“The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough,” the theme from Steven Spielberg’s summer blockbuster, The Goonies, is more than just another hit record for Cyndi Lauper—it’s the story of her life. If a shy, skinny kid from Queens can turn herself into one of pop culture’s singular performance identities, there’s hope for goonies everywhere.
The song, co-written by Lauper, Stephen Broughton Lunt and Arthur Stead, conveys the credo of self-reliance-and-confidence despite adversity-and-derision that has hooked Lauper’s legions of goonie followers. The kids in the film are stereotypic misfits—from the fatty, the loudmouth and the nerd, to the wallflower and the brainless beauty—and as Lauper describes them as a group, she describes herself: “The goonies live in the goon-docks (Astoria, Oreg.), they’re lower-middle-class, and they’re abused by people, but they’re misfits that stick together. Goonies never give up. Goonies are good enough. It don’t matter where you come from, what you have: You have yourself.”
Right at this moment, though, Lauper, 32, barely has that. It’s 7 a.m., she has pulled an all-nighter, and, as she might put it, she ain’t feelin’ so hot. Cyndi’s been in a New York recording studio putting the final touches on the music for her second video installment of her Goonies national anthem. It’s the first two-part, movie-theme video ever (total running time: just over 11 minutes) and the first to borrow the story line, sets, characters, director (Richard Donner) and main honcho (Spielberg) of a studio feature. “Steven really liked my videos and thought my image and what I was about matched the movie. He wanted to merge those two identities.”
Spielberg’s instincts, as usual, were impeccable. Lauper isn’t the only kid misfit to enjoy the last laugh that comes with adult fame (see page 47). But she is one of the few who has won success by building on her goonie image instead of running from it. These days she travels strictly cognito. Look at her now: magenta-and-orange hair tucked inside a straw hat; odd-shaped sunglasses sparkling with inlaid thingies; a white jacket over a green T-shirt that droops to her knees; gray mid-calf Gandhi tights; clanging baubles; and an Elsie the Cow button.
Lauper’s tireless pro-woman work in casting, staging, designing, costuming and editing has not gone unnoticed. On June 7 the prestigious L.A.-based Women in Film organization honored Cyndi for her video work—the group’s first award for work in that area. “I wanted to use women differently in videos,” says Lauper. “They were being sold like cars. I tried to give women a different face, a stronger, more independent one, and that’s what Girls Just Want to Have Fun was all about.”
After a lifetime of steeling herself against conformity and social expectations, Lauper has a reservoir of strength that serves her well when she is faced with potentially intimidating situations—like, for example, meeting Spielberg. “I didn’t even know it was him at first,” she says. “A nice man. Makes great movies. Good sense of humor.” Having become acquainted with him, she was no less awed. “I told Dick (Donner) and Steven up front I didn’t wanna do a trailer for no movie. We all wanted a Cyndi video incorporated into the movie. So they show me the Goonies sets and say, ‘these sets can be yours, too’ and I says to Dave, ‘heyyyy, this ain’t bad, you know? It’s happ’nin’. I get creative license, I use the big expensive sets at Warners, I work with The Big Guy. Not a bad deal.”
Indeed. Part I, which includes a cameo appearance by Spielberg (himself a card-carrying goonie), already looks good enough to help turn the theme into Lauper’s sixth Top 10 hit, after five from her debut LP, She’s So Unusual. Part II, which premiered last week on MTV, resolves music video’s first cliff-hanger: Cyndi gets out of the watery scrape she got into in Part I. Cyndi’s mom (Catrine Dominique) and boyfriend manager Dave Wolff got into the act, as did her cantankerous goon squad of a wrestling repertory troupe; “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, the Fabulous Moolah and the Iron Sheik play the pirates who pursue Cyndi and her camp underground. “The wrestlers were a pain in the ass,” says Cyndi. “The goonie kids [Sean Astin, Jeff Cohen, Corey Feldman, Ke Huy-Quan, Josh Brolin, Kerri Green and Martha Plimpton] loved the wrestlers, but the Sheik was so rotten he made the kids cry because they were bein’ a little rowdy. He yelled at them and gave them a scare. And in that last scene with the water gushing over us, we were all exhausted. My mother was hanging onto the rocks. I’m holdin’ onto this log and I hear Dick yellin’ into the megaphone, ‘MORE WATER, MORE WATER, I CAN STILL SEE HER. MAKE HER DISAPPEAR.’ And these gigantic tanks opened up on me with water pressure so hard when I turned my face away it created an air pocket. I got bruises on my arm and thigh. I’m a wimp. I bruise easily.”
She’s exhausted and bruised now as well: Plainly, this being a professional goonie is not easy work. She staggers out of the recording studio into the early morning light and collapses into the back of a limo. On the ride to JFK airport she tries to catch some sleep, but a sharp stop on the expressway almost rolls her limp 100-pound body off the seat. She and her road manager kill a half hour in the first-class lounge, then a security guard escorts her through—actually around—the X-ray detectors. No sweat. Her weapon ain’t heavy metal. That sturdy carryon conceals only her chemical warfare arsenal for hair and makeup.
The L.A.-bound jumbo jet lifts off, and Lauper curls up to look down at all of Queens, her native land, and the narrow strips of sand off Long Island that were the beaches of her girlhood. Back then, growing up with a single, hardworking mother (her parents divorced when she was 5), Lauper bruised easily too. “It used to take my mom and I an hour and a half just to drive from Ozone Park to the beach there,” she says wistfully, pointing out a bridge to Coney Island. From this soaring, privileged perch, such landmarks of her lonely childhood soon dissolve into harmless abstraction.
She was not, she says, a true goonie, but a shy, withdrawn kid who always felt left out. “Goonies have each other. I was singular, alone. I wished when I was small that I had friends. I never was lucky enough to have friends like these kids in the film.” Not that there weren’t adventures. “I dug for worms but I didn’t use no map,” she says. “When it rained, I’d get ajar, put ’em in a jar, close the jar, poke holes in the top for air and keep ’em as pets. But they always dried up and died.” She sighs. “Sad life, I tell ya.”
Sad? Try tragic. “I had these sword-fishes,” she says. “The little tropical kind, not the big ones you see hangin’ up in country clubs and stuff. I was once doin’ my math homework and was supposed to regulate the water in the tank, right? Well, I happened to be involved in some very long division, and when I looked up, there they were, boiling at the top of the tank. I buried them in the alleyway under the garbage pails. That night I heard the cats going in there and diggin’ them up outta the soil and eatin’ them. I guess it was better than a burial at sea, which is what my mother wanted. She woulda flushed ’em down the toilet.”
She once dug for China, but “about two feet down, let me tell ya, it gets hard for a kid when the dirt turns that gold color.” She climbed trees but wouldn’t show her “goolie” [’Queens talk for derriere’] during “show your goolie” games. “I was so skinny. I said, ‘This is some game.’ ”
Cyndi invented inner games and fantasies that offered flight from loneliness: singing, dancing, “giving my dolls I don’t know how many crew cuts and coloring their hair with green vegetable dyes. I created my own world. I set up houses out of chairs with plastic over them so they became glass houses. I drew, wrote poems, designed clothes for my dolls. I wrote songs. I don’t remember doing anything else. I was afraid I’d be trapped in that misfit state, so I created my own world. All I wanted was to have fun, to enjoy being alive. I always daydreamed about having a creative life. I never understood the feelings I had then, and I reacted to everything around me.”
And within. Two grisly childhood dreams recurringly cast her as a victim and a saviour, as if her need to connect was so intense there was nothing in between. In one she is suffocating in deep water, unable to swim, as a boat circles her repeatedly before running over her. In the other she’s on a boat filled with dead people, trying to toss a life preserver to those drowning in the water. “Same set, same props,” she smiles, “different videos.”
Too tired to tackle the halibut steak and creamed spinach, the woman who sings Money Changes Everything licks a pat of butter and sips hot water with lemon. Now the video of We Are The World comes up on the small movie screen at the front of the first-class section. Cyndi’s right there, in an eerily masked, waking reenactment of her dream to save the dying. “What a night,” she mumbles. “It was so fantastic.” The Boss is onscreen, alongside Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Tina Turner, Billy Joel, Paul Simon, Kenny Rogers—who knows, there might be half a billion dollars’ worth of ex-goonies in the bunch. They, like Cyndi, each had to follow their own secret map to come upon the treasures buried deep inside. “Growin’ up the way I did,” she says, “helped create who I am now. If it had been easy for me, I wouldn’t have met all the great people I’ve met. And I tell ya, I’ve had fun. I get to create all the time, and I’m happy now, and I’ve got my freedom.” Goonies can hang together, she says, but they’ve got to dream, too. “Imagination is so important,” she says. “I tried hard not to believe people when they told me I couldn’t do something. In the end it’s turned out that I was right. I could do it. It sounds really corny, but if you can picture what you want, you can attain it. Kids who feel alone think there’s no tomorrow. They grow up scared to death. But there is a tomorrow. There’s also a little bit of goonie in all of us.”