Why Cyndi Lauper Filed For Bankruptcy

There are few performers who are as synonymous with 1980s popular culture as Cyndi Lauper. Lauper burst onto the pop charts in 1983 with her debut solo album "She's So Unusual," per Biography, which included her signature song, the popular girl power anthem and dance floor hit "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun." The album also included such his as "Time After Time," "She Bop," and "All Through The Night."

"She's So Unusual" went on to sell 6 million copies in the United States, and a total of 13 million copies worldwide, and Lauper's funny and artistic music videos were on constant rotation on the then-brand-new music video channel MTV. Lauper has gone on to release several more albums over the years, none of which sold as well as "She's So Unusual," but she has remained a cultural icon and has gone on to be an outspoken champion of gay rights as well as a spokesperson for the National Psoriasis Foundation. 

Cyndi Lauper started singing as soon as she could talk

Cynthia Ann Stephanie Lauper was born June 22, 1953 in Astoria, New York. She grew up in Queens and after her parents divorced, her mother raised her and two siblings on her own in a railroad apartment while working as a waitress, per Biography. Lauper felt like an outcast from a very early age. She starting singing, as she told People magazine in 1984, "as soon as I could talk. I was always artistic, or was it autistic? There was always that drive to sing like God knows what. My voice has always been stronger than my body." 

After disastrous times in Catholic and public elementary and high schools, Lauper earned a GED and set out for rural Vermont with her dog, Sparkle, where she worked as a housekeeper, kennel worker, and waitress, as well as doing one year at a small college. Lauper later said of her time in the country, "I felt there just wasn't any room for me in this world. But you can't escape yourself. 'Why was I alive,' I'd ask." She decided to return to New York and try to sing professionally.

Cyndi Lauper's first band was not a shining success

Before she became famous, Cyndi Lauper had her share of the struggles that are typical for anyone trying to make it in the cutthroat world of rock and roll. Per a 1984 interview with Rolling Stone, Lauper started her singing career in a disco cover band, Doc West, followed by a more rock-oriented outfit called Flyer. Eventually, after taking time off from public performing and concentrating on building her voice with lessons, Lauper met saxophonist John Turi and they formed the rockabilly band Blue Angel (shown above), which performed 1950s-style music around New York. They attracted the attention of manager Steve Massarsky, who bought their management contract. They soon signed a record contract with Polygram Records.

In 1980, Blue Angel released their sole, self-titled album. In a review for All Music, critic Lindsay Palmer referred to the band as a "retro rock quintet" whose songs paid tribute to famous 1960s girl groups like the Angels and the Ronettes and expressed surprise that the "compelling compositions and equally persuasive instrumentalists" hadn't led to more acclaim and record sales. Lauper would later joke that it had "gone lead," per People.

Cyndi Lauper was forced to declare bankruptcy

According to Rolling Stone, a management change at Polygram wouldn't let Blue Angel back into the recording studio until they had what the article calls "dynamite songs." Furthermore, the band was unhappy with their manager, Steve Massarsky, and when they fired him, Massarsky responded by suing the band for the $80,000 he claimed they owed him. Cyndi Lauper responded to the lawsuit by filing for bankruptcy, which was granted. Massarsky later remembered, "That was the last time I saw her, at the settlement. I walked up to her, kissed her on the cheek and said, 'Hey, now go make all the money we all thought you could make to begin with. Go become a star.'"

Post-bankruptcy, Lauper decided to go solo and bide her time waiting for the right situation — singing cover songs again, this time at the Japanese piano bar Miho, and working at the famous vintage clothing boutique Screamin' Mimi's. She met a new manager, David Wolff, in 1981.

'This must be the kind of new manager I need'

In a 1984 interview with People magazine, Cyndi Lauper recalled meeting David Wolff, who became her boyfriend as well as her manager in short order: "He's from Connecticut, and he's got flare pants. We're talking '80s, right? So that's two major drawbacks right there — Connecticut and flares. But we get talking about rock pygmies that live underground and come up for wampanini juice, so I says to myself, 'This must be the kind of new manager I need.'" 

As reported by Rolling Stone, Wolff introduced Lauper to CBS executive producer Lennie Petze, which led to a meeting with producer Rick Chertoff. Chertoff brought in his friends Eric Bazilian and Rob Hyman of the Philadelphia rock band the Hooters as well as songwriter Jules Shear, drummer Anton Fig, and bassist Neil Jason. The result was "She's So Unusual," which was a massive hit and, per Biography, led to Lauper winning the 1984 Grammy Award for Best New Artist. 

Singer, actress, writer, and a history-making Tony Award

Although Cyndi Lauper has yet to sell as many records as she did with "She's So Unusual," she has continued to have a wildly successful and wide-ranging career. Per Biography, she has released a total of 11 albums, most recently her 2016 country album "Detour," which featured duets with a number of country icons, including Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Vince Gill, and Alison Krauss. She continues touring in the United States and internationally. She's also done quite a bit of acting and won an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series in 1995 for her role on the sitcom "Mad About You." 

Lauper wrote and published her autobiography, "Cyndi Lauper: A Memoir," in 2012, and in 2013 made her way to Broadway, writing the music and lyrics for the hit musical "Kinky Boots," with book by actor Harvey Fierstein. "Kinky Boots" won six Tony Awards, including for best musical, best leading man, and best original score, making Lauper the only solo woman to win in the best musical category. She has been married to actor David Thornton since 1991 and the couple has one son, Declan. Her early career bankruptcy has clearly done little to slow her down.