She had zany punkish hair, wore tutus with boots and skipped around declaring the importance of fun in a flurry of vague feminism. Of course Cyndi Lauper’s a gay icon. Surely Girls Just Want To Have Fun is qualification enough.
Yes and no. Lauper has always been camp -“ the squeaky Brooklyn accent alone meets camp’s singular definition of an attempt at seriousness that fails, but Lauper has proved time after time (ahem) that she deserves a permanent shrine in the Lavender Hall Of Fame.
Firstly and most obviously, there’s her bizarre discography. The drag and dag standards Girls Just Want To Have Fun and Time After Time. Proto-girlpower standards like She Bop and Madonna/Whore. True Colors, a song The New York Times referred to only last week as a gay anthem for its rainbow imagery.
Then there’s Lauper’s version of Midnight Radio on the charity album of songs from Hedwig And The Angry Inch and her later covers of tracks as unfashionably poofy as La Vie En Rose and Makin’ Whoopee.
This is not to mention forgotten gems like He’s So Unusual, a tiny track from the breakthrough 1983 album She’s So Unusual, in which Lauper bemoans (with a wink) her lover’s mysterious sexual ambivalence. You talk of sweeties bashful sweeties/I’ve got one of those, she sings, and later: When I want some lovin’/And I gotta have some lovin’/He says please stop it please/He’s so unusual.
The fact that the song is a cover of a ditty from 1928 and was originally sung by Helen Kane -“ the voice of the black and white Betty Boop cartoon character -“ only adds to Lauper’s camp credibility.
Secondly, Lauper has been out and proud for the gay and lesbian community for a long time -“ and not just since her star has faded. It might be because of her lesbian sister, or maybe she’s always felt a little bit different.
Lauper told Washington’s Metro Weekly last month she first became aware of her gay following after receiving letters from suicidal teens who were moved by True Colors. By the time she was asked to perform at the 1994 Gay Games with a gaggle of drag queens her only concern was that she can’t dance. I’m always the guy at the back of the aerobics class bumping into people -¦ I’m spastic, she said.
Lauper’s also not afraid to talk politics. To the Houston Voice this month, Lauper voiced (again) her angry support for gay marriage. I don’t get why people are up in arms over it. Who the heck is it hurting? she said. We Are The World (on which she sang), was in retrospect ego shit and pretentious. And on HIV/AIDS, Lauper quipped to the Metro: Tell everyone there’s no sex like safe sex. I’m a she-bopper, so I can say that.
But the biggest reason why Cyndi Lauper is a gay icon, and has been for many years? Because she’s a girl who still wants to have fun.
When the Houston Voice asked whether her shows at gay clubs are different, Lauper (now 50 years old) replied:
I love doing those shows because you can do things like come out from a cocoon or in a gorilla suit. You can ride in on a horse and it’s all good.
In a gay club it’s not important to act -˜grown up’, she said. Lauper’s true colours: beautiful like a rainbow.
Info Cyndi Lauper will appear at the State Theatre, Sydney, on Wednesday 7 and Thursday 8 July at 8pm.
Phone 9266 4800 for bookings.