'Out-of-body experience': Woman sings with Jon Bon Jovi after joining Schaumburg client on cruise

  • Michelle Korpalski of Hanover Park shares the stage with Jon Bon Jovi to sing "Livin' On a Prayer" at the end of a concert on the Runaway to Paradise cruise in Spain last month.

    Michelle Korpalski of Hanover Park shares the stage with Jon Bon Jovi to sing "Livin' On a Prayer" at the end of a concert on the Runaway to Paradise cruise in Spain last month. Courtesy of David Bergman

  • Michelle Korpalski of Hanover Park shares the stage with Jon Bon Jovi to sing a duet of "Livin' On a Prayer" at the end of a shipboard concert on the Runaway to Paradise cruise in Spain late last month.

    Michelle Korpalski of Hanover Park shares the stage with Jon Bon Jovi to sing a duet of "Livin' On a Prayer" at the end of a shipboard concert on the Runaway to Paradise cruise in Spain late last month. Courtesy of David Bergman

  • Michelle Korpalski, a certified nursing assistant from Hanover Park, was accompanying her client, Mira Rhead of Schaumburg, on a "Runaway to Paradise" cruise in Spain in late August when she was called up on stage to sing "Livin' On a Prayer" with Jon Bon Jovi.

      Michelle Korpalski, a certified nursing assistant from Hanover Park, was accompanying her client, Mira Rhead of Schaumburg, on a "Runaway to Paradise" cruise in Spain in late August when she was called up on stage to sing "Livin' On a Prayer" with Jon Bon Jovi. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 9/11/2019 10:58 AM

When rock legend Jon Bon Jovi asked for an audience volunteer to join him on stage for his signature song "Livin' On a Prayer" during his Runaway to Paradise cruise in Spain late last month, Michelle Korpalski knew boldness was the only way to keep the unexpected opportunity from fading away.

"I need someone who doesn't need the teleprompter to find the words," Bon Jovi said. "I need a real singer. Can you really sing? I don't want to hear you can try."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Korpalski rose to the challenge, though the 53-year-old Hanover Park resident -- who was there thanks to the Schaumburg resident she assists -- could not have foreseen her five minutes in the spotlight making her a viral sensation.

"This was a huge, life-changing experience," she said. "I was like, I am the person who would love to be on stage with you and will do my best. He pointed to me and said, 'Do you have what it takes?'"

As she mounted the steps to the stage, Bon Jovi explained to the rest of the crowd what awaited her.

"This is a daunting task," he said. "It is not for the faint of heart."

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He then asked Korpalski her name and introduced the band's newest member to the audience.

"OK, Michelle, let's go for a ride!" he said as the song's familiar intro began.

"I just made the best of what I could do," Korpalski said. "I instantly felt like I was in a dream. It was like an out-of-body experience. He gave me a big thumbs-up when I first started singing."

By Tuesday afternoon, a YouTube video of the Aug. 29 shipboard concert had generated more than 50,000 views. Another, of Korpalski's performance alone, had more than 14,700 views.

Earlier in the cruise, Korpalski participated in a "Live Band Karaoke" session with the musicians and sang "Wanted Dead or Alive."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

She has no way of knowing if that performance had anything to do with her being chosen later for a duet with the man himself.

"I couldn't believe it actually happened," she said. "I felt so grateful and honored. I had tears in my eyes."

Just as interesting is the story of how Korpalski ended up on the cruise in the first place.

A nursing assistant for 10 years, she has been the personal assistant for the past 11 months of Mira Rhead of Schaumburg. Korpalski helps Rhead, who's lived with cerebral palsy for 45 years, with her daily chores and have a normal life.

Rhead herself is a huge Bon Jovi fan. She was aboard another Runaway to Paradise cruise to the Bahamas -- without Korpalski -- in the spring.

"That's her idol!" Korpalski said of the singer.

On that cruise, Rhead met a man from Florida who was so impressed with her life and touched by her passion for the band that he bought her a ticket on the August cruise to Spain, Korpalski said.

And this time, her assistant accompanied her.

One thing Rhead told her about the earlier cruise was that there had been no audience participation.

As her first time out of the country, the trip to Spain already had made a big impression on Korpalski before her moment in the spotlight.

"It was just an amazing experience," she said. "The country was so beautiful!"

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