The Difference Between a FAN and a GROUPIE -Let Me Take You on a Sea Cruise

Oooo-weee- oooweee baby, ooowee. That was sung A LOT by various doo wop bands on my cruise so I had to put that subtitle in there with the “Harmonic singing of that nonsense syllable” because I will get to that in Part II of this blog. (Doo-wop music is riddled with these.)

I recently went on a dream come true cruise called the Malt Shop Memories Cruise. It is run by a company called Star Vista who does all sorts of music themed cruises. I have sailed on their specialty cruises before. This one is my last one for a long while as I am prioritizing family vacations while I am still working and have limited time off. It is incredible to cruise with 2000 like-minded people who sing along and dance along to everything, and relish the oldies music as much as I do. I room with other Fan-girls like me, who are just as excited to meet the artists aboard. (Hi Marty and Linda!) Note: There are a LOT of people as kooky as me!

Because I knew it was the last one, I carefully reviewed all options available on their specialty cruises. I choose the artists I want to hear and meet. I am a music fanatic, much like there are sports fanatics. Music is the happiest thing for me and I frequent concerts and have music playing as much as possible. Oldies music is my preferred genre, though I extend to Broadway and others. I love music made before my 60’s era too- some 40’s stuff, and 50’s doo-wop music.

The big draw of these cruises is the opportunity to meet and greet your favorite artist. Some cruiser-fans bring all sorts of record albums to be signed. (I am not an autograph person and always decline to get any autographs). Due to COVID, the meet and greet with artists has been curtailed. It is a wonderful thing to be able to tell an artist how much their songs have meant to you and thank them. Or if you are me, you do all of that AND ask for a photo moment with them. I have gone on enough of these to have stockpiled quite a few photos with my favorites. It is a nice way to remember the time.

I am a big fan, and I show my appreciation. I am NOT a groupie as I am not flirtatious with any of these artists who are now late seventies and early eighties and are basically OLD MEN. I mean, I am a long way off from being even remotely attracted to someone in their 80’s, even if they are famous. (An exception might be Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues but I will probably never get to meet him.) I am happily married, and I have never been the kind of girl to want to have sex or even a romance with anyone famous. (Even when I was a Phillies Girl – oh read that in my book! Plenty of opportunity, and never happened.)

I am a fan-girl, which is a bit embarrassing as I am an otherwise accomplished, mature adult, but that is the way I am built and I do not fight it.

I chose the Malt Shop Memories Cruise as my last hurrah with these cruises, because I saw the following artists featured: DION, Frankie Avalon, Chubby Checker, Robert Klein (comedian).

The above are four artists I have always wanted to see but never had the opportunity. I wanted to hear Dion in concert, I wanted to meet Frankie Avalon, and I wanted a moment with my favorite comedian of practically all time – Robert Klein, or at least of the 70’s and 80’s. Meeting Chubby or even seeing him perform was just the icing on the cake when I booked. They later added Dean Torrence and his Surf Band, and Gary Lewis and the Playboys. (love both)

About Robert Klein – In college, we all had his “albums” and played them and laughed and laughed. He was a huge name in comedy starting in the early 70’s and now that he branched into acting for many decades, it seems many have never heard of him or have forgotten him. Not me! I wanted to meet him and let him know how many laughs he provided me with in college and beyond. (I am a girl who LOVES to laugh). If you read his Wiki page, it says that Jerry Seinfeld (another of my faves) quoted that Robert Klein “was the Beatles of comedy to me.” Other comedians such as Billy Crystal, Jay Leno and others have cited him as a major influence. He does observational humor, much like George Carlin did so brilliantly in the same 70’s era. I had memorized quite a bit of his routines because my long term memory is ridiculous that way.

On these cruise ship music festivals, even if there is no meet and greets with artists, there is usually an opportunity to get to say hello and thank you when they are eating in the communal cafeteria on the Lido deck. If you are polite, you wait until they finish eating and are just sitting around. You have to be good at sighting them. I was able to greet and take a photo with Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers, Gary US Bonds, Gary Lewis (of Gary Lewis and the Playboys) and Dean Torrence (much more on him later on Part II of this blog) to name just a few.

Righteous Brothers

Some of these guys were so very sweet, including Gary Lewis, that they seemed to actually enjoy both their moment with me, and the photo shoot. See the photo with Gary Lewis (Jerry’s son who had about ten top twenty hits on the charts in the mid-sixties) where I leaned over to get in the photo frame, and he said, come close, and used his arm to draw me near. It was quite touching! Another touching moment was having Chubby Checker pull me up on stage to twist with him for the finale. What a thrill!

Chubby Checker picking me to twist with him
Twisting with Chubby!!!
This is Gary Lewis – who was so sweet and pulled me in close

After booking the cruise a year ago, I had just two goals – Meet Frankie Avalon, and Meet Robert Klein. (I had heard Dion does not greet fans and basically hides from them, but I did want to hear him in concert just once in my life.) Oh, I enjoyed the Dion concert so much! He was awesome – and has quite a large song catalog

Frankie Avalon was elusive but I finally did get my moment with him and when I told him I waited a lifetime to meet him, he took my hand in his and I turned around for my roommate to get a quick snap. Cruise DJ Jerry Blavat photo bombed the moment, but that was okay because I now had a photo of Frankie Avalon and we had a very special moment together. That is all you can ask for, in most circumstances. See our hands!!!

Why Frankie Avalon you may ask? I am a bit on the young side to have idolized him when he was (as he says) the Justin Bieber of his time. But he was from South Philly, like my dad, and I saw him and Annette in every beach movie. I just always wanted to meet him for those reasons. (the late Davy Jones was my Justin Bieber)

For the second meeting goal, on to the Robert Klein discussion. Did I bring his old albums (which I still have) to sign? NO. I wanted to meet him in a more clever way, so I thought back to the routines he did that I loved. He is a great singer (Broadway too) and sings doo-wop hilariously, which I love. Yet, there was one line that used to crack me up because it was just a brilliant line, and that was the routine I chose to honor. It was his routine about the air raid drills of the 50’s in schools where you ducked under your desk to protect you in case a bomb was dropped. It is a hilarious routine (the desk provides protection?) and I am not going to go into the whole thing, but the school marms (old time school teacher with buns and strict no talking rules) would say “No talking! No talking during a nuclear holocaust! (As if talking mattered in the event of a nuclear holocaust.) That routine just tickled my funny bone, so I got a tee shirt made up with a drawing of an old school marm, with a conversation bubble, saying No Talking During a Nuclear Holocaust!

I thought if I got the opportunity to meet Robert Klein, I could inform him of the many laughs he had given me in the past with the tee shirt. (Because sometimes you only have 30 seconds or less)

By the way, Robert Klein absolutely KILLED on his shows (2) and those who never heard of him now are fans. My friends who I sat with had tears rolling down their faces and were laughing hysterically during his act. He is the same hilarious comic today that he was back in the day.

I met him at the “official” hotel we stayed at the night-before our cruise. (Before the cruise even began!) He was sitting down to dine at the table right next to me and my group of friends. I ran at top speed to get the tee shirt on (23 flights to my room) and get back before his food arrived so I would not interrupt his meal. WOW, was he ever tickled at my gesture and my comments to him. I impressed him with my sincerity and cleverness. We posed for photos. He also wanted a photo of us on HIS phone. That never happened before when I took a photo with a celebrity. Mission accomplished. But wait…

It so happened that he spent A LOT of time in the cafeteria, and we had several opportunities to talk. He got a kick out of me, and so enjoyed our conversations that I felt welcomed to visit him again and again in that setting. He was always warm and welcoming and funny and so nice. We discussed baseball, New York, other comedians, movies, music, books, travel, and many other topics. It was a blast getting to know him a bit. He was charming and funny: and I could tell he loved our banter by his many smiles and laughs, and he also possibly found me charming and witty?

He even joked and asked if I was a groupie. I told him that there would be no groupie activity and that I was simply a fan. (He asked about my husband on our second meeting as he saw the wedding bands) My answer became a quip for him, “Darn, because I have been stockpiling Viagra.” It was just a joke; he knew I had no ulterior motives other than to be a fan and enjoy my time with him and his personality. He is as funny to talk to as you would imagine. I did not expect any warm humanity from him, after all he is a comic and a native New Yorker. That took me by surprise.

On the next to last day, during my visit with him, with his producer sitting there too, I mentioned how I would love for him to do a bit of that old routine from the tee shirt. He handed my phone to his producer, and his producer using my phone, videoed him doing the routine for me, with me laughing alongside him in the video frames. I will cherish that video forever.

Here is a screen shot of that video:

When I got up to leave, he said, “You know, I love your spirit.” I smiled and thanked him.

Thanks to this cruise, I had SO MANY special moments that I will treasure, but these moments of getting to know and banter with one of my past idols Robert Klein, ranks high above the rest. (OK Frankie comes third – The next blog will detail my second best experience on the cruise – an unforgettable one as well)

I played the video on my phone for my husband when I returned home (he threw in a tease – just joking- for my husband in there) and Gary was in awe.

My next blog will detail the second best experience for me, where an artist displayed such kindness, that I was in seventh heaven as a fan that lasted for days.

(And I just remembered when Paul Cowsill of the Cowsills stepped off the stage in a show on a previous cruise and sang “I Think I Love You” to me, right in front of me – photo below. That moment lasted the entire cruise too!)

Paul Cowsill standing in front of me singing I Think I Love You


  • Hi Arleen: Howard Rovner forwarded your article to me; I, along with my “significant other” have gone on 12 Malt Shop Cruises. Unfortunately, he passed on and I am keeping the memory alive by attending the last 2, including the one you were on. I have seen all of these performers on this cruise over the years, so much that I know a lot of their routines. In fact, I am good friends with the lead of the Duprees and his wife and we had dinner many times on the cruise. As to Robert Klein, I sat with his lady in the Main Stage and I don’t know if you attended the show where he had to leave the stage abruptly. I was told he collapsed backstage but then, the good news came that he was simply dehydrated. As to Dion, we eat dinner in the Grille next to him and then we had the chance to speak to him and of course,, the real “Runaround Sue” his wife, who was on the cruise as well. By the way, Darlene Love was sensational.

  • Thanks for sharing. Sounds like a blast.

  • How much fun to read this thank you for sharing

  • You are a great writer! Enjoyed reading your blog.

  • What a great blog! Thank you for sharing!

  • What a great experience! I will always treasure speaking with Jerry Martini, from Family Stone, and Bob Cowsill ( Waited at same elevator). I was so star struck, I froze!

  • LOVE your writing!

  • Great blog
    Loved reading about all your personal experiences with the stars
    And sounds like a fabulous cruise
    Is it already booked up for next year

  • Wow! What a fabulous cruise you had! Loved reading about it! Meeting and seeing all those legendary artists!
    Sorry we won’t be seeing you on FPC….‍♀️

  • Honestly do not know how you could take all this excitement! I would not have slept a wink! Thanks for sharing as I felt as electrified as you probably felt. I especially like hearing about the decency and kindness of celebrities because you don’t hear about that a lot.

  • What a great blog Arlene! I know how much my double trouble roomie LOVES these music cruises & I will miss rooming with you next year! So fun to read about your mischief & antics on the Malt Shop cruise!

  • Julius Joel Fisher

    Great blog. Glad that you had an awesome time. Sad that I won’t see you in March.

  • So fun to read about your interaction with Robert Klein. To me, he always wrote the most brilliant, interesting, topical routines. Had a decent voice & was cast with Pic is Arnaz on Broadway in They’re Playing Our Song. I have the album. I wonder if you remarked to him about this??? Would you like to play it? He came to ERJCC Book Fairmaybe opening night. Danny Frank (z’l) played piano for him. As you can tell, I was a huge fan. Divorced his Opera Singer wife many, many years ago& went thru you know what emotionally & financially b/c of this. Looking forward to reading more blog
    Hugs, Midge

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *