For my "House Call" column in today's Mansion section of The Wall Street Journal [go here or please buy the paper], I interview singer-songwriter Cyndi Lauper on her childhood home in the Ozone Park section of Queens, N.Y. My first question to her was about that community's name. "Ozone Park, yeah—a spaced-out name, I know," she said. "Figures, right?"
That's Cyndi, but she's anything but spaced out. Many people assume that her quirky, Betty Boop personality is a character—a persona that she started in the MTV era and continued over the decades as her brand. Not even close. In speaking with Cyndi at length, I found her to be a fascinating person and artist. That's actually her voice, and she speaks in sheets of sentences that roll on like a John Coltrane solo. You have to jump in and change the subject. But Cyndi isn't a rambler. What you find as you listen closely is that she's weaving large tapestries of varying textures and images. As an interviewer, you have decide how large you want that tapestry to be.
What I also noticed is that Cyndi thinks in colorful comic-book images. As she shapes her thoughts out loud, it's as if she's drawing panels to an illustrated story, and all sorts of interesting characters enter the storyline. Many of these characters are from her childhood, viewed through the eyes of a girl who found the world a strange and often synthetic place.
Cyndi also is naturally funny, and this side of her can catch you off guard. What I mean is she's incredibly funny but isn't intending to be. In other words, how she thinks just happens to be interpreted by others as funny. But to Cyndi, that's how she sees it. So when you laugh or point out how funny something is, she's baffled and doesn't quite understand what you mean. Which is a strange reaction until you realize this is who she is—the Queens accent, the out-there look and the child-like and illustrative way of thinking.
And insisting on thinking this way has had amazing outcomes. Cyndi recently won a Tony and Grammy for Broadway's Kinky Boots, and her 1983 debut album She’s So Unusual (Sony) will be released April 1 as an expanded edition [go here]. She's also joining Cher’s Dressed to Kill tour on April 23.
Here's her 1983 video of Girls Just Want to Have Fun...
Here's Cyndi Lauper at the White House last April...