She’ll always be remembered for singing Girls Just Want To Have Fun... but Cyndi Lauper has revealed a dark, violent past that pushed her to the brink of suicide.
The Eighties pop icon, whose distinctive style inspired Madonna and Lady Gaga, has sold more than 50 million records and had 40 hit singles.
But in her shockingly honest new autobiography she tells for the first time how she escaped a violent upbringing and a life begging on the street to make it as a chart star.
And in 1989, when she was living alone in a New York hotel after her hits started to dry up, the singer – now married to actor David Thornton – hit rock bottom after splitting from her long-term partner and manager David Wolff.
She says: “I had come so far but felt like I had failed. I disappointed the record company because I didn’t come home with an armful of awards like they expected. It was always like that — it was never enough.
"I would go to the studio, and then sit in my dark room and drink vodka. I had to spend most of my time alone. I was grieving. I thought the sadness would never go away.”
But ironically, fame saved her life. She says: “The only thing that always prevented me from suicide is that I never wanted a headline to read, ‘Girl who wanted to have fun just didn’t’.”
When she started therapy she started to recover, pouring her heart out about the violence, misery and squalor she had endured in her earlier years.
After her dad left home when she was 10, her mum married a man who turned out to be a violent bully who threatened to **** Cyndi and her sister Elen.
She left home at 17 after catching her stepfather spying on her in the bath and ended up living alone in an apartment in New York, so poor she had to beg or busk for food.
She says: “I had no television, no stereo, nothing. I was still a kid and I was alone.
“A lot of times I couldn’t take it anymore, so I just lay in bed all the time. When I really couldn’t deal with anything, I used to get the shakes, just complete anxiety attacks.
“I’d empty out the cupboard under the sink and crawl under there. I’d stay in there because it was enclosed, and slowly I would begin to feel better.”
She was once so poor she was forced to eat a squirrel her boyfriend had shot.
She says: “I cut its head off and peeled back the skin, and I thought, ‘Hmm, there’s not a lot of meat’. But I took whatever was there and chopped it up. Then I cut up an onion, put olive oil in a pan with some basil, a little garlic, and a bay leaf, and sautéed the squirrel.”
Cyndi, 59, tried to make it as a singer in a group but ended up suffering a terrifying sex assault at the hands of her bandmates. One was playing around with a sex toy when the mood turned sinister.
She says: “He grabbed it then two other people grabbed me. I ran away from them but they caught me and pulled my pants off. I tried so hard to break loose and I couldn’t because I was being held down by his girlfriend and her sister.
“I finally broke away. I was nauseated and in disbelief that it wasn’t just men.The girlfriend went into the bathroom, and I followed her, still not dressed. And I said to her, ‘Why did you do this to me?’ and she told me it was because she loved the guy and wanted to make him happy.”
When she was 23, Cyndi, who had been told she could never have a baby because of a cervical complication, got pregnant by a musician boyfriend called Richie.
She was suffering from chronic stomach pain and was told the medicine she could take for it might harm her baby.
She says: “When I told Richie that I was pregnant, I didn’t tell him about the medicine, just to see his reaction.
"He said, ‘You know, we can get an abortion’. It just broke my heart that there wasn’t even a thought to keep the baby.”
She had the abortion, then was so desperate for money she started working as a topless dancer.
She says: “My stage name was Carrot because I had red hair and my performances were pretty creative.
"Instead of just shaking my tail feather, I would make believe I was with someone or I’d make shapes. As long as it had sex in it, the people watching didn’t care.”
New York-born Cyndi – real name Cynthia – formed a band called Blue Angel before going solo.
She says: “My hairdo, my clothes – everything–became fashion. I wore corsets and then Madonna did it and after a while everybody was wearing them.”
Cyndi says people tried to make them out to be rivals. She says: “They tried to create this big rivalry, but my feeling was, you don’t f****** knock another sister.
“The thing was, our music wasn’t even similar, although if you ask me, her voice was sped up in Like A Virgin to make it sound high like mine. She was so smart about business and marketing, which I never was, and she always was, and still is, beautiful.”
Cyndi says: “When I got up to make my acceptance speech for Favorite Pop/Rock Female Artist, I looked at Madonna sitting in the audience and I felt so crummy, because Like A Virgin was number one for six weeks in a row. I never had that kind of success.
“I met her afterwards and said, ‘Hey, Like A Virgin is unbelievable, it’s so great, congratulations’. She was nice but it was a really short exchange.”
Then because of her experience of abortion, Cyndi spoke out when she thought Madonna glamorised teen pregnancy. Cyndi says: “When the Papa Don’t Preach video came out, with Madonna dancing around in her sexy outfit, I had something to say about that. If you’re a teen mother who wants to keep her baby, number one you’re not going to look like Madonna dancing around.
“Number two, it ain’t gonna be that easy. I was proud to have spoken out for what I knew was right, but the record company and my manager freaked out.”
After her music career began to fade, Cyndi branched out into acting. On the set of the 1991 film Off And Running she met heartthrob actor David Thornton.
She says: “After I watched all these girls hitting on David, I thought, ‘You know what? I’m Cyndi Lauper, goddamn it! If somebody’s going to get this guy, why can’t it be me?’”
They hit it off at dinner and, after parting, Cyndi called him and invited him to her hotel room.
She recalls: “So I said, ‘Why don’t you come upstairs and finish what you started?’ I think that was a line from an old Mae West movie.
“So he came upstairs. And we made love for the first time on a bed drenched in moonlight against the sound of the ocean waves. It was Valentine’s Day 1990.”
They married a year later and Cyndi gave birth aged 44 to a son, Declyn, in November 1997. But despite longing for a second child, it “wasn’t in the cards”.
Now Cyndi says she hopes she blazed a trail for today’s female artists.
She says: “I wanted to be larger than life, to be better than who I was, to look completely different.
"That’s why I relate to Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj.”
And even US president Barack Obama has noticed, saying of Lady Gaga when Cyndi met him, “She took all your moves! You’re the original.”
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Posted By: Awareness |
10/03/12 2:16 PM
She is the true original!