This is how it always happens. In that wicked space between free radical dream association (typically involving the Queer Eyes, Michael Jackson and everyone else I hate) and my first mind-numbing beverage, I'm faced with the prospect of utter humiliation by way of the telephone interview. The phone is ringing its rhythmic hate across the room, and I'm bundled up like a junkie in severe regret. I'm shaking. I'm shaking. Omigod, Cyndi Lauper's calling and I haven't got a thing to ask her!
In fairness, I've spent many a phoner with Cyndi over the past five years, and have already asked her everything that's important to me about hair tips, wrestling and being gay (which she isn't, we should note). She is the perfection against which I measure myself and is quite possibly the mother I never had. And she's an awful interview. Or I'm an awful interviewer.
Whatever. The sky is falling. Wolf!
"Hello?" I shiver into my destiny, er, phone.
"How ah ya?" it blows back.
How am I? Practically dead, thank you. "Cyndi, I have to tell you that every time I interview you I gush and tend to ruin everything. So, um, I'm gonna try not to gush this time," I incisively Donahue.
"Um, OK. How ah ya?" she reiterates, neither taking my bait nor lessening her grip. I'm a goner.
You with your sad heart, don't be discouraged, though I realize it's hard to take courage ... is what I'm waiting for, drowning in my true colors. Instead, it's this dead air -- dead air, dead air, dead air -- and I want my mommy. In lieu of retreading the refried follicles of Cyndi's '80s heyday, I opt instead to focus on the now. After all, she has been re-signed to Epic and has just released, to remarkable acclaim, a covers album of pseudo-standards called At Last. It's awful weepy, though. And so am I.
"How was your New Year?" she softens me up, shakes me back to a relative time/space and reminds me that I have an interview to do.
"Good!" I fart. "And yours? It was very public." Cyndi did the Times Square honors, you see, soaring to the sky while the bomb -- er, ball -- dropped on Dick Clark in the middle of everybody who's anybody. I know this because I'm an idiot.
"I went out there in the middle of everybody when I was 18," she Times Squares. "So it was great to come back there and be the one up there when he was dropping the ball. It's amazing. It's been an amazing journey."
One surely highlighted by this worthless phone call, but I digress. Because I do. "You've been really, really busy over this past year," I really, really. "I don't know how you keep up, or keep yourself centered."
"Well ... ," more dead air, possibly responding to the thought that maybe she thinks I think she's too old for all of this -- which I don't. "Unfortunately, I am still very self-centered, ha ha. Every time I go out on the road, I'm more apt to be doing yoga, you know, more than I do."
Precisely why I never go out on the road. So, on to the record, then. An odd choice for reintroduction, if you don't count the fact that Cyndi's never stopped making music. (There are about four albums you haven't heard, and they're really, really good.)
"Everybody's view of things is very odd. But I always view things opposite of what they see it to be, sometimes."
I always sometimes do too.
"People view it as kitsch. I try to paint it in a color that makes it more fact. And as I tried to put it all together, I was like, 'Eh, deez ah a lot of syad tings! Let's do a little upbeat! Happy-go-lucky in some kinda way.'"
"It's a real showcase for your voice," I deflate.
"Well, it was supposed to be that."
Oh. And here's where I really flub. "It seems you've really sidestepped the nostalgia market by taking other people's nostalgia songs and making them your own," I make no sense. "You've made other people's nostalgia somehow irrelevant, mathematically."
Meanwhile, Duran Duran's playing on VH1 Classic and I just want to paint my toenails and throw up.
"There's a twist on it. As I went along, I realized that I was treating the pop songs like standards and the standards like pop songs," she is obviously related to me, mathematically. "But then again, if you're gonna reinterpret something you gotta bring what you know to the table, which is what I did."
Speaking of tables, what if I ask her about the extreme botox boredom of the Democratic primaries? Now I'm reaching. Tellingly, Cyndi was all for Carol Moseley Braun, which is sorta cool, I guess.
"I think we need an African-American woman and a white woman to run this country," she says, inserting the word "shitty" somewhere when describing Bush and asking me not to print it. "Their Clean Air Act, or whatever that is. They chop the trees down. It gives them permission to chop the trees down."
The conversation veers, safely, into "Taboo" territory, where Cyndi will go on to chastise the press for killing Rosie's Boy George fetish. Cyndi knows Boy George (or George O'Dowd, as we call him), which means I totally do too.
Realizing that all of this is going nowhere, I opt for the one comedic thing I have written on the back of my hand ... besides my own phone number. There was this one time, at band camp, when I programmed Cyndi's cell phone number into my cell phone for shits and/or giggles, and it produced both. Except when somebody sat on my phone and it speed dialed her, um, at 3 a.m. prompting her to call back all pissed off.
"Oh, yeah," she scratches her extensions. "I remember. You apologized and said that you had interviewed me and ..." blah, blah, blah.
"Well, I'm still really, really sorry," I cower.
"Oh, it's OK." She is the most perfectest person ever.
"I love you!" I crumble to the floor.
"Oh. Ha, ha."
And I'm sorry.