She’s So Unusual

This review was originally published via The Classical Mess, a Substack I was doing a few years ago before I found out they gave money to bigots.

“By the way, if you listen to the very end of ‘She Bop,’ you’ll hear that Michael Jackson took the bass line and wrote ‘Bad’ from it. Right before he went in to record ‘Bad’ he sat behind me on an airplane with Emmanuel Lewis and he was listening to ‘She Bop.’ Anyway, it doesn’t matter. I’m very flattered by even the thought of that.”

This snippet from Cyndi Lauper’s eponymous 2012 memoir arrives in the midst of a lengthy passage about touring Romania in the early 21st Century. It’s not an isolated incident of narrative interruption. Turns out you can take the girl out of Queens but you can’t take the unpredictable tangent out of the New York storyteller. When Lauper mentions her home in Connecticut she confirms that it’s in the same area where that lady had her face ripped off by a chimp and she meditates on that for a few beats.

Michael Jackson isn’t the only superstar Lauper accuses of plagiarism in Cyndi Lauper: A Memoir. According to her, Bruce Springsteen lifted the template of her song “Sally’s Pigeons” for his Oscar and Grammy-winning effort “Streets of Philadelphia.” Lauper was less enthused with this theft and she has another Bruce anecdote where he acted coldly towards her at a party. Let’s get these two on “WTF” so they can hash it out.

Cyndi Lauper: A Memoir presents a familiar trajectory — hard scrabble upbringing, a years long “overnight” success, lonely times at the top, listening to 50 Cent while you drive your son to hockey practice. Lauper endured her share of abuse on the journey through celebrity, underscoring a real tenacity, and she’s candid regarding her own mistakes. The example springing to mind per the latter is, for lack of a better term, fucking insane: Lauper once referred to herself using the n word (with a hard “r”) during a record company meeting early in her career.

Lauper says she was referencing Yoko Ono’s controversial quote about women that employs the epithet and claims she “wasn’t sensitive” at that age to the “long history of abuse and slavery and horror” sewn into those six letters. I don’t buy the second half of this 70-year-old white woman’s defense but at least she’s not pretending she didn’t say the n word. And at no point does she use the “some of my best friends” crutch.

Did you know Cyndi Lauper had a recurring role on 1990s sitcom “Mad About You?” I didn’t. Lauper praises Paul Reiser as one of Hollywood’s true nice guys but says Helen Hunt was a little crazy with power. Specific examples are not provided, so the “Mad About You” historians have their work cut out for them.

The great Jancee Dunn co-authored Cyndi Lauper: A Memoir but, as noted, it doesn’t feel like much editorial work was applied. In addition to all the bizarre tributaries, the tone is inconsistent. Sometimes Lauper writes like a normal person and sometimes she lapses into the phonetic quack of a Bowery Boy. The latter is cute, though occasionally it obscures Lauper’s thesis on a given topic.

Was there friction between Lauper and Dunn? The copy of Cyndi Lauper: A Memoir I own is autographed by Lauper and when I received it the jacket was bent in such a way that Dunn’s photo was not visible. Let the conspiracy theories flow.

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