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Smash Hits

November 5-18, 1986

S.C. Lee typed the article.



ALOHA ALOHA!! … that's what they say in sunny Hawaii, where the sky is blue and the natives are friendly. Except when Cyndi Lauper goes there and then it starts to rain and this bloke called Ian Cranna asks lots of nosey questions! This way to the tropics…


HELLO, pop tarts! Well, here we are in Hawaii Waikiki beach no less - and guess what? It's raining! Nice one God, I must say. Apparently it rains quite a lot in Hawaii - something to do with the lush green mountains which rear up dramatically all over the islands and being in the middle of thousands of miles of Pacific Ocean - but never for very long. Mostly It's frazzlingly hot sunshine, impossibly blue sea and skies, genuine colourful tropical fish pootling about among the boats in the marina, and little bronzed Polynesian youths playing in the white-capped surf.


But, lest we forget, this is also America. Which - at the other end of the scale - means old coke cans and plastic bags floating in with the tropical fish, several McDonald's and mile after mile of "souvenir" stalls (selling umpteen variations on garish beach towels, shell necklaces and assorted cheap tourist tat), and grotesquely overweight Americans with grizzled grey wives dressed in tasteless crimplene "sunning" themselves on the sandy beaches. It's an "interesting" combination.


Anyway, this particular island is called Oahu and it's where Magnum is filmed. It's also where Cyndi Lauper is stopping off to play on the marathon long haul between Australia and Japan (She's number one in both countries) and the mainland of America (where she's also number one with "true colors"). And talking of things both American and colorful, he-e-ere's Cyndi!!


The Hawaiians - 8,500 of them packed into the Neal S. Bleasdale Center - are crazy for Cyndi Lauper. They scream and cheer madly as she opens the show, dancing across the stage, a-swirling and a-twirling in her tasteful leapoardskin plastic mac, black dress and red plastic sandals. They go politely potty when any of her singles are played, and they go positively nuts when she touches anything Hawaiian, like gathering up the garlands and flowers which rain down on the stage or using the word "rainbow" (as in "true colors") - this being the Rainbow State.


Cyndi herself is pretty awesome, as she and her band play for nearly two hours. Shedding the plastic mac, she paces about the stage, from time to time running up the stairs at the side and along the catwalk at the back so that everyone in the arena can see her, all the time giving out with this incredible voice. Where does it all come from? You half expect there to be a huge explosion in her midriff with the smoke clearing to reveal her crumpled remains on the floor.


In between songs there are little entertainments, like dances with the band members or jokes with the audience. "We love you!" bellows one audience member as she launches into one such story. "Wait till you hear the punch line," She quips right back. "You might change your mind!" Finally there's a last encore of Cyndi singing "True Colors" all alone - rather touching actually - and everybody goes home.


Well, not quite everybody. Cyndi still has work to do - greeting the local music business people in diplomatic fashion and then getting made up all over again for a local TV appearance. It's after 4am before she finally finishes, still suffering from jet lag.


Small wonder then that next day she's looking a mite pale and tired as she sits beneath a large beach umbrella on a stretch of plastic grass near the pool of her v. swanky hotel. Minus most of her stage make-up and garish yellow hair dye, she's very simply dressed and looks much more delicate and feminine than her photographs would ever suggest. And despite her goofy screwball image, she obviously takes things Very Seriously Indeed as she sips her Perrier water - no large fruity tropical cocktails for her - and nibbles on some Hawaiian cooked bar snacks of chicken and fish - she doesn't eat red meat.


Her famous sense of humour is never far from the surface as from time to time she slips into her exaggerated cartoon voice to make some joke (often self-mocking) but it's quite clear that Cyndi Lauper is no fool. She talks in great detail about vocal training and protection, and worries about the dividing line between "art" and commerciality. This is the attention to detail of a true perfectionist.


Of course it hasn't always been like this for Cyndi Lauper. A native New Yorker, she's been singing as long as she can remember, having grown up in a house full of songs from musical shows. She wrote her first song around the age of 11, performing in the basement of her home with her sister on guitar and a girl friend on drums. She then went to art school for a while, before meeting up with a man called John Turi who introduced her to Elvis Presley and real rock'n'roll. Cyndi was floored by it and together they formed a group called Blue Angel who made one solitary album before fading out.


After that she went solo and found herself a new manager and boyfriend in David Wolff, himself formerly a musician. David - who looks like a "hippie" relic and is in fact a v. good chap - still recalls the time they spent in a tiny New York apartment and how he took the phone and typewriter into the loo so he could work without disturbing Cyndi who'd be sleeping in the other room. Eventually they worked out a "plan" and got their present record deal. Now, after the huge success of her first LP "She's So Unusual" (which, with the help of her wacky videos incorporating people like her mother and David, gave her four straight Top 10 hits in America, including "Girls just wanna have fun" and "Time After Time"), she's back! Back with "True Colors" which is already number one all over the place. But what about the years in between? What on earth has she been up to? Where has she been?


Well, for a start, round about 1983 there was the whole Rock and Wrestling shebang. This started out with well-known American wrestler Lou Albano appearing in the "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" video as Cyndi's dad and escalated, via a series of well-publicised insults and grudge wrestling matches and rematches, into Cyndi managing the female world wrestling champion, Wendy Richter, for two years. The wrestlers concerned even made a lovably horrible musical LP under the direction of David and the mysterious ( hem hem) Mona Flambe.


"There was a lot of terrible goings-on that I had to right, says Cyndi rather evasively, and Wendy was a good vehicle to do that stuff with. Of course Lou and I had our fights and then we became co-chairman of the Multiple Sclerosis Society Stakes, which I'm still an honorary member of. Lou goes to the bars - it's like an Ugly Bartender contest and he'll take pictures and charge $15 a shot. But because we have to pay for security I just can't do those things," she sighs wistfully.


Initially this was all thought of as an entertaining diversion to break up the treadmill of record making and promotion, but when the whole thing began to take off in America (and Australia and Japan), Cyndi and David (who was largely responsible in the first place) decided enough was quite enough. Besides, a new project beckoned. Famed film maker Steven "E.T." Spielberg had asked Cyndi to be musical director for his latest project, The Goonies, a children's film about lost treasure.


"That took up a lot of time," she says resignedly. "Perhaps more than it should have. It was just that it was my first movie project and I wanted to make a really perfect thing for Spielberg. And I was excited to do it because I was going to be able to act on a real Hollywood set. It was a beautiful set, that boat, and that's what I did it for."


As musical director, Cyndi was responsible for choosing and working with artists contributing to the soundtrack, including the then largely unknown Bangles.


"I wanted a real fair type of soundtrack with equal representation between black people and white people and women. Because I hadn't seen that . Oh hello - how cute!"


This last remark is addressed to a sparrow which has alighted on the back of an adjoining chair and is thoughtfully eyeing Cyndi's nibbles.


"I wonder if this bird eats this stuff?" She says. "I'm afraid to give it fried food? You just don't know!" She giggles as the sparrow flies off. "I thought it was going to do a little dump in front of us!"


"Um. And artists I really liked," she says returning to the subject in hand. "And I thought the Bangles had that street element, the newness and the freshness. And they reminded me a lot of myself when I first started, very new, very raw."


Cyndi ended up putting a lot of work into The Goonies - too much in fact, as she ended up in hospital.


"I neglected myself," she admits, "I got obsessed with the work because it's not like 'work' - it's creating something. I worked every single day, 12-hours days. I had gynaecological problems. And I kept working through it, thinking it was going to go away. It didn't and I went into the hospital thinking I was going to go on vacation the next day, and they said, 'uh uh'."


After a minor operation, Cyndi is now in perfect health again but with a more realistic view of how to work and pace herself. But wait - we haven't finished yet. In the middle of working on The Goonies there were two important interruptions. First came the American Music Awards (Cyndi picked up two) where she decided to show the American public that she wasn't just some goofy airhead.


"I did this concept piece where I was going to try to dance and paint and sing - like performance art - on a really straightforward show. I figured everybody else is going to be doing their hits so why don't I do something extra special? So I built this sculpture and there were shoes and there was a clock and there was a frame free-hanging - it was really interesting. And there were these arches and they were made from shoes, and there were stairs and a little column in front."


"For me it was great because I was always an art student so it gave me the opportunity of doing my art and some form of dancing. I don't know what you'd call it - I'd call it very free form!" She laughs.


And from there it was straight on to (ta daa!) USA for Africa.


"Bob had contacted me that Christmas and asked me if I wanted to get involved. And I said I'd do it and he wrote this letter and it was harsh. I thought at first that no one was responding so that was his frustration. But when I first saw that "Do They Know It's Christmas" video, I was so moved by that - I thought it was the most beautiful thing. And I enjoyed seeing everybody, all the different stars. The only thing that bothered me was that it was all men taking the solos but I figured, well, that's OK. And when we did our thing of "We are the world" I was glad to see there were more women. There were some great women singers in that room - my God! That was one of the most incredible experiences in my whole life. I was in awe of the people. Were you there?"


Er, no.


"Oh you would have shit if you were there! Tina Turner, Dionne Warwick, Diana Ross - I mean, every heavy in the world. And of course Bob Dylan! And I was such a lunatic that day because I was so tired. And I was upset because I didn't have time to wash the mousse out of my hair from the American Music Awards.


"And I heard the song and I thought it was gospelly and everything but I wasn't sure how it was going to go. And I said I wanna sing on the bridge of the song at least - if I'm gonna go there, use me, you know? So I walked in and I'm standing there and all of a sudden it hit me what it really was. When they all started singing, then I said oh my God! Now I get it! It was beautiful, it really was.


"I remember Dionne Warwich was singing over my head and I was freaking out Oh my God! Should I sing with her? Maybe I'll sing a little with her. No-I'll wait till she's finished then I'll sing. Oh my God! And I looked next to me and there's Billy Joel and Bruce (Springsteen) - they kinda have that New York/New Jersey air so I wasn't really thrown by them, because they're very unassuming.


"And they were talking to me and Billy was saying, 'Hmmm - yellow dandruff!' So then I had to take my coat off. And then I saw Michael (Jackson) and Michael wore his torreador coat, and that was like my Italian general coat and I realised that was too similar so I took it off and I had all that bracelets and everything - because I was trying to dress up the outfit because I couldn't really change. And one thing led to another and I ended up having to take off all the jewellery anyway.


"But it was a beautiful thing!"


Phew! And so, finally, Cyndi Lauper gets around to making a new record. But wasn't putting out a ballad like "True Colors" after such a long gap a bit of gamble?


"It was a gamble and I was nervous, but we felt it was such a great song. And it was a very real performance - very intimate. It's worth every once in a while in a large sea of pop records and commerciality to throw in something that will penetrate the surface. It means so many things to so many people. It's like Girls Just Wanna Have Fun except the other side."


"I didn't write this song. But it was a great, great song that needed to be sung. I'm in for the end result, I'm in this for the duration!"

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