enough. And still when I'm busy with my music, I think: I want this to be good, please let it be good, this must become very good. But I have to let that go, because you can't work that way. I work with my sentiments and can't function during an emotional crisis. One night, during a tour, I was convinced that I could not write anymore. Never. And although I'm not a religious person, I said: 'God help me. Make it a little difficult for me, because I can't take any more'. And the next day I wrote the words to a song in one go. I was so grateful. Because if it gets difficult now, I think: take it easy, this is what you're here for and it will be alright."
'I am a child, a woman and an old bitch'
"So I am not religious, but I am spiritual. I believe in the Great Mother and Father. It is a strange idea that I follow. I made it up myself. Because of Catholicism I have never learned to be happy that I am a woman. I was taught to condemn it. I am still busy discovering and accepting the female part in myself."
Do we understand that correctly ? Does the woman that became world famous with the feministic _Girls just want to have fun_ say that she has difficulty with being a woman ?
"Yes, you're looking at a fragmented woman. I have just finished reading the novel _Mist of Avalon_. And my god, it was such a thick book ! About 860 pages, it didn't stop. The story follows a family via the female line. It made me aware that I lean on my male side very much and that my female side has been underdeveloped. I think that I, like so many women in the eighties, have climbed up on my male side. And it has worked. As long as I stay within my budget, I am the one in control of my music. But a complete person needs both sides, the male and the female side. But from the time I was a child I have heard that the woman is the source of all evel. The moment that the woman gets the power, evil is in charge. On the moment that she becomes sexually active, sex is the evil. According to Catholicism the original sin belongs to all women that are born. It is not only a ridiculous idea, it is also a very destructive idea to teach to little girls. I am actually working all my life to get rid of that idea.
On my new CD, the woman in me will be speaking more. I devide my music for myself in three persons: the child, the old bitch and the woman. The child has always been speaking loud and clear. The old bitch you hear too. Those two I trust. But the woman I didn't trust. You hear her only once in a while on my old CD's. To be clear: I don't see myself as schizophrenic or a multiple personality. I just listen to different sides of myself an put that in my work. I must seem remarkable that I talk like this. But it works for me. Because of the succes of my Greatest Hits cd (_Twelve deadly Cyns_) the work on my new CD is delayed. I should learn to do only one thing at a time. I am working on so many things so intensely that I can't jam on the brakes any more. David says sometimes: 'You are always working. You never ask how I feel. We have to talk more'. And then I think: hey, aren't that the traditional lines of a housewife ? In reverse I am always bullying him: 'Do something. Go after that. You have to initiate that'. All my friends are level-headed carreerwomen. And they all complain that their men are so passive. Strange, isn't it ? Just like the men and women have changed roles in the eighties. I suppose it's just another phase."