Posts Tagged ‘Cyndi Lauper

19
Dec
07

Song Poison: Pee-Wee’s Playhouse

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20
Mar
07

Put ‘Em on Me

Hand    
Empty and untouched
[fantasy arts resource project]

When I had a chance to touch Cyndi Lauper recently, I turned it down.

When she walked out onto the peninsula of stage projecting out into the masses assembled on the floor of the club, she reached down to the frantic hands grasping at her knees. She briefly clasped fingers, slapped palm to palm, butted fist to fist.

My friend pulled me closer and shouted into my ear. “Do you want to go up there and touch her hand? I’ll go up there with you.”

I hemmed and hawed and eventually decided no. No, I won’t.

“OK,” she said, “but if you change your mind, let me know. I’ll go up there with you.”

I wanted to go up there. No I didn’t. Yes I did. I looked at the bouncing crowd at her feet. It was packed. I’d have to be pretty aggressive to get up there. Rude, even. But I might never be so close again. And why shouldn’t they share her with me? Oh, why didn’t I start out closer to the stage before the show started, when there was plenty of room to stake out a spot?

    Cyndi Lauper
I couldn’t get a good snapshot, but memories “R” Good Enough.
[dnamagazine.com.au]

Lauper retreated, and the hands came down. My moment, my chance, had passed. Much more importantly, I could stop fussing and wimbling and concentrate on the show.

I looked over at my friend. What have I done? (What have I not done?) She sort of shrugged, as if to say, Well, that’s that. I asked you.

Cyndi Lauper was performing with Soul Asylum, Lifehouse and Mint Condition in a benefit concert for Wain McFarlane, a friend of mine. He needs a new kidney, and with the inadequate health insurance of a man who makes a living as a musician, Wain can’t afford the procedure and, more importantly, the anti-rejection drugs he’ll have to take the rest of his life. Thankfully, his brother is donating the organ, and it’s a good match. Things could be worse. But he’s still got to pay for it.

All the performers have a professional and personal connection to Wain, and agreed early on to do the show. Jeff and I flew back to Minneapolis for the show to support our friend — and, I’m not ashamed to say, to see Cyndi Lauper.

Before long, she was back on the peninsula, and my friend was elbowing me in the ribs.

I was reminded of a guy I met online whose cowboy hat Madonna took off his head at a concert last year. She wore it through a song and threw it back out into the crowd. He was apoplectic with joy. (His friends strongarmed the poor person who caught the hat into returning it.) Oh, why can’t I be like that guy?

As it was, I was embarrassed even to be standing there with my cellphone pointed upward trying to snap a few photo. My real camera had been barred at the door, but it didn’t stop us from flipping open our phones, the constellation of those tiny video displays glowing blue and shifting shape for the hour-long set.

It felt so lame and ineffectual. Every time Lauper looked in my direction, possibly even making eye contact a couple of times (which was thrill enough for me), I could feel her disappointment. You’re missing the point, idiot. This is music. This is a party. You’re trying so hard to capture the moment that you’re missing it.

She had enough to contend with, including a band that seemed unable or unwilling to keep up with her and some sound techs who just couldn’t seem to get it right. The diva — cold, raised voice, and forceful gestures (Move. There. Now.) — came out a couple of times. She is the boss and in total control. But she is not without flaws herself. When she dusted off “When You Were Mine,” an apparent gesture to local-boy-made-good Prince, she had forgotten many of the lyrics and couldn’t seem to read them very well from the back of a flyer where they had been scribbled. Eventually, she dropped the paper and rocked the chorus out instead.

None of the images I took turned out, by the way.

I had a friend in college who was a Tori Amos groupie and had a picture of herself with Amos from every concert she had attended. The dedication of waiting at the stage doors after each show, the consistency and Amos’ eventual recognition of her, was impressive to me. I was jealous, but also alarmed. It seemed obsessive. Why the need to do it more than once?

A group of three women pushed past me toward the stage, annoying the enormous man standing next to me. The one in front would gently displace someone and then her friends would rush through. It was a nuisance. There was no room for them. I hated them. I wanted to be them. No, I didn’t.

I don’t think less of people for wanting to make that contact. They were fulfilling a “need” that Lauper was willing to accommodate. Unlike my friend with the Tori Amos fetish, I suppose I just didn’t feel that need strongly enough to act on it. Unlike these women, I didn’t want to interfere with other people’s experience for an ultimately empty gesture.

It struck me that this may not have been about me. By refusing to push forward, I was keeping my friend from getting closer, too. All the emotion around my devision was instantly transferred to guilt. I should do it for her, not me. Though I guess her boyfriend could have taken her up there if she really wanted to go.

It’s enough for me to consider that I am only a degree away from Cyndi Lauper. I felt like an insider just being there. I had the hubris to think that maybe Wain would introduce us after the show. It would be just weird to touch her hand like everyone else. She talked about her upcoming True Colors Tour (which won’t stop in Minneapolis), days before the official announcement. But even that is meaningless. I don’t know her. I have nothing to say except as a one of millions of distant fans.

Cyndi Lauper is a formidably talented musician, not a faith healer. I would love to meet her and tell her I admire her and thank her for helping me friend. But I don’t want to reduce her to a fetish. What would I get out of touching her hand? The transferance of greatness? A palm full of sweat? Maybe the human touch would be just enough to assure them that she is as real as they are. Or that they are as real as she is.

Dammit, I should have just gone up there and done it.

26
Jan
07

Kidney Tones (with apologies to Jeff)

   
From the cover art of Wain’s 2001 release That Was Then, This is Now
[myspace.com/wainmcfarlane]

These days, my good friend Wain sticks mainly to cranberry juice. He jokes now about his bar tab. Not long ago, he’d drop a twenty at the most on a night out, because so many people would buy him drinks and the bartenders would do him favors. But no one gets anyone a cranberry juice, even good friends. He has to buy his own. And at a bar they charge you like it’s a cocktail. So now he spends much more not drinking than he ever did drinking.

He’s no alcoholic, and this is no 12-step program. Trust me, if he had his druthers, Wain would be back to the booze — free or not. But he’s got a problem with his kidneys that makes alcohol highly … um … disagreeable to his system. He’s on doctor’s orders. (And when that doctor is from the Mayo Clinic, one doesn’t argue.)

Wain’s kidneys are functioning at roughly 6 percent capacity. He needs a new one pretty badly. And as a musician, he doesn’t have heaps of disposable income and he doesn’t have great health insurance. He does have three things, however, in abundance: luck, friends and connections.

The luck came in at a bar in Walker, Minnesota, out in the north woods. He plays up there sometimes. At this bar, by chance, he met a doctor. That doctor knew a kidney specialist at Mayo. And suddenly there was Wain’s golden opportunity. Introductions made … 87 miles each way between Minneapolis and Rochester, Minnesota … tests taken … and voilà! We have a surgeon and we have a donor (one of Wain’s brothers).

The friends came in shortly thereafter. A bunch of musicians decided to get together to produce a benefit concert on March 10. Wain fronted a funk/reggae band in the ’80s and ’90s called Ipso Facto, and he’s been around the block a few times, having played with Prince’s band, Dave Pirner, Jonny Lang, UB40, Tracy Chapman and scores of others. This is where connections come in.

A few years back, Wain’s brother was Cyndi Lauper’s tour manager, and she became friendly with the family. Wain tells me he once saw her at a party in a gorilla costume. A musician he mentored toured with her. When she performed at the Minnesota State Fair in 2004, she let Wain sing “Time After Time” with her, letting him ad lib a verse dedicated to his late sister. She brought him back out on stage for “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” which Wain and her bass player spun into an impromptu reggae jam.

A connection.

   
[cyndilauper.com]

So, we are told, Ms. Lauper has graciously agreed to lend some of her time and abundant talent to the cause. And many other people he’s worked with are helping out, too: Lifehouse, Mint Condition, Soul Asylum. You can read about it on her Web site.

Wain was our neighbor for more than three years. His wife Catherine, another good friend, was our landlady. He sang at our wedding. We planted vegetable gardens and herb gardens together. They babysat our cat. We’ve had Easters and Thanksgivings. We’ve dined on curried goat. We’ve toasted aquavit. He once gave us 15 lbs. of crab legs (there wasn’t enough room in his freezer for 30 lbs.) because the parents of a kid he tutored are fishmongers and they paid Wain in fish.

We just saw Wain right before Christmas. And I guess we’ll be back in March. Apparently he thinks we don’t visit enough, so he’s hauling out the heavy ammunition. I’ll take any excuse to go back to my adopted home for a visit. Even in a month as c-c-cold as March. But it’s not Cyndi Lauper who’s luring us back. It’s the prospect of being part of a concert full of people who are there to give their love to my friend.

(Truth be told, having Cyndi Lauper there, too, doesn’t hurt.)

To all my Minnesotans: Please buy tickets!

15
Apr
06

Threepenny Opera

We recently saw the Roundabout Theater’s revival of Threepenny Opera, starring Alan Cumming, Cyndi Lauper, Ana Gasteyer and Nellie MacKay, while it was in previews. I didn’t love it but I enjoyed it. We ended up with great seats because I had screwed up and bought tickets for a Wednesday show and not the Friday show we were at. So, they gaveus best available, which was halfway back on main level, not up in the balcony, two rows in front of the back wall. Sometimes being an idiot pays off.

I know nothing about Berthold Brecht or previous performances of the show. And all I knew about it beforehand was that “Mac the Knife” came from it and the Bea Arthur was in a 1950s staging of the show. I saw her sing Pirate Jenny in her one-woman show a few years ago. So, I figured it would be pretty dark and baudy; low-brow. But it was far darker and baudier than I expected. And I didn’t get all the preachy moralizing about the criminal class at the end, but whatever… I don’t need to.

The cast was great; a good mix of voices and styles. It was less like watching a show than like watching a bunch of people getting together to put on a show. A review I read recently was highly critical of the production, but the writer found the individual performances praiseworthy, like the actors were all gathered to create for something great and then let down.

But we were there primarily to see Cyndi Lauper — much as we once went to a Cher concert only because she did a set between the forgettable opening act and Cher’s overambitious but entertaining headline performance. (More entertaining were the Cher drag queens in attendance.) She had blue hair. She walked out into the arena audience. It was bliss.

In Threepenny Opera, my girl Cyndi has an A+ voice. I mean, really top form. Total control. Her spine-tingling pipes start out the show from dead, dark silence with the opening song, “Mac the Knife.” I was so happy for her.

I’d have to give her stage acting something closer to a B+. Her lines were fine. She seemed mostly natural, but her timing was clearly off. I wasn’t disappointed, per se. Even though she’s only in three of four scenes. And I think they gave one of the songs she is supposed to sing to Nellie MacKay. Plus, it was in previews, and I’m sure she picked up a few things here and there to improve the part.

Cyndi’s moxie is in her singing voice. She expresses herself through a song. Her voice makes the mood of the lyric. This is why she’s good in a video. As amateurish as it may seem by more current standards, Time After Time can still make me cry. When she’s on that train doing that weird sign language with her hands, saying goodbye to her boyfriend, it’s wrenching. Why is she leaving? Who knows. Who cares? She’s leaving, and thats always the worst thing, right? Simple. Expressive. Real enough. And that RCA dog statue? Genius. Same with Madonna, incidentally, though Madonna has markedly less vocal talent than Cyndi Lauper. I think her best acting was in Evita, which is a two-hour music video.




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