Pop legend Cyndi Lauper just kicked off her fund-raising True Colors Tour and returned with Bring Ya to the Brink, her first full album of original material in more than a decade. As she serves up a toe-tapping catalog of club tracks with collaborators Basement Jaxx and Kleerup, riffs with Rosie, and invades the bathroom stalls of New York City gay bar Splash for her latest video, it seems the kooky songstress is having an even gayer summer than we are.
Out: You're currently on the road for your True Colors Tour.
Cyndi Lauper: Yes, our next stop is Foxwoods Casino [in Mashantucket, Conn.]. I especially like this place because of the Native Americans who run it. Once in awhile I meet the elders and it's a little piece of history.
And you'll be passing through 24 cities?
I think so. In San Francisco, I'm gonna be the [gay pride] grand marshal, so I'm very excited about that. I was the grand marshal of Provincetown a few years back. It was so small and very intimate. I was walking the streets, playing the ukulele, singing about gay Paris.
Your 12th album, Bring Ya to the Brink, just came out. How do you keep your voice so fresh? What's your secret?
I exercise my body. If you have a strong body, you have a strong voice. I steam my voice with white flour oil and a stainless steel pot. You suck in the steam. If you do it 15 minutes before and after a show, I think it will save you the wear and tear on your voice.
Jimmy Kimmel is particularly interested in your vocal talent. In his video "I'm Fucking Ben Affleck" he confessed to his girlfriend, Sarah Silverman, that he'd been having a gay affair with the actor. It's a spoof of "We Are the World," and he wanted you involved, but he couldn't get you.
Somebody told me this, but I didn't get that phone call. We were awfully busy. We were in Japan.
He went with Josh Groban instead.
That's very funny.
You recently performed in Sydney dressed as Marie Antoinette. Why her?
C'mon, Marie Antoinette was the original party girl. It was Mardi Gras. It was wild. I performed "Same Ol' Story" for the first time, but everybody started singing it during the second chorus. My son wanted me to keep the swearing in that song, but I had to take the "fucking" out of [the chorus line "same ol' fucking story"] for the clean version.
Bring Ya to the Brink is very dance-driven -- you worked with acts like Basement Jaxx and Kleerup, who worked on Robyn's new record -- but top 40 radio is dominated by hip-hop now. Did it ever cross your mind to delve into hip-hop?
When I did Hat Full of Stars it was all about hip-hop. I wanted to do more dance to work with a lot of different people. I worked with DJ EMZ, an indie hip-hop guy, on the track "Lyfe," but I wanted to make all these little bands, form these little unions. Me and Basement Jaxx did ["Rocking Chair"] from scratch, me and Dragonette did ["Grab A Hold"] from scratch. I didn't want to just sing on top of tracks. I don't like that. I wanted to keep their personalities and mine too. I did "Into the Nightlife" with [producer] Peer Astrom, but I incorporated my son's music -- like Soulja Boy and Ludacris -- into it.
"Into the Nightlife" is the new single, right?
Yes, I wanted to take a snapshot of the time that I was living. It's bips and bops of real-life things I do. You do sit around late at night after the club in Chinatown -- because it's the only thing that's open -- and you're sitting there, opening your fortune cookie and having a heated discussion about life. The title was taken from a Henry Miller play, which I found out about when I was reading a Lawrence Ferlinghetti beat poetry book. The song is derivative of real literature.
Why did you decide to record the video for "Into the Nightlife" at [New York City gay club] Splash?
I used to go dancing there. I remembered they had showers and thought that would make a great picture with the water. They have a great dance floor and excellent [bathroom] stalls. I didn't want to have a typical dance video and avoid the cheese factor. [Musician and former gay porn star] Colton Ford is in it, and Lucas Silveira from the Cliks, and my friends.
Did Alan Cumming make it to the shoot? You used to go out with him a lot when you were in The Threepenny Opera.
He was away, but that's where the germ came from. I knew [after that show] I'd go back to my world and not be with them anymore, but I thought if I made some music that theyd be dancing to that we'd still be together.
Do you still make it out to the clubs?
It's funny. When you're on tour nobody sees you, but I'm a rock n' roller. I'm not a nun! What do you think I do?!
What's the craziest moment you've had so far during the True Colors Tour?
The B-52s are wild -- and the best band. Rosie ODonnell is fan-tastic! She is now dancing and singing with us, as well as doing percussion.
What does she sing with you guys?
Will fans see you as Marie Antoinette again?
Well, for the parade, when I'm the grand marshal, I have to think of something. I gotta pull it together.
I'm thinking big, big hair.
Well, I got a headdress. What kinda grand marshal would I be without it? Not so grand.
Bring Ya to the Brink is available now.
Click here for a full schedule of the True Colors Tour.