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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 10 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 41
Cyndi Lauper speaks Kinky!
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Cyndi Lauper speaks Kinky!

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN A&E Writer

KINKY BOOTS, THE MUSICAL 5TH AVENUE THEATRE October 7-26

Cyndi Lauper is perhaps one of the most iconic performers of the 1980s. She has set records with her recordings of pop hits, ballads and Broadway. She's won Grammy Awards, Emmy Awards and set a new record for being the only solo composer to win a Tony Award for Best Score for a Musical, Kinky Boots. As the thigh-high, red, 'two-feet of tubular sex' marches into Seattle, this incredible performer and tireless activist talks about her background, her activism and a few things not commonly known.

Eric Andrews-Katz: Who were your earliest influences?

Cyndi Lauper: When I was really, really little, like five, I was influenced by my mom's records - Broadway cast recordings like South Pacific... that's actually how I learned to sing. I was Ezio Pinza, then I'd be Mary Martin. And I loved Bloody Mary. So those were the first records I heard, and they did have a big influence on me. The first records I bought were Beatles and Supremes and as a teenager I fell in love with Rock 'n Roll through Janis Joplin and the Rolling Stones and through them I learned about the Blues. So my influences were pretty broad and still today I learn a lot from the discovery of great records.

Andrews-Katz: Growing up you've said you heard the songs of Edith Piaf, Eddie Cantor, and Fats Waller among others. What was it about these artists that influenced your own music?

Lauper: I had a lot of influences, including those you mention, but I think it's the feeling that they all made me feel that they were telling me a secret - their secrets. Whether they were rocking when they told me or they were whispering - great songs make you feel like you're sharing something special with the person on the recording.

Andrews-Katz: In 2006 you were approached to play a lead role on Broadway in The Three Penny Opera. In what ways do you identify with the role of Jenny the Whore?

Lauper: None, why do you ask? She was a drug addict whore who betrays her ex-lover for money, because she is jealous he found true love. I played her like she was Judas meets Tinker Bell ... and that was why she was so dangerous.

Andrews-Katz: What was your draw to the storyline of Kinky Boots?

Lauper: The message of the show - to accept yourself so you can accept others, too! A lesson, if everyone understood, the world would be a far better place! And of course, I wanted the opportunity to work with Harvey Fierstein and Jerry Mitchell, so it just worked out perfectly. It was a story with a message I related to so much.

Andrews-Katz: Is there a different approach when writing songs for pop culture as opposed to writing for theater?

Lauper: Your job as the songwriter, as the composer for a musical, is to help move the story forward in song. So you need to get into that headspace. It's about honoring the story, helping the story being told. Which, of course, is a lot different from writing your own songs for CD or radio. Writing pop music comes with so many rules, but with the musical theater, I was given a lot more freedom, which I loved.

Andrews-Katz: Do you plan on writing more for the musical theater?

Lauper: Yes, absolutely. Already have a few projects I am looking at right now (but I can't talk about any of them!).

Andrews-Katz: 2012 saw your publication of Cyndi Lauper: A Memoir. What is one of the most surprising things that readers will find?

Lauper: I don't often talk of my earlier years because it's difficult stuff. But when I started working on the memoir I realized that it didn't make sense to write if I wasn't going to be completely honest. So I think there's a lot of stuff in there that readers don't know about me until they read the book.

Andrews-Katz: In 2012 you started the Forty to None project to support GLBT youth. Can you tell us more about the project and how to help support it?

Lauper: In America, up to 40% of homeless youth are LGBT, yet only 7 percent of the general youth population is LGBT. As a mom, I can't imagine throwing my kid out for any reason, let alone for being Gay or Transgender. We started the Forty to None Project to build a national movement to ensure that no young person is homeless again because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. We have a wide range of programs that work to educate and engage the public, advocate for the kids in Washington DC, empower the youth to reach their full potential, conduct groundbreaking research, and, most importantly, build the nation's capacity to address the problem. You can learn more and support the work at www.truecolorsfund.org or www.fortytonone.org.

Andrews-Katz: You've been a supporter of LGBT rights since your earliest days. What challenges have you faced in trying to overcome ignorance?

Lauper: The biggest challenge is getting people to open their minds to something [other] than what they have always thought. If you change your mind, you can change the world. That is why it is so important that we all share our stories, Gay or straight. If you look at the change that has happened the past 30 years, it is primarily because people came out, whether it is as Gay, Transgender, or a straight ally, and told their stories.

Andrews-Katz: You are considered a Gay icon. In your opinion what is the greatest challenge remaining in the GLBT community?

Lauper: Our biggest challenge is realizing that legal equality is just one aspect of ensuring that the community is treated with dignity and respect. The kids have unfortunately fallen victim to our great success. With the quick movement the past few years on marriage equality, passage of the hate crimes bill, repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' kids are feeling they can come out younger and younger. I think the average age is 13 now. But, they are coming out in environments that are still not accepting of them and [in] too many cases outright hostile towards them. We need to be doing a lot more to ensure that they are supported. We need to work more with families and help them understand and accept their kids. We cannot forget that.

Kinky Boots is based on the film by the same name. The movie, released in 2005, was inspired by the true story depicted in the 1999 British documentary, Trouble at the Top, which told the tale of a shoe factory rallying against closure by finding it's niche with fetish footwear for men. The musical has music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper and the Tony Award win for Best Score of a Musical earned her a place in musical theater history.

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Cyndi Lauper speaks Kinky!
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