Guitar picks are the holy grail for many concertgoers, but Robin Legat was able to score one recently from Lou Gramm guitarist, Michael Staertow, under the oddest of circumstances. The 43-year-old fitness trainer from Los Angeles didn’t have to scramble over chairs for the keepsake, she got it by wearing bumble bee colored spandex and gifting Staerlow something very unexpected.
Legat was part of a foursome dressed like the 80s Christian rock band, Stryper, as a part of “Glam Rock” night on The 80s Cruise. The 2200 passengers on board the Celebrity Summit were encouraged to wear costumes for each of the six theme nights. Legat and her husband, Michael, rarely disappointed. They were clad from head to toe in spandex and scarves and passed out little keychain bibles throughout the night.
As she tells it, during Gramm’s performance, “our entire group was sitting together in the sixth row. (Staertow) and I made eye contact, and he mouthed ‘Stryper?’ to me.” She nodded and when she ran into him later that night, gifted him one of the bibles. He gave her several of the coveted picks in return.
So goes life on board The 80s Cruise. Every year, Entertainment Cruise Productions (ECP) brings together fans from all over the world to celebrate the music and pop culture of their youth. The 2018 Cruise took place from March 17-24th and featured bands with one thing in common – their music is synonymous with the decade that blinded us with science and took our breath away.
The lineup consisted of Gramm, Loverboy, Mike + the Mechanics, The Tubes, Billy Ocean, Berlin, Thomas Dolby, Katrina Leskanich (of Katrina and the Waves), Tommy Heath (of Tommy Tutone), and cruise host, Rick Springfield. This was the first time ECP has booked a big-name act to anchor various events throughout the week with Springfield playing extra shows and introducing various events.
Guests were thrilled with the concerts they saw during the week. Maryland native Dave August had a clear favorite saying, “Lou Gramm was the runaway winner. (His) voice was spectacular (and) the crowd was pumped.” Legat offered a simple explanation for Gramm’s popularity amongst guests. “90 minutes of nonstop hits and he didn’t even get to everything!”
It was hard for some people to pick one favorite show. Betsey Fellwock, from Tulsa, OK, couldn’t decide, so she listed her favorites, “Loverboy, Lou Gramm, Billy Ocean, Tommy Tutone,” Tim Kelley insisted, “I’ll give two answers” before explaining that Lou Gramm had the best overall performance, but stagemanship went to The Tubes. The Asheville office manager added, “Berlin sounds better than they did in the 80s.” Steven Sciglimpaglia of Stamford, CT liked Thomas Dolby, Berlin, and The Tubes.
Sciglimpaglia appreciated the sheer weirdness of The Tubes, but they scandalized a few passengers who weren’t sure what to make of their unconventional stage show. Most passengers only knew of them from their MTV-friendly videos, “She’s a Beauty” and “Talk to Ya Later.” It came as a surprise when, near the end of the show, lead singer Fee Waybill changed into glam rocker Quay Lewd and starting drinking from a giant bottle of what looked like scotch shoved into the crotch of his silver spandex pants. John Clark from Dallas enjoyed the spectacle saying, “The Tubes should do a comedy act! They crack me up!”
The Tubes brand of humor seemed to appeal to a certain type of music fan, but Leskanich had pretty much everyone giggling during a question and answer session with Terri Nunn of Berlin and Jenna O’Gara of Jessie’s Girl. The “Walking on Sunshine” singer infused each reply with deadpan humor, often mocking the ridiculousness of the situation. When she was performing, each show felt like individual episodes of “Storytellers.” Like Berlin in 2017, Leskanich may not have been familiar to most outside of her one big hit, but she quickly endured herself to passengers, making her one of the favorite acts of the week.
Berlin’s second stint on board proved to be as successful as the first with passengers flocking to various events hosted by the band. A wine tasting with lead singer Terri Nunn sold out well in advance of the sailing and a group Q&A was standing room only. Drummer Christopher Olivas emceed two wildly popular poolside dance parties under his alias, DJ Christopher J. Longtime fans were thrilled to have John Crawford and David Diamond, both of whom founded the band with Nunn, perform in both main stage shows.
For Claudine Edwards of Plano, TX, just being able to see Berlin again felt like a miracle. Edwards discovered she had stage IV breast cancer following a car accident last October. A bleak prognosis made the 2018 Cruise seem like an impossibility. When radiation treatments made her incapable of eating and her hair falling out in clumps, she turned to an old favorite to help her cope. Berlin’s “Hideaway”, from Count Three and Pray, assured her it was okay to, “cry away there’s no harm.” She said, “I cried a lot and listed a lot to that song about hiding away.”
She found out she was in remission a month before sailing. Still in pain, she and her husband, Jason, arrived in Ft. Lauderdale thrilled to see friends and excited about heading back to the 80s. Each day made her feel more like her old self and she got the chance to tell John Crawford how much his song had meant to her. She said afterwards that the Cruise made her feel better for the first time since her diagnosis. She felt that, “the 80s and all of my friends lifted me up, made me stronger!”
Edwards’ opportunity to speak to Crawford highlighted one of the many things that made the Cruise so special to guests. Being able to interact with their idols through organized events was exciting, but it was the casual conversations that happened around the ship that passengers savored most. Mina Credeur from Spring, TX. said her favorite moment was hanging out in the martini bar with the two lead singers from Mike + the Mechanics, Andrew Roachford and Tim Howar.
Mike + the Mechanics were on board as a part of a small American tour to support their latest album, Let Me Fly. The last time the band was out on tour was three years ago with no plans to tour again this year, fans were lucky to catch them. They were on board for a short time, but their 90-minute set was excellent, thanks largely to Credeur’s drinking companions.
Big name acts were the obvious draw for passengers, but there wasn’t a shortage of other talent on board. Crowds were excited to see their favorite cover bands, Jessie’s Girl and Trial by Fire, back for another year. Jessie’s Girl had their own fan club that refused to miss any shows. Trial by Fire had a bigger presence this year after a very successful debut on the 2017 sailing. The two bands complimented each other with Trial by Fire providing a more traditional rock vibe while Jessie’s Girl attacked the top 40 with style and flair.
Jessie’s Girl’s shows featured dozens of costume changes, but they couldn’t compare with the 80s cosplay going on each night. Passengers spent all year planning what they would wear for each theme and the results were pretty incredible. The entire ship was clad in green for the St. Patrick’s Day departure with Aqua Net and lamé ruling Prom. The amount of spandex roaming around for the Glam Rock theme was almost intimidating, but the one evening that brought out the most elaborate costumes was Pop Icon night.
Passageways were quiet in the late afternoon as guests returned to the cabins to transform into a variety of different pop culture icons. Soon the hallways were filled with rock stars, movie characters, and all sorts of odd 80s references. Weird Al, ZZ Top, and David Lee Roth wandered by the martini bar while Jason Vorhees and Elvira looked through the previous day’s pictures in the Photo Gallery. King Tut had a crew that followed him around all night walking like Egyptians. There were at least two sets of Blue Brothers and more Ghostbusters than you could shake a gallon of ectoplasm at. Two human-sized Smurfs sat in the balcony while Terri Nunn sang “Highway to Hell” to a Yip Yip.
The costumes caused more than a few laugh out loud moments for the musicians on board. Mike Reno of Loverboy smiled and pointed at several clones wearing his trademark headband during one show, but Bryan Do’s “Long Duk Dong” costume forced him to stop singing to take a moment and stop laughing. Do had not only nailed the outfit from Sixteen Candles, but included a blow up “sexy American girlfriend” that he carried around all night on a set of disembodied handlebars.
Reno had a great week on board the Summit. Not only did Loverboy put on two energetic shows on the main stage, but the singer also jumped in on several performances with other artists throughout the week. Jay Lewis from Kiawah, SC was having so much fun singing along to Loverboy’s set that Reno had to walk over and cover Lewis’s mouth with his hand.
Loverboy wasn’t the only act Lewis found himself singing with during the week. Rick Springfield held a microphone out to him during, “Don’t Talk to Strangers,” and was a part of a crew invited up on stage to sing with Heath. He and his friends wore t-shirts that spelled out the title of Tommy Tutone’s 1981 hit, “867-5309.” After spending so much time singing along with celebrities, Lewis joked, “If I knew they expected me to also perform I would have never quit taking those piano lessons from Sister Mary Francis when I was nine.”
Heath did several solo shows during the week in addition to jamming with Jessie’s Girl and Rick Springfield during their performances. When he wasn’t on stage, the singer spent his time socializing with guests and posing for a ton of selfies. But despite patiently standing for one picture after another, the award for “Most Selfies of the Week” went to Springfield.
Springfield was the main draw for the hundreds of passengers who booked through his fan club before the last Cruise left port. Their enthusiasm was contagious, but it could also be exhausting to other guests who struggled to get into venues. As Legat explained, it was frustrating “not being able to get remotely close at any of the Rick Springfield piano bar shows because people would hold seats for hours!”
Springfield himself was affable and engaging, despite the chaos that seemed to surround him. During the main stage shows, he leapt into the audience while performing 1983’s “Human Touch”. He climbed over chairs and stopped for selfies as he traveled up and down the center section.
The “famous-person selfie” ruled the day during Billy Ocean’s concerts as well. The singer hopped on board in Jamaica for two flawless sets during which he would routinely reach down to shake hands and take pictures. He left the cruise immediately after the second show, much to the dismay of Ziva Gottesman. The San Diego native was hoping for either a meet and greet or Q&A with Ocean lamenting, “some artists aren’t on the ship long enough to do either which is a shame.”
Question and answer sessions were popular with guests, but the most surprising turned out to be the one that featured Thomas Dolby. He was familiar as the musician behind one of the instantly recognizable “She Blinded Me With Science,” but the audience for his Q&A discovered the 1982 single was just one small accomplishments in a career that has included the creation of a groundbreaking software company, directing an award-winning documentary short, and revolutionize electronic music. As if all of that wasn’t enough, Dolby explained to the crowd that his latest job is as the head of the Music for New Media program at Johns Hopkins University.
Dolby’s two sets in the 400-seat Revelations lounge at the top of the ship were amazing, despite many guests having to miss the last two songs of each. The biggest complaint with the Cruise was the conflicts caused by poor scheduling. Fellwock hated “having to leave shows to get the 9 p.m. concert.” She wasn’t alone. Dolby and Leskanich played all of their shows in Revelations with either 7:45 or 9 p.m. start times, which always conflicted with the main stage shows. The timing meant passengers never had a chance to see a full show in Revelations.
It was infuriating having to choose, particularly for Michelle Tower whose two favorite acts were Dolby and Leskanich. Like everyone else holding cards for the late show, the IT Director from Cincinnati never got to hear “Walking on Sunshine” or “She Blinded Me With Science” because those were the songs at the end of the setlists. Guests had to be in the Celebrity Theater by 9 p.m. or lose their seats and have to take whatever was available in the back of the third tier.
But despite the aggravation of having to miss shows and activities due to scheduling conflicts, just about everyone said the 80s Cruises were the best vacations they had ever taken. Some passengers cited the bands as the best part of the week, some loved the decorations and feeling like they had actually traveled back in time, but for most, it was something they could never find on another vacation.
The bands and costumes were what initially sold the cabins, but the what brought people back after the 2016 and 2017 sailings – and will bring even more back next year – were the people that traveled back to the 80s with them. Time and time again, people said the single best thing about the Cruise was, as Amanda Olivas put it, “All of the friends we have made in the past two years!” Texan Kathy Machacek agreed that it was “the friendliness of the other guests” that made the planning and expense worthwhile. Curtis Wayne Lanclos summed it up saying, “enjoying 80s culture together is what makes it all more enjoyable!”
Olivas, Machacek, and Lanclos will be joining Edwards on the 2019 Cruise. “Yes, I will be back,” she said. “Cancer didn’t take me in 2010 and it certainly isn’t going to take me now. I have the 80s to live out again each year with our amazing friends!”
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