TRAVEL & DINING
Sometime around the early winter of 1978, my Bronx New York garage band begrudgingly begins to make the conversion from a cover rock- n- roll band (think Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones etc.) to a full on disco dance band. While we are all proclaimed die hard rockers and the change is more than a bit daunting for us, we see the writing on the wall, as the requests for Bowie slowly morph into anything Saturday Night Fever, s'il vous plait. Being the female vocalist of said band, I don my usual get up with refreshed pride; my bright red sequin tube top, the band name RESPONSE scrolled across the center, my Caribbean Queen painted on satin black jeans, my marshmallow soled platform mules and my Farah Fawcett hair blown out to infinitum. I open the night with Come to Me to screams of recognition, and naturally shut it down with the much beloved new hit disco anthem, I Will Survive. The crowd protests and begs for an encore, with lyrical chants and lit cigarette lighters flashing.
The band feigns a weak protest and the song is played again! Go on now go .. walk out the door .... The crowd leaves full and happy and I and my bandmates are totally and officially hooked on disco music.
Fast forward 40 years or so. We are aboard the luxurious and sprawling Celebrity Infinity cruise ship, renowned for excellence in dining, deluxe well-appointed cabins and sublime service. This luxury cruise set sail this past February 14-February 19, 2019, from Fort Lauderdale to Key West and Cozumel, Mexico. From the moment that we all walked the gang plank onto this vessel, we were treated to spectacular performances and disco-centric events via endless and vibrant concerts, celebrity artists about the ship, disco parties and memory inspiring music. Artists like KC and the Sunshine Band, Kool & The Gang, The Spinners, The Village People, the parade of disco queens such as Miss Gloria Gaynor, Evelyn "Champagne" King, Thelma Houston along with The Trammps featuring Earl Young, all encourage us to get up and boogie.
I am sitting up close and personal, chatting it up with the one and only Evelyn "Champagne" King. She and I learn quickly, that we both are original Bronx girls. I sing a few lines of her hit song Shame to her playfully and she adjusts my rusty attempt at the lyrics by heart, playing back with me. Later on that day while cruising, I'm hanging out with Gloria Gaynor minutes after she finishes a cooking demo and Q and A session on board, all of us eager to sample the Queen of Disco's baked goodies and perhaps grab a selfie with her as she so gracefully obliges. She is warm and personable, so much so that it feels more like a reunion than a celebrity meeting ....
.... And that is just how the experience feels from start to finish; a spectacular reunion where strangers become dear friends, celebrities get to dial it down to regular life and guests get to feel like and mingle with famous celebrities.
That evening on the ship, I attempt some disco hustle dance moves, and along comes none other than the "Dance Fever" TV host Deney Terrio, the original choreographer for the classic Saturday Night Fever movie and personal dance teacher to the iconic John Travolta. He demonstrates a few moves and we are all transformed to pros. We dance on a STUDIO 54 setup dance floor (named Studio 55) with the original DJ from the studio, the acclaimed Nicky Siano among other great DJ's and we move and groove till the very wee hours. By day or under the stars, on the pool deck and in the Constellations Lounge we enjoy this precious musical era, thanks to shows like The Australian Bee Gees - A Tribute to The Bee Gees, The Urban Guerilla Orchestra and the energetic Boogie Wonder Band, a mega talented 10-piece group singing and dancing to "brassy funk grooves and disco-strutting jams". A Cher Tribute with Cara Lee and a Tribute to Barry White with Jourdan Carroll among others, adds pizazz and comedians such as the great Kivi Rogers, fun audience participation game shows, karaoke, cooking demos and wine tastings, round out the already packed to the brim itinerary!
On top of all of this, Star Vista LIVE, the leader in nostalgia-based music cruise experiences, joins top-rated Philadelphia air personality Bob Pantano to make radio history on board The 2019 Ultimate Disco Cruise with a live broadcast of the legendary Bob Pantano Saturday Night Dance Party, direct from ship to listener. Pantano originally "broke" many a famous song and artist, worldwide in the late '70s and early '80s. Alan Rubens, Star Vista LIVE Senior Vice President of Entertainment/Executive Producer of the Ultimate Disco Cruise, remembers the Disco explosion as a "simply unforgettable lifestyle and musical phenomenon. We're constantly hearing from our guests that their favorite theme nights on any of our cruises are the Disco/Funk nights. Those dance parties bring back the fantastic memories of the Disco era - the clothes, the clubs, the dances, our old friends, our romances, and that fabulous musical revolution heard and enjoyed worldwide."
The Biggest Celebration of Dance Music to Return at Sea in 2020!
The leader in nostalgia-based music cruise experiences, announces the return of its newest uniquely themed voyage, the 2020 Ultimate Disco Cruise. This cruise brings the disco phenomenon of the 1970s from the dance floor to the high seas on a luxury ship to the Caribbean from February 10-15, 2020. Hosted again in 2020, by Deney Terrio of "Dance Fever" and featuring music host Bob Pantano, host of the longest running radio dance party in the nation and music presented by SiriusXM, the ship will cruise from Miami to Key West and Nassau, Bahamas. Live concerts by KC and The Sunshine Band, the Jacksons, The Commodores, The Pointer Sisters, Sister Sledge, First Ladies of Disco Anita Ward, Maxine Nightingale and more will keep the party going France Joli is celebrating a milestone this year, the 40th anniversary of "Come to Me," her smash hit from 1979.
Who better to celebrate with than France Joli?
Evelyn "Champagne" King
In the case of iconic singer Evelyn "Champagne" King, her musical career path was paved with self-made talent for sure, but on top of this, it was also pure serendipity and destiny. Born in the Bronx and raised into music, her father Eric K King often performed as a stand-in singer for many musical groups, even at the legendary Apollo Theatre. Her earliest memories are that of inviting friends and family over to her garage from blocks upon blocks around her neighborhood, for an impromptu and make shift garage performance, starring Evelyn herself (nicknamed "Bubbles" due to her effervescent personality) and whoever was around at the time. Weekend after weekend, she would sing and ham it up, just for the love of it. Later, her family moved to Philadelphia, and at age 14, Evelyn began performing professionally with a local band from South Philly. The following year, Evelyn's big break came as she was working, subbing in for her sister as a cleaning lady at Philadelphia's Sigma Studio. During a ladies room break, she stood in front of the bathroom mirror and sang "A Change Is Gonna Come" As the story goes, a well-known producer, singer, songwriter, T. (Theodore) Life heard her singing and decided to sign her to his own production deal , and then introduced her to songwriters John Fitch & Ruben Cross. This is when her career took off. Next she was introduced to RCA Records where she then was signed to a contract deal and produced her first album Smooth Talk. The album included the disco dance smash hit "Shame." In 1981 her song 'Tm in Love" fast became a #1 dance hit. She followed up with the Get Loose album in 1982 and another smash hit "Love Come Down." Evelyn continued to make the charts through the rest of the early 1980's. In the late 1980's she left RCA for E.M.I. Records. The result was another major hit with "Flirt." And over the years, it continued and does to this day.
Over Evelyn's 11 album career, fans and critics have continued to follow the artist expand creatively without ever losing touch with who she is. This she states is her secret. Stay humble and never forget where you come from. Today Evelyn continues to tour and entertain her fans around the world and is back in the studio to release yet another record. When asked about regrets, Evelyn thinks for a while and finally offers a pensive smile.
"I actually regret never having the chance to attend my high school prom." To this I let her know that I in fact, missed my prom as well.
Right there, we made a pact that we would invite the other should we ever decide to plan a prom.
We hugged like dear friends and I truly felt her magic.
And yes, her bubbly "champagne" like effervescence!
A TRUE Inspiration
Gloria Gaynor is that voice that you heard inside your head back in the day, when crying by the phone that never rings from that guy you really liked. She's that timeless inspiration that begs you through lyric and melody, to claim yourself back from the holdings of tough times and in fact survive, and rather than being a removed spokesperson for this cause, she transcends the differences among people of all ages and times and not only talks the talk, she walks the walk.
"I have more than survived. I have thrived'' she replies to my obvious question about indeed, just what she has survived. Ms. Gaynor nearly lost everything after falling backwards over a stage monitor at the Beacon Theatre in 1978. Paralyzed from the waist down, she endured spinal surgery and a four-month stint in the hospital. After that followed a long period of revival of her health and of her career, and while she still struggles with health issues and the occasional bump in life, she puts those struggles to good use and has come back, with a passion.
'I Will Survive' uplifts, empowers, and inspires people far and wide and it always has. This has become my purpose" Ms. Gaynor says. "It's a great honor to have that song because I think it's my responsibility to share that message as broadly and as widely as I possibly can:'
In that spirit, her new gospel album, Testimony is her testimony of the grace and goodness of God "He is always there for you. He's the only one who knows and wants what is best for you" she believes. For Testimony, Ms. Gaynor partnered with Grammy-winning producer Chris Stevens to create a roots gospel collection complete with Ms. Gaynor's own songwriting, a few hymns and an interpretation ofBob Dylan's "Man of Peace."
Before parting ways, I shared with Ms. Gaynor, that I have dabbled in music my entire life as a vocalist and had much occasion to sing I will Survive as my go to audition song many years back. These days I confessed that I still sing that song on occasion, but not in its original key, in fact I insist on lowering the key a step down or two.
To that Ms. Gaynor looked at me, smiled and without missing a beat said: "Are you kidding me? I don't even sing it in the original key!" No shame in that Ms. Disco Queen. No shame in that.