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.

 The Legats as Stryper
The Legats as Stryper.

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.

Rick Springfield performs for passengers on the pool deck. Photo by LJ Moskowitz

A Diverse Floating Festival

The lineup consisted of Gramm, LoverboyMike + the MechanicsThe TubesBilly OceanBerlinThomas DolbyKatrina 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.

What a Quay Lewd?!

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 only knew of them from their videos for “She’s a Beauty” and “Talk to Ya Later”, so it came as a surprise when lead singer Fee Waybill changed into glam rocker Quay Lewd. Everything was fine until he pulled a bottle of what looked like scotch out of 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 were delightfully odd. Photo by LJ Moskowitz

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 Was Back for More

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. Berlin’s song “Hideaway” assured her it was okay to, “Cry away. There’s no harm.” She found out she was in remission a month before sailing and found herself telling Berlin co-founder John Crawford how important the song had been to her.

Edwards’ opportunity to speak to Crawford highlighted one of the many reasons guests consider the Cruise so special. Being able to interact with their idols through organized events was exciting, but it was the casual conversations happening 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 played an emotional set. Photo by LJ Moskowitz

Mike + the Mechanics were on board as a part of a small American tour to support their latest album, Let Me Fly. They were on board for a short time, but their 90-minute set was excellent, thanks largely to Credeur’s new drinking buddies.

Big name acts were the obvious draw for passengers, but there wasn’t a shortage of other talent on board. Two cover bands, Jessie’s Girl and Trial by Fire, were back for another year. 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.

80s Cosplay on Full Display

There wasn’t a shortage of entertainment, but some of the best came from the passengers themselves. Many spent all year planning what to wear for each theme and the results were often 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.

The second to last night of every cruise finds the ship filled with rock star impersonators, movie characters, etc. 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 more Ghostbusters than you could shake a gallon of ectoplasm at and several sets of Blue Brothers.

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.

Bryan Do and his “sexy American girlfriend”. Photo by TuKe Photography

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. He was a part of a crew invited up on stage to sing along to the Tommy Tutone hit, “867-5309 (Jenny)” and Rick Springfield passed him a mic during “Don’t Talk to Strangers”. “If I knew they expected me to perform I would have never quit taking those piano lessons from Sister Mary Francis when I was nine,” Lewis quipped.

Tommy Heath did several shows during the week and jammed with Jessie’s Girl and Rick Springfield. The singer spent his down time socializing and posing for selfies. Most of the artists found themselves at the end of various cell phones, but the award for “Most Selfies of the Week” went to Springfield.

Rick Springfield Fans Invade Cruise Ship

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.

He gets this a lot. Rick Springfield with Shelly Meier by Mike Meier.

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 fans hoping to get an autograph or watch a Q&A.

Question and answer sessions were popular with guests, but Thomas Dolby’s was particularly interesting. Passengers recognized him as the man behind the hit “She Blinded Me With Science,” but few knew the 1982 single was just one small accomplishments in his career. He also created a groundbreaking software company, directed an award-winning documentary short, and has revolutionized electronic music. Never one to rest on his laurels, Dolby has just been named the head of the Music for New Media program at Johns Hopkins University.

Overlapping Schedules Caused Problems

Dolby’s two sets in the 400-seat Revelations lounge were amazing, but guests had to miss the last two songs at both shows if they wanted to see the nightly concerts on the main stage. Betsey Fellwock was one of many who hated “having to leave shows to get the 9 p.m. concert” as the result of conflicts caused by overlapping performances. Few got to see full sets from Dolby or Leskanich because of the problem.

Thomas Dolby should have been standing room only for each show, but scheduling conflicts kept guests running from one venue to another. Photo by LJ Moskowitz

Despite having to miss shows and activities due to conflicts, just about everyone said the 80s Cruise was one of the best vacations they have taken. Some passengers said the bands were 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.

Time and time again, people said the single best thing about the Cruise was, as Amanda Olivas put it, “All of the friends (I) 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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