"Do you know anything about me?" Cyndi Lauper aggressively questioned me last week over the telephone. I was, needless to say, taken aback, confused, sort of desperate to see where the conversation had gone wrong even though we'd only been on the phone two minutes.
[This article originally appeared in our sister paper, the Broward New Times.]
Before the call, I was, as a child of the '80s and a big fan of gay rights, excited to speak with the greatest advocate of girls having fun. After the call, "fun" and "Cyndi Lauper" just don't go hand in lace-gloved hand for me anymore.
At first, I thought that maybe it was because I started out the interview by stepping out of the bounds of music-talk that forced it in a weird direction. I asked about John Boehner's comments on the Employment Nondiscrimination Act; it affects the LGBT community, one with which Lauper works closely.
But once she derided me, it became clear that simply she just wasn't the most gracious interviewee. And by that, I mean she was kind of a bully who made me feel pea-sized for no apparent reason.
Though the first question didn't go well, I simply cackled oddly, and moved on to the next, asking how she personally relates to the gay community -- as a straight woman. Possibly my query wasn't clear; I was asking about empathy. But that's when she figuratively punched me in the gut: "Do you know anything about me?" She asked offensively. When I tried to respond, she asked again: "No! Do you know anything about me?" My eyes crossed with frustration.
Then she gave an actual response: "through friends and family." I, horrified, spent like a minute clarifying that I did indeed know about the True Colors Fund, but was looking for something a little deeper from her on this topic.
"I'm always empathetic to the underdog," she said. Funny, 'cause as the interviewer, the female music editor, I felt at a disadvantage speaking with this pop superstar, and zero empathy.
She chilled out chatting about the True Colors Fund and its Forty to None project, which works with gay and transgendered homeless youth. "We try now to educate people and also educate them about different programs that bring families together so they can discuss issues before the kids run away or are thrown out," Lauper said. "A lot of times the kids are bullied, and a lot of times the kids go to shelters and are rejected," adding, "we have some wonderful people working for us, and there's a big, fat light at the end of that tunnel."
She spoke in length about the topics of abuse, education and discrimination. I asked her about penning Kinky Boots, if she used writing that as a creative outlet to deal with some of the social issues she's working on. This got her a little annoyed. I mean, what an annoying question, right? "Kinky Boots is about family and people, and it's not just about someone who dresses in women's clothing," she said. Straight men do too, she schooled me.
Lauper was about to come to town with the She's So Unusual tour, which involved her sharing stories from the stage. When asked how she chose the tales, she said they change a little with each performance, "because I hate doing the same thing all the time." She noted, "I try to make them funny... Everyone seems to love this album, so this was my gift back to my fans."
But at her recent show at Hard Rock Live in Hollywood, she wasn't telling funny stories from the stage. Our writer David Von Bader attended and relayed quite a different message. "As an artist doing a tour to celebrate the legacy of an album that meant a lot to fans, It's really unfortunate that Lauper would spend so much of the show stifling their excitement," he observed. She told fans to "shut the fuck up" when they burst out in excitement during her stories about the history of the album. She yelled at people taking photos.