She Still Just Wants To Have Fun

cyndi lauper cyndilauper.com

We've come to expect the unexpected from Cyndi Lauper.

So it's no surprise that, at 52, she's introducing us to something new: Cyndi Lauper, Broadway star.

It only makes sense. After all, when Lauper burst onto the scene in 1983 her act was three parts talent one part theatre. She was a free-spirited minstrel in the thrift store dress with a Technicolor voice and the shock of hair to match, CBS Sunday Morning contributor Russ Mitchell reports.

Today, 23 years later, Lauper is center stage, playing Jenny Diver in the Roundabout Theater's revival of the classic Bertolt Brecht, Kurt Weill musical satire "The Three Penny Opera."

"She's Brutus. She's Judas. She's a survivor. She's like anybody who found themself in a circumstance they didn't plan, and then had to survive in it," Lauper says of her character.

For Lauper, herself a survivor of changing musical tastes, it's an opportunity to do what she does best.

"I always talk about this spell. But when you sing in the right key, and it's in the right rhythm, and you are connected to the story that you tell, and you are there -- there is an other worldly quality," Lauper says.

Lauper has been expressing herself through music almost from the start.

Lauper, who speaks in the distinctive queen's English, that is, Ozone Park, Queens in New York City, was an underachieving kid who never quite fit in at school or at home.

So she took refuge in music, singing along with her Sicilian-American mom's records.

Lauper calls herself different, saying that as a child, she had no icons or role models.

"What made me different were the gifts that I was given to be able to do what I do now. And it's hard when you're a kid to realize that there are plus and minuses," she says.

"I dressed funny. You know, I embraced things and ideas that were way beyond what they were thinking at the time for my age. And I didn't like -- I didn't like the things that they liked. I didn't wanna be like them. I didn't wanna stay in Queens. I didn't wanna be small town. I wanted to go out and see the world and explore the things that were magical in the world," Lauper says. "They were thinkin' about mundane things that, to me, were boring and stupid.

And yet for all of her outsider status, Lauper became a household name with her aptly titled debut album "She's So Unusual." It sold nine million copies and produced four top-5 singles, including her bouncy anthem to female entitlement, "Girls Just Want To Have Fun."

She won the 1984 Grammy for Best New Artist. And by the time Lauper made the cover of Newsweek in 1985, she was as well known for her off-beat antics, as for her music skills.

"I just wanted to record. I wanted to sing. I wanted to do my craft. I had come -- I wanted to be successful," Lauper says.

Despite the success and abundant fame, Lauper grew exhausted.

"After awhile that wasn't so much fun. So when I finally did meet my husband, I took some time off. And I walked away," she says.

But for outsiders like herself, Lauper became an icon, singing songs of freedom and acceptance, like the title track to her second album, "True Colors."

Eventually the hits slowed. But along the way, Lauper got married, started a family, acted, toured and continued to create music. She's released eight albums over the past 20 years.

These days, Lauper calls Manhattan home. She lives just minutes from the Broadway theater where she's working and her favorite antique shop.

It's her passion for music, history and fashion that she brings to her role on stage, not unlike the passion you could hear not long ago on her album "At Last," where Lauper showed off her skills interpreting the pop standards she sang along with as a child in her Queens neighborhood.

"For me, this music is so beautiful and magical. It's like the magic's going and you're -- it puts me in a completely different world," Lauper says.

For the girl from Queens, with a lot of talent who struggled to figure out just where she fit in , the Broadway stage seems a perfect fit.

In fact, what's unusual may be that we were ever surprised in the first place.

"The most flattering thing to me is that I'm still where I grew up. And there's other people that grew up here, too. And even though I became very famous, they still consider me one of them," Lauper says. "I heard this lady tell her husband -- and every once in awhile you hear stuff and you -- you try not to pay attention. Lauper says, he said, 'Hey isn't that Cyndi Lauper?' She says, 'No, what would she be doing here walking by herself?' And he said, 'Well, she's a woman of the people.'"

The moment moved Lauper. "I was kind of proud. I was like, 'Wow, that sounds so good.' Like, I'm a woman of the people."
  • Sean Alfano

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