Confounding her critics time after time

In the 16 years since "She's So Unusual" shocked the world into Day-Glo thrift with the anthem "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," Cyndi Lauper's career has been one of diminishing returns. But in the '90s Lauper seized control of her creativity, becoming her own songwriter, producer and video director. By filling those same bright clothes that made her a household name with reputable artistry, she has crafted an altogether more ruminative character who has done films ("Vibes," "Life With Mikey") and won an Emmy ("Mad About You").

Without a record label (Epic dropped her last year) or even a new album (she just released a single, the Grammy-nominated cover of "Disco Inferno" ), Lauper is pushing herself back into the limelight. Her summer tour with Cher is hitting Florida this week, but Orlando gets Cyndi solo Sunday, June 27, at House of Blues.

Is she still unusual? Sure. But with 20 years of the industry under her fluorescent belt, she's much more than that. In a phone interview on the eve of the tour's kickoff, she is both affable and wry, with a wandering mind that colors her illustrious persona.

Orlando Weekly: What were you working on prior to the Cher tour?

Cyndi Lauper: I was working on doing a television thing for NBC. Now I'm working on trying to get my treatment back from them, because it wasn't theirs. And they weren't very much interested in it, anyway. And I have a movie coming out, a Jonathan Demme production, called "The Opportunists." Christopher Walken's the star and I play his girlfriend. He's fantastic.

Your hits have been finding their way back onto radio in the past year. How about Phil Collins' remake of "True Colors"?

Well, that was an executive's idea on making it a hit again. And then "Time After Time" by Inoj -- well, that wasn't bad. I thought it was kind of cute. I know Cassandra Wilson did a great version of it. I thought Miles Davis' version was killer.

What make you decide to do the big Cher comeback tour, when you don't really have new material to promote?

I stopped and did the tour, because I needed a breath of fresh air. I wasn't originally going to do the tour, but everyone was like 'c'mon,' y'know? Basically, it was three record companies, and I was saying to myself, 'Do you wanna go back?' ... But they convinced me.

In 1989, you scrapped your original third album, "Kindred Spirit," in favor of an industry-fed record ("A Night To Remember"), penned largely by Dianne Warren. What happened?

I should have just stuck to my guns, but I wasn't really supported much then. I mean, everybody looked at what I was trying to break into as so weird, and then that's where the struggle came. Can you imagine, I made my success and my name on an album called "She's So Unusual," and they're looking at my clothes -- when their bloody daughters used to wear those clothes -- and they're telling me why can't I look like everybody else? I mean, who the hell do you think would pay to see my spirit broken?

What do you make of the seemingly ceaseless '80s renaissance?

That's why, when they did all those '80s [compilation] CDs, I pulled all my music out of it, because I didn't think what I was doing then was disposable art. Y'know, I was not Bozo the Clown.

You're married to filmmaker David Thornton and have a 1 1/2-year-old son, Decklyn. Has having a family changed your outlook?

When people are rotten to me, I'm not depressed. And to continue is the thing -- to endure. I've been told everything: You're great; you suck; you're bad; you're good. Sometimes I feel like Vinnie van Gogh. When I was really, really successful, then I started to doubt if my work was really good.

You've obviously changed a lot -- how do you think the music industry has changed since your initial success?

There are so many options now with the Internet, with selling your music and downloading. If I could find another medium to sell music ... I mean, look at Ani DiFranco, she is such a hero of mine.

So the future looks bright for Cyndi Lauper, then?

Are you kidding? Of course