Cyndi Lauper skyrocketed to fame in 1984 on the strength of her four-octave vocal range, zany persona, ragtag wardrobe, and multicolored hair. In the intervening decades her seemingly do-it-yourself image and iconoclastic career have attracted a legion of fans in the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender communities, which have always embraced her as a sort of kindred spirit. Lauper has always reciprocated their affection, but this month she’s got a special surprise in store: the launch of a three-week, 15-city True Colors tour to benefit the Human Rights Campaign, during which she’ll share the stage with a roster of topflight talents. The tour kicks off in Las Vegas on June 8.
ALAN CUMMING: In this interview I’m going to probe you, Cyndi Lauper, to your very core. Ready? What are you wearing?
CYNDI LAUPER: [laughs] Nothing!
AC: Shut up.
CL: I’m serious. I just came out of the tub. I’m lying down, but I can’t take it. I keep getting up. I lie back down again. I get up. I haven’t done this since I can’t remember when, so I figured it was either this or go to the hockey rinks.
AC: ‘Cause you’re a hockey mom now.
CL: Well, you know.
AC: So tell me about this tour.
You can’t say, “America is the home of the free . . . except for you guys over there.” It seems crazy, because I don’t know many people who don’t have somebody in their family who’s a part of the gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgender community. It’s not like they’re aliens or outsiders. This is family.Cyndi Lauper
CL: It’s me, Erasure, Debbie Harry, the Gossip, the Dresden Dolls, the Clicks, and the Misshapes; Margaret Cho is the emcee, and there are special guests. Like, in Las Vegas, when we kick off on June 8, the Indigo Girls will be there. Rufus Wainwright will do two shows: one near D.C. and one in Boston. The idea is to put a human face on the community and also to celebrate pride month in June. Some of the proceeds will go to the Human Rights Campaign, which does wonderful work to change laws that I didn’t even know about. Like, that you could be fired in 33 states just for being gay or lesbian. And that hate crime laws don’t extend to cover people of different sexual orientation who suffer from such crimes. And that there are over a thousand benefits afforded to heterosexual couples that aren’t afforded to same-sex couples. You can’t say, “America is the home of the free . . . except for you guys over there.” It seems crazy, because I don’t know many people who don’t have somebody in their family who’s a part of the gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgender community. It’s not like they’re aliens or outsiders. This is family.
AC: Why is it do you think the gays love you so much?
CL: “The gays”? You always say that! Like they’re some kind of alien people.
AC: The GLBT community, then.
CL: Well, that community I’m part of. I’ve always been part of it. When I was 15, all my friends came out. I was really trying to be like them, and I finally had to tell my best friends that I was straight. It’s ridiculous thinking back on it as an adult, because it’s opposite from what happened to all my gay friends.
AC: But do you think there’s something about you during a performance that gay people are drawn to? Or is it just the fact that we recognize-
CL: Another freak! [laughs] I don’t know. I’ve never been big on the icon thing. I was on a tour bus once with 12 drag queens and one transgender woman-who was a guy and then became a woman. She told me that, in the end, she thought she was just more into an alternative lifestyle. So maybe it’s that. But to do this tour was an opportunity to help and to have fun. Helping doesn’t have to be a heavy time. We have a flashing tiara the audience members can buy. It’s my birthday [on June 22], and I think everyone should have a flashing tiara. [Cumming laughs] Did I tell you that when I had my son, Declyn, everyone in the delivery room wore a tiara?
AC: You did not.
CL: Yeah. I have a picture of my doctor with a tiara on her mask. It was, you know, interesting.
AC: When does your new record come out?
CL: Well, I’m trying to get it done and set up the tour. And now I’m looking for two new people for my band. It’s really difficult to do everything at once. We are definitely going to do new material on the tour. I’ll also do some old material.
AC: Will you be doing [sings] “I’ll stand by you”? That’s my favorite song.
CL: I know. I saved some messages of you singing it. [Cumming laughs]
AC: What would you like to be doing in 10 years?
CL: Oh. [pause] I don’t know.
AC: Silence for the first time in this interview.
CL: [laughs] I’d like to see Declyn grow up and spend time with him.
AC: And get him to play less hockey.
CL: If he loves hockey, obviously you want him to play golf. [Cumming laughs] No, whatever his passion is-even if it’s something I don’t like-I’ll learn about it because it’s what he likes.
AC: Did you think when you first sang “True Colors” that it would become this anthem and that you would be, however many years later, doing a True Colors tour?
CL: At that time there was a popular song called “That’s What Friends Are For,” and one of my closest friends, Gregory, was dying of AIDS. He said to me, “Cyn, you gotta write a song like ‘That’s What Friends Are For’ for me.” I’m thinking, Oh, great. Burt Bacharach, one of the greatest American songwriters, wrote that.
AC: No pressure.
CL: Yeah. But I did write “Boy Blue,” in which I poured my heart and my liver out. [Cumming laughs] Which doesn’t make for good repetitive play. But in the interim, Gregory had passed, and this song “True Colors” was brought to me. It had been written for Anne Murray, but I heard something in it that was like a healing song. I needed to sing it-for me and for Carl, Gregory’s partner. Many years later I performed at the gay pride parade. While I was doing a sound check for “True Colors,” a guy came up and handed me a rainbow flag and said, “You know, Cyn, I was inspired by your song and designed this flag.” That night I wore the flag around my shoulders and sang “True Colors” and realized that Gregory got his wish.
AC: Aw. I love you, Cyndi Lauper.
CL: I love you too, Al. Where the hell you been?
AC: I was in Vancouver working. I am actually in New York for a screening of my film Suffering Man’s Charity-the one I directed. Then I’m going back to Scotland in July to do the play The Bacchae with the National Theatre.
CL: Oh, that’s fantastic.
AC: I’ve been practicing standing on my head, so don’t think you’ll win that contest anymore. [laughs] I can do a headstand now without being against a wall.
CL: Oh, you rat! [both laugh]
AC: You just keep at it. One day.