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Melissa rocks the
R Family cruise

Melissa rocks the
R Family cruise


In these outtakes from her cover interview with The Advocate, Melissa Etheridge tells how she and Rosie O'Donnell punked their fellow passengers for an unexpected treat

This summer Melissa Etheridge, Tammy Lynn Michaels, and their family celebrated her recovery from cancer by taking an extended RV vacation across the country. For Etheridge, it was a radical departure from her customary way to spend the summer: on the road with her band, making everybody else's holiday more fun. "We drove from Los Angeles to New York and took Rosie's R Family cruise," Etheridge explained. "It was amazing." Here's her account of a magical time and what it sparked in her.

You weren't booked to entertain on the R Family cruise, but you staged a surprise performance anyway. What was that like, to play for that crowd at that place at that time? Like a huge celebration. The way we did it, everybody was so nice. [The stateroom setup] enabled me to be private a lot so we didn't have to see many people, and we could go watch the shows in a place that I felt safe--it was cool. Not that anyone's gonna hurt me...

But still, it must be nutty to have to be you. Yeah. [Laughs]

Do you know what I mean? Yeah. Especially in a gay place.

I imagine it's sort of hard to be nice to gay people who want your autograph. There you go, yeah. That is hard, especially when I have my kids--I don't want it when I have my kids. My kids don't like it; it's a weird energy; it's weird to see people going weird about your mom. It's uncomfortable. So if I have my kids [with me], I'm not gonna sign an autograph for you--it's just not gonna happen. But it was really, really safe with Rosie, and as the week went on, I said [whispering], "Just let me do a couple songs." She was like, "OK--we've got a little Broadway night the last night." Rosie takes pictures of all the people--she loves to go around and take pictures of everyone in iPhoto and make a little slide show [which she shows to passengers on the final night of the cruise].

So I said, "Why don't I--when you slip through your slide show--I'll just be playing guitar, and they'll think it's just some nice guitar music you've got going for your slide show." So I was behind the screen playing guitar, and then this slide show was about 10 minutes long. So I played and [humming in her distinctive voice] hummed a couple notes, and I heard this [murmur] from the audience. [Anne laughs] I sang, "Oh, yea-a-ah," and I heard [this louder murmur]. Then they go back to watching, looking for a face, and it's really sweet--all the pictures. Finally, toward the end, as it went down to a "We love you" and "Thank you for the cruise," I started singing. And the screen went up, and they went, "Ye-e-eah!" But I could've just bowed and walked off, and it would've been fine. But when I perform for the community, especially now, there's just this big, warm, yummy hug. It's just this amazing thing. I could do anything, and what a great feeling--any song I want to do, anything.

So what did you say? Since there were two shows, I said, "I'll do 'em both. I'll do both things." So we did it twice. The first show had kids there because it was earlier, so I think I did--I don't remember what I did. I remember the second one was a little more bawdy, and I did an acoustic version of "Piece of My Heart," because that's Tammy's favorite from a long time ago--she had a bootleg of it. That was her favorite thing, and she'd never heard me sing it live until the Grammys. So I did it on the cruise.

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Anne Stockwell