By Gregg Shapiro
More than 25 years after Bette Midler, Cyndi Lauper, a diva with an equally sizable gay following, has put out a concert DVD. Live At Last (Epic Music Video/Daylight), was filmed on March 11, 2004 at the Town Hall in New York. It does its best to capture Lauper’s trademark live energy. I recently spoke with Ms. Lauper about the DVD.
Between The Lines: Of all the shows from the tour, why was the Town Hall show selected to be filmed for the DVD?
Cyndi Lauper: Because we wanted to have a place where we could really do a production. We weren’t really doing a production anywhere else. “A Mighty Wind” was filmed there (laughs).
BTL: I know. It’s a great venue.
CL: Well, it’s a small venue, so it makes it difficult when you have to film and you re filming around people and you have to kill a lot of seats because you need (to make room for) the equipment.
BTL: Speaking of smaller venues, when you were in Chicago (for the first leg of the tour) you performed at the Black Orchid, and you were venturing out into the audience and climbing on tables. I was marveling at that. Do you enjoy doing that?
CL: I usually do. In that kind of a thing I did, because it was small. I try and break the wall between audience and stage. For me, that’s just what I do.
BTL: At one point, you strike a pose like the women on the cover of the Latin music albums from the 1950s. Do you have any of those in your record collection?
CL: I don’t have a record collection. They’re in boxes. After all the moves and all the stuff and now my kid, I don’t know where my stuff is. I didn’t have any of those; that was mainly my aunt who had the Latin records.
BTL: When you put the guitar on for Walk On By, you made a comment about how you love using the amplifier. Do you enjoy playing along with yourself when you sing? And do you want to do more of that?
CL: The thing is, I’m just the utility guy. I think that sometimes I do. I’m not a great player, it’s a feel thing. Sometimes a really great player can’t play that feel. Sometimes it takes somebody who plays really badly (laughs).
BTL: The show had a generous helping of hits mixed in with the selections from “At Last.” Was it hard to decide what you wanted to include from your older songs?
CL: For that show, I worked on the set list for so long, that by the time I got to it, I knew what was right, because I tried it out with so many audiences that I knew. That’s why it’s good to film at the end of a tour, because by the time you get to the end, you know what it is. You’ve already tested out so many different set lists that you know what works nicely together.
BTL: I especially liked the French version of She Bop with the accordion. It was very Piaf.
CL: It was very funny.
BTL: Did you ever hear directly from any of the songwriters whose songs you perform on “At Last,” say Burt Bacharach, for example?
CL: No. But the guy who wrote “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” was in the audience that night. And he’s so cool.
BTL: Is the band that performs with you on the DVD the same touring band from the Cher tour?
CL: Everybody but one; the violin player was different. It’s an enormous difference. Different personality, different choice of playing, her sense of timing is totally. But it’s pretty much the same band. The band on tour now is the same band the (original) violin player came back.
BTL: One of the most moving moments in the show is when you perform “True Colors,” and you thrust your fist into the air.
CL: I try not to make it the same every night. I don’t even tell the same story every night. It’s basically about people standing up for themselves. It’s not about me. Lately, I’ve been reaching up to hold hands with the sky a little bit, and then I raise my fist for them, and I tell them what it means, so that they understand. A lot of people who weren’t born and didn’t live through the sixties don’t know that that means power to the people. So, that’s why.
BTL: Another entertaining portion of the DVD is the bonus feature footage in which you go out driving to the sites of your childhood with your friend. It was totally hilarious. Did you have fun doing that?
CL: It was my friend Kevin (Dornan), who did me a favor and came out with me. He didn’t want me to drive, because he doesn’t like my driving. He didn’t want to hang out of the car (with the camera), so I hung out of the car. He’s very funny anyway. He’s hilarious. He’s one of the funniest and sweetest people I know.
BTL: We’re getting into the election season, and I was wondering if you had been asked to perform at any fundraisers or political events?
CL: No, I haven’t. I had someone call me, another entertainer, who is doing some stuff but I just haven’t had a chance to get back to him. I think the most important thing is that people vote. It’s amazing that one party urges people to vote and the other party stops people from voting. It’s amazing to me (laughs), you know?
BTL: And a little scary, too.
CL: That’s why it’s so important that you do get out and vote.