When you write about entertainment for a mid-sized Midwestern newspaper, you end up interviewing a lot of celebrities on their way down the media food chain. The biggest challenge is wading through the sea of delusion that has all but swallowed them whole.
The worst celebrity interview I ever had the displeasure of conducting was with Cyndi Lauper, a woman who is none to happy about still being associated with red hair and wrestlers. So much so that any questions that veered in that direction were either ignored or greeted with hostility. When I asked Lauper if her MTV-created image from the 1980s was a problem for her today (a question akin to, "Is your name Cyndi Lauper?") there was a long pause followed by, "Maybe there is for you, but not for anyone else."
So, the next time somebody says "Cyndi Lauper" and the first thing that pops in your head is "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," blame me.
Unfortunately, I don't have a transcript of the interview. But here's an excerpt from my story previewing her opening slot on Cher's tour stop at the Resch Center in 2002. Take a drink every time you read my dislike of Cyndi between the lines!
Show opener Cyndi Lauper, who could learn a thing or two about career longevity from the former Mrs. Sonny Bono, said there is also a down-to-earth side to the otherwise hyper-glamorous singer.
"She's a very cool gal," the 49-year-old MTV icon said in a telephone interview. "I guess that whole diva thing is a crock. She's not your typical starlet-type of person. She's pretty down to earth, pretty off the shoulder. She's a good woman, that one."
While Lauper was known for her own unique fashion sense in the mid-1980s when she dominated the pop charts with hits such as "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" and "True Colors," which sold as much on the strength of her quirky quasi-punk image as the music, she has since scaled back to a more serious "it's all about the music" production that is diametrically opposed to what Cher does.
"I purposely don't do a costume change," she said. "I don't wear anything super-flamboyant. It's just about the music. I try to have it so what I'm doing, you can't even compare it. ... We come to play music and kick your butt, that's it.
"I think it's a good show," Lauper said of her pairing with Cher, which first came together for a tour in 1999. "Our audiences overlap. We're different from each other but in a lot of ways we're alike. ... It's kind of nice to share a bill with another strong woman and also she's very cool. It's not exactly like I'm your typical opener because I'm not, but it's a nice bill to have. It's something real interesting to do. It works out well for me because I have a new CD that's basically been people driven. It's a good way to present a new song and see how it lives because they let you know right away."
The CD Lauper is referring to is "Shine," an independently produced four-song EP available at her Web site, www.cyndi lauper.com. "Shine" was originally a full-length album that was supposed to come out on Edel Records last year, but the label went under before the release date. While Lauper searched for a new record company, songs from "Shine" somehow ended up on the Internet. When Lauper sang the new material in concert, she was surprised to find her fans singing the songs back to her.
The songs on the EP were the ones that fans sang the loudest, she said.
Recent involvement in a VH1 "Behind the Music" episode notwithstanding, Lauper is extremely reluctant to talk about her past. While the first part of her career was juiced with a wild sense of fun, the leftover baggage from her red-hair-and-wrestlers MTV period has made her a tad humorless about the good old days. Questions that veered in that direction were greeted with long pauses and curt responses.
What does interest Lauper is the future, and she insists she has one in music even with middle age in full swing.
"I've been signing to people for a long time, but when you hear their voice back at you at this level, not just on the old songs but singing the new songs, then it becomes bigger than me," Lauper said. "It's got to be about more than just commercial success for me. I want to contribute. I want to contribute to the world. I came here for a reason, and I want to see it to fruition. I don't want to be just another famous person. That's pretty frivolous. Frivolity is great at times, but I want to do something great with my life. Really great."