An interview with Evelyn “Champagne” King
By Gregg Shapiro
In the vast and historical realm of classic disco, something celebrated with great exuberance and abandon on StarVista Live’s Ultimate Disco Cruise, there are songs that have stood the test of time and become legendary in their own rights. “I Feel Love” by Donna Summer, “YMCA” by Village People, “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor and “Love Hangover” by Diana Ross, are certainly near the top of the list. Undoubtedly, so is “Shame” by Evelyn “Champagne” King. Released in 1977, the song remains one of the true gems of the era and sounds as fresh today as it did when it was first spun in discos back in the day. King, who is as effervescent as her nickname, continues to perform concerts to this day and is one of the disco artists who has had the honor of performing on all three Ultimate Disco Cruise. Always a delight, King was kind enough to answer a few questions in advance of the cruise.
Gregg Shapiro: Evelyn, you are one of the few Ultimate Disco Cruise artists who has been booked to perform on all three editions – 2019, 2020 and the upcoming 2022 excursion. What does that distinction mean to you?
Evelyn “Champagne” King: It means a lot to me. It means that my fans truly appreciate and adore and love to dance, party and sing along with good music.
GS: As a performer, what does it mean to you to be able to connect with your fans in a setting such as the Ultimate Disco Cruise?
ECK: I love it! It makes me feel like we’re in my living room. It brings a connection and we can let each other know how appreciative we are. You’re not just saying it over the airwaves, you can reach out and touch the fan. They can give you a hug. Of course, things have changed now.
GS: I definitely saw that when you performed on the cruise! One of my favorite parts of the cruise is the daytime panel discussions, followed by a Q&A with the audience. What do you like best about doing the panel discussion?
ECK: I enjoy it because it’s real and it’s right upfront. You get to speak to the artists. You don’t have to read about it. You’re right there, one on one. They get the chance to ask the questions they want to ask. For so many years they probably said, “I’d really love to just ask this one question [laughs]!” We feel the same way. We want to ask questions to the fans, like, “Why do you like our music so much?” What I want to know is, is it just the beat or is it the lyrics?
GS: 2022 also marks the 45th anniversary of the release of your breakthrough debut single “Shame.”
ECK: [Laughs] thanks for saying 45! I just had a birthday. I’m proud to be here. I’m 61 and still hanging in there by the grace of God and my fans and my loved ones, my family. Even though the pandemic is here, I know that I’m still hanging in there. A lot of us that are still hanging in there from the ‘70s and ‘60s, we should just be grateful and try to move along with what is happening. You never know when it’s your calling. We’ve lost so many, and my condolences go out to so many people that have lost family, friends, and fans from COVID-19. Now we’ve got the Delta Variant going on. We’ve just got to be safe and careful and listen to the right people.
GS: Did you realize at the time you recorded it how special the song was?
ECK: No [laughs], I really didn’t. I just wanted to sing, to be a singer. [Working with producer] T Life, [and songwriters] John Fitch and Reuben Cross – “Shame” was it for me. It was like, “Let’s just take her on this road and let it happen!” I was 14½ when I got discovered. Looking at that and then looking at how far I’ve come, I’m just very grateful.
GS: “Shame” was embraced by the LGBTQA+ community which helped it become a hit. Is there anything special you’d like to say to your gay fans?
ECK: Yes, I do! I want to say, “Thank you, thank you, thank you! I love you, as well.” I thank you so much for keeping me on the map, keeping me relevant, as well as my new LGBT community, the newer fans, I just want to say thank you so much and I’m blessed to have you in my life and in my career.