Cyndi Lauper is determinedly odd. Witty, smart and charming, but unashamedly odd. Now 54, the Brooklyn-born singer has been following her own path since the late ’70s, defying everyone from record company moguls and radio programmers to her own singing teachers, who said her raspy chipmunk voice and eccentric songwriting would never reach the charts. And it seems her eventual huge success – concentrated in the ’80s around quirky mega-hits such as Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, True Colors and Time After Time – only confirmed her determination to answer to nobody.
“People tell me what I’m supposed to do and how – who the hell gives a shit?” she says in her famously plastered-on Brooklyn accent. “You think I’m going to listen to somebody tell me what they think I oughta do? I don’t care about the rules. Rules are made to stop people. I tell my kid that rules are important, because if there were no rules the place would go crazy. But you can’t not do what is in your soul. That’s the bottom line.”
This kind of erratic but endearing proclamation is standard fare in a Cyndi Lauper interview, where questions are merely triggers for tangential, stream-of-consciousness responses. Sometimes this waywardness can be confusing, even a little frustrating, but it’s always entertaining.
The story of how wrestling superstar Hulk Hogan came to accompany Lauper to the Grammy Awards in 1985 is a convoluted case in point. “I like Prince more than anything, he’s one of the greatest, he’s God’s child,” she says, cryptically.
“But when he played the American Music Awards his bodyguard, who kinda looked like a smaller version of Hulk, was telling everyone they gotta turn around because Prince’s girlfriend was walking by. And it was my friend Sheila E, and nobody was supposed to look at her. And he told that to Stevie Wonder! I was like ‘C’mon, now, now you’ve crossed the line. Give me a hard time, I’m used to it, I’m always the riffraff.’ And that’s what made me go and bring Hulk Hogan to the Grammys, because I thought it was really funny. I don’t know…I thought everything was funny then.”