After 20 years, Sheena Easton can still get her groove on
By Jeff Inman

Sometimes even divas have to play Mommy. "Just hold on a minute while Mommy does this interview," Sheena Easton is saying to one of her kids. "No, no, Mommy has to peel the skin off the pear. I don't want you doing it, not with those knives. ..."

After a couple more exchanges, including one argument about the peeling power of butter knifes, Easton is back, apologizing. "Sorry. Kids are just so independent and they want everything now. But what can you do?" she asks in her slight Scottish brogue, never expecting an answer.

Easton's two children, Jake and Skyler, take up a good portion of her time now. Once a pop princess who had a string of hits, toured the world and gallivanted around with the real Prince, Easton is content living the quiet life. No dizzying schedules, no road-baked red eye, no wee-hour parties that require lawyers to clean up. It's just soccer practice and play dates, with the occasional curtain call thrown in over summer vacation. She records albums when it's convenient, not when someone demands it. She only takes gigs that she can work her family around. As for 40 cities in 40 days: Never again.

"The whole idea of touring leaves me cold at this point," Easton says. "Get on a bus, a plane, another bus, it's just tiring. I'd much rather have a normal family life."

Twenty years ago, things were different. Easton was an icon. Early hits like "Morning Train" and "Modern Girl" lodged her in the Top 10 like a Lifesaver stuck in your throat--nothing short of brut force was going to get her out of there. By the time she sang the theme to the Bond film For Your Eyes Only, she was as international as McDonald's, performing anywhere she could. Once MTV revved up, Easton seemed omnipresent: radio, the tube, magazine covers. Her face was everywhere. Her bouncy pop and good-girl-as-bad-new-waver look turned her into the prototype sex symbol for the Reagan era.

It was exactly what Easton wanted. She'd been groomed for it. Born Sheena Shirley Orr in Belshill, Scotland, in 1959, Easton always wanted to be a singer, every since she'd caught a glimpse of Barbra Streisand in The Way We Were. "As a kid, I was singing all the time," Easton says. By the age of 17, she'd crooned her way into the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. "It was basically a more realistic version of 'Fame,'" she jokes. At night, Easton would hit the pubs, singing with various bar bands. "All that was on my mind was how to break through and get a deal," Easton says.

That came after Easton scored a slot on the BBC show "The Big Time: Pop Singer." Her performance caught the attention of the EMI label. Within a year, she'd released her self-titled debut album and set an English chart record, becoming the first female artist to have two simultaneous Top 10 hits. The U.S. unfolded just as quickly. By 1981, she was walking home with a Grammy for Best New Artist and a No. 1 record tucked in her back pocket. To this day, Easton isn't surprised it happened--she'd always been working toward her goal--but how quickly it all came. "It all came so fast," Easton says. "But I had gotten my dreams, so it seemed like what was supposed to be happening was happening."

And things didn't really let up. From '81 to '91, Easton followed one hit after another, songs like "Sassy," "Telefone (Long Distance Love Affair)" and the Alexander Nevermind--a.k.a. Prince--penned and produced "Sugar Walls," all reaching the Top 10. She even ended up on TV, playing Sonny Crockett's rocker wife, Caitlin Davies, on "Miami Vice."

Easton says by the close of the Me Decade, she'd begun to reconsider what she was doing. It had all become too much. "I could see what my life would be if I continued this road-rat existence," she says. "It was all just ego boosting and I decided that I need to nurture my soul. I mean, how many more magazine covers did I need to be on? Or how many hits do I need? For 10 years, I didn't sleep a full night and I lived out of a suitcase. I needed to change my life."

Easton decided to go back to her roots: theater. In '91, she signed up to play opposite the late Raul Julia in the Broadway revival of "Man of La Mancha." That lead to several TV appearances, cartoon voice-overs and, eventually, a stint as Rizzo in "Grease." There were a few small tours--Easton performs annually in "The Colors of Christmas Tour"--but nothing like before. A few albums popped up--including Easton's personal favorite, 1993's No Strings, an album of standards--though some were never even released in the States.

Finally, Easton decided to give Vegas a shot. She settled into Sin City last year, shimmying next to David Cassidy in "At the Copa." While there were several rewrites during its yearlong run and rumors of tension among the cast, Easton says that the show was perfect for her, giving her someplace to call home. "It was exactly what I wanted at the time, which was to be rooted in a spot and not traveling and work on a challenging show."

And although "At the Copa" closed in January, Easton is far from being done with Vegas. She's performing for three months--June 5-Sept. 2--at The Night Club inside the Las Vegas Hilton.

But rather than go for plot and theatrics again, this time she's just going to sing. "The new show is pretty much going to be me standing there singing," she deadpans. "I don't juggle. I don't do impressions. I don't need fire. I'm just going to sing the songs people know me for and maybe throw in a few surprises."

Some of those might come from Easton's latest disc, Fabulous. It's more than a bit of a departure for her. She's always played the pop diva well, pulling off spunk and sensitivity like Siamese twins of the soul. But this time, Easton is going the Cher route, trying on the role of Euro-disco queen. The disc is crammed with classic dancefloor hits, redone for the Daft Punk crowd. And while Fabulous has yet to get a release date here in the States, some of the tracks are already becoming club standards across the pond.

"It's a very Euro disc," Easton says. "We took the songs that people my age (42, for those counting) know very well and updated them, while still keeping them authentic. And it's great. I was 17 in '76, and these were all the songs I was dancing to. Now I get to put my twist on them."

In the meantime, Easton has other things to worry about than just getting her groove on. Mainly, how to get that pear peeled. "OK, OK, Mommy's almost done here," she says, her voice suddenly getting a little higher. "Then we can take care of the pear. All right? Mommy will take care of the pear."

A diva's work is never done.