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Cyndi Lauper (#110 of 6)

Summer of ‘88 Ken Kwapis’s Vibes

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Summer of ‘88: Vibes
Summer of ‘88: Vibes

This past June, 59-year-old Cyndi Lauper—an enduring and consistently surprising presence on the American pop-music scene—won a Tony award for her score to the Broadway musical Kinky Boots. The accolade was a remarkable achievement for the Queens, N.Y. native, particularly given that it was for her debut in the medium. But let us flash back 26 years to 1987 when Lauper, then known primarily as a peppy, kooky pop singer with a string of hits behind her, was gearing up for a debut of a different sort. She’d been cast in her first acting role, in Vibes, a high-concept comedy about a pair of hapless psychics who travel to Ecuador in order to help a shady figure obtain a mystical golden relic. Unfortunately, unlike Kinky Boots, the outcome wasn’t particularly rewarding.

The portents were ominous from the beginning. Dan Aykroyd was cast as the male lead, but bailed because he felt uneasy about Lauper’s intuitive acting style. As Lauper recalls in her 2012 memoir: “We did a reading together…I was totally green, and nobody told me how to do it. And when Dan saw what I did, I guess he felt my approach was just wrong and he kept saying, ’How are you going to talk to your spirit guide?’” Aykroyd was replaced by Jeff Goldblum, but another setback followed when original director Ron Howard, who’d recently hit big with Splash and Cocoon, suddenly dropped out, leaving relative rookie Ken Kwapis (Follow That Bird) to take over.

15 Songs About AIDS

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15 Songs About AIDS
15 Songs About AIDS

Today marks the 32nd anniversary of the first report of the virus that would become known as HIV. In 1998, singer-songwriter Dan Bern released a song called “Cure for AIDS”; there have been countless jokey songs about the disease, including Ween’s “The HIV Song” and “Everyone Has AIDS” from Team America: World Police, but Bern’s seemingly lighthearted track was profound in its idyllic vision of a world free of the disease. Fifteen years later, an end to the epidemic feels like a very real possibility. Nearly 30 million people have reportedly died from AIDS, but each week seems to bring news of another breakthrough in the decades-long quest for a vaccine or cure. We thought this would be a good time to look back at some of the music inspired by the crisis that (eventually) galvanized a generation into action.

Sinful Cinema Girls Just Want to Have Fun

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Sinful Cinema: Girls Just Want to Have Fun
Sinful Cinema: Girls Just Want to Have Fun

Full disclosure: I am absolutely biased when it comes to Girls Just Want to Have Fun, the sweatband-and-synthesizer chick flick that pulls its name from Cyndi Lauper’s breakout hit. This is the movie I used to rent incessantly and watch on elementary-school sick days, back when, ya know, no one suspected a thing about this sports-snubbing color coordinator. So excuse me if I have a certain fondness for Janey Glenn (Sarah Jessica Parker), whose enthusiasm is almost as huge as her barely-straightened hair, and Lynne Stone (Helen Hunt), who made the Catholic School uniform naughty way before Britney Spears. But even from an objective viewpoint, Girls Just Want to Have Fun isn’t really a bad film, at least not in the ways in which we tend to define bad films. The acting is more than competent, there’s not much glaringly bad dialogue, the humor is inventive, and the song-and-dance is engaging. The direction (by Back to School helmer Alan Metter) is smooth enough, and there’s essentially nothing morally reprehensible to sneer at. It’s consummately tacky, for sure, but as a high school fantasy about a young girl chasing a dream, it’s got a leg up on a whole lot of like-minded films. The reason it’s such an easy target for ridicule is it may be one of history’s most instantly dated movies. Consider what Lynne says when she first meets Janey on the bus, and turns her schoolgirl skirt inside-out to reveal a leather interior: “Velcro! Next to the Walkman and Tab it’s the greatest invention of the 20th century.”

Listen: Slant‘s Best Singles of the 1980s

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Listen: Slant’s Best Singles of the 1980s

Warner Bros. Records

Listen: Slant’s Best Singles of the 1980s

Listen to Slant Magazine’s Best Singles of the 1980s, except for most of Prince’s songs, because he apparently wants to pretend it’s still the ’80s.