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Kinky Boots - Broadway

Broadway’s huge-hearted hit is the winner of six Tony Awards including Best Musical!

Why Kinky Boots Composer Cyndi Lauper Is Like a Drag Queen and More Juicy Tidbits From Her New Memoir

Why Kinky Boots Composer Cyndi Lauper Is Like a Drag Queen and More Juicy Tidbits From Her New Memoir
Cyndi Lauper
Cyndi Lauper charts the ups and downs of her life and career in a new 'Memoir.'

The jeans-clad brunette on the cover of Cyndi Lauper: A Memoir bears little resemblance to the 80s superstar who sang “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” while skipping down the street in a Screaming Mimi crinoline and rainbow-hued hair. But that cover photo tells a deeper story: The steely look in Lauper’s eye hints at the iron will she displayed over the years to producers, record company executives, journalists and fellow artists, sometimes to the detriment of her career. As she prepares for the Broadway debut of Kinky Boots, her first musical as a composer, Lauper is celebrating the publication of her new book. What did we learn about Cyndi from her memoir? Plenty!

She Tried Dozens of Jobs—and Hated Almost All of Them. A high school dropout who left her Queens, NY, home at 17 to escape an abusive stepfather, Lauper landed a position as a Girl Friday at Simon & Schuster (which published her book four decades later). “I really did try so hard, but I sucked,” she writes, explaining that she typed 19 words a minute and had a tendency to fall asleep reading the mail. She went on to jobs as a mother’s helper, a street busker, an exotic dancer, a cleaning lady at a Hare Krishna temple, an assembly-line worker, a shoe saleslady, a walker of horses at a racetrack, a kennel attendant, a radio station deejay, a waitress at IHOP, an engraver of cheap jewelry and a hostess at a Japanese piano bar.

She Used Nudity for Her Own Purposes. Before settling on a music career, Lauper studied to become an artist, and when she wasn’t accepted into a watercolor class, she posed nude for the students. “They probably thought I was an exhibitionist or some kind of tramp,” she muses, but she was actually studying their technique while they painted her. After joining a band, she moonlighted as a topless dancer to earn money for expensive sound equipment. Lauper developed a signature butt-shaking move that drove the customers crazy, but she stopped when her night job began affecting her real-life relationships with men.

She Kissed a Lot of Frogs. “I never had much luck with young men,” Lauper understates, as she ticks off a parade of bad boyfriends and lovers that included a former mental patient who gave her hepatitis, a woodworking teacher, a depressed bandmate, and an older guy who expected her to cook and clean. After a long-term romance with her manager fizzled at a time when her career was on the downswing, Lauper found true love on the set of the flop film Off and Running with a super-cute actor named David Thornton. They married in 1991 in a traditional ceremony and are the proud parents of Declyn, born in 1997 when Lauper was 44.

She’s an Honorary Drag Queen. Her tough upbringing made Lauper a loyal friend to underdogs and nonconformists, from the wrestlers featured in her early videos to the LGBT community she champions through her True Colors Foundation. “Maybe I made it a little easier for kids who were different from the norm,” she says, noting that Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj told her she had influenced their careers. But Lauper was taken aback when she saw herself on Celebrity Apprentice in 2010: “I thought, ‘Jeez, I thought my hair was good. I thought my taste was good.’ Everything that I do is an illusion of how I’d like to look—not how I actually look. That’s why I get along with drag queens, because I am one.”

She’s Been Prepping for Broadway Since Childhood. Though Lauper grew up poor, her culture-loving mother took her to Shakespeare in the Park at the Delacorte Theater, and Cyndi memorized the songs on her mom’s recordings of My Fair Lady, The King and I and South Pacific. (Not mentioned in the Memoir: Her appearance as Jenny in the critically panned 2006 Broadway revival of Threepenny Opera.) Tapped by Harvey Fierstein and Jerry Mitchell to collaborate on Kinky Boots, she was thrilled to discover that “they’re not trying to change me…. I don’t have to worry that someone’s going to tell me to do something ridiculous.... I feel like I'm five again sometimes. I guess Harvey must have known all along that I'd love it."

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