Many moons ago, sometime in the 1980s, a young girl from Sydney’s outer western suburbs danced and sang to Cyndi Lauper. She Bop, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun and even Good Enough from movie classic The Goonies were on high rotation on her parents’ record player.
This same little girl asked if she could get half her head shaved, just like her idol, and her hair dyed bright red. Or orange. Or pink.
Time After Time, Money Changes Everything and True Colours revealed a more mature and subdued side to Lauper, but the zaniness was always bubbling away just below the surface, threatening to erupt at any time.
So it was with great delight that this writer accepted an interview with Lauper and, after a conversation filled with laughter and the occasional song, discovered the colourful New Yorker hasn’t changed a bit. She is still that fun-loving, quick-witted and endearingly quirky individual who stands out in a crowd and continues to do things her way.
I learned quickly to just let the conversation roll. Lauper loves to talk. But I did have to interject and help her with the lyrics to Michael Jackson’s Rock With You at one stage.
Lauper is heading to the Hunter Valley on April 1 for A Day On The Green, which she is headlining with her good friend Deborah Harry and her band Blondie.
Lauper and Harry have both enjoyed phenomenal success for four decades, fuelled by a stream of timeless hits. They have avoided the clichés of women in rock and are unquestionably two of the most important and influential women to have graced the stage.
Lauper is one of only 20 people to earn Emmy, Grammy and Tony awards and shows no sign of slowing down. On her 11th studio album Detour, released in May this year, she puts her signature spin on a dozen classic country songs. And just a few weeks ago she was in Melbourne to attend the opening night of a project dear to her heart, the extraordinary musical Kinky Boots, for which she wrote the music.
Also on the line-up at A Day On The Green are The Clouds, who are reforming especially for the tour, and up-and-coming talents Montaigne and Alex Lahey.
Lauper’s excitement about the upcoming Australian tour is contagious.
“Oh wow, this is going to be so much fun,” she says in her distinctive New York drawl.
“She’s awesome. Listen, Blondie has a new album but they’re going to mix their set up with old stuff and new stuff and I do the same with my Detour record. But the songs I’m singing from Detour, they’re very famous songs anyway.
“When it comes to Blondie, I love the melody, the songs, I mean come on! The first number one rap song with Rapture? Come on! I’m excited.
“I first saw Blondie live when they were on the punk scene and she was wearing a garbage bag held together with gaffer tape and she looked stunning. She’s just awesome.”
Yes, Lauper loves Blondie. She also loves Australia. When asked how she finds Australia when touring, she is quick to answer.
“How did I find Australia? I didn’t find Australia, I got on a plane. The guy knew how how to get there. If I had to drive we’d be in trouble,” she says with a laugh.
“I’ve been coming to Australia since 1983 and you don’t spray me on the plane any more, that’s good. I remember coming over and they used to spray you with insecticide.
“But Australia has always been pretty awesome, right from the start. When I think about the first time I walked off the plane in Australia, this woman from the record company was waiting for me in a Cadillac.
“An hour before we landed, the make-up artist and I would hit the bathroom and transform me. So I got into the Cadillac, like I was somebody famous, and it was a lot of fun. It really was.”
The only time she took a break from visiting Australia, she says, was when her son Declyn was born. The now 18-year-old is a rapper who goes by the name Dex Lauper released single Wavy in the US in June and is working on his debut album.
“He’s got that music gene all right, he’s doing hip-hop. We have done one thing together and it was a wonderful moment, but I try to stay out of it so he can have his own sound, his own thing,” Lauper explains.
“I don’t want him to be in my shadow. I just help as much as I can.”
With 50 million-plus record sales under her belt, Lauper could teach him a thing or two about the business. She reckons she doesn’t keep count.
”Fifty million? What the heck, I’d better call my accountant. I mean come on,” she says, cackling.
“I don’t think about it, you know? It’s like, ‘OK, you did that, now what?’.”