Aretha Franklin, Queen of Soul, is on a roll.
She’s lost 23 pounds on a new, healthy diet and she looks fantastic. “I’m working on the next 23,” she declared backstage last night at City Center where the Queen sang her signature hit, “Respect,” for Good Housekeeping magazine’s 125th anniversary show.
Not only was Aretha a vision in a white gown specially designed for her new slimmed down figure, but she had lots of other news. Her new album, the first in seven years, is coming to us in May via WalMart. “A Woman Falling Out of Love” was produced by Franklin with Bebe Winans and Gordon Chambers. Aretha told me she wrote two of the songs–she is always her best composer–and the album features a duet with the amazing Karen Clark, of the Clark Sisters.
Isn’t that enough?
Yesterday, the Queen of Soul huddled with two different Oscar caliber directors about turning her autobiography into a movie. It’s really going to happen. And the big names are being mentioned, like maybe Denzel Washington to play the famous Reverend C.L. Franklin, Aretha’s dad, and any number of actresses–from Halle Berry to Jennifer Hudson– to play Miss Aretha. Of course, Aretha’s incredible sisters, Carolyn and Erma, will be represented as well. (I did suggest that Miss Franklin check out Viola Davis for her movie, too.)
Franklin was in fine voice last night,too, although she said she could hear “cracks.” Her back up singers included two of my pals, the great Vaneese Thomas (sister of Carla, daughter of Rufus) whose parents were married by Reverend Franklin, and Fonzie Thornton, of the original Chic (with Nile Rodgers, Bernard Edwards and yes, Luther Vandross).
‘Aretha was the biggest star maybe but not the only one at GH’s star-studded event. She was actually introduced by no less than Candice Bergen. The other performer of the night, Meryl Streep, got her introduction from Nora Ephron, who in turn was brought to the stage by Liz Smith. (Meryl gave a recitation from a speech by Susan B. Anthony.) Brooke Shields was a very charming emcee, while Broadway’s Laura Benanti and Kelly O’Hara opened the night with a fully produced song and dance number. No, those Hearst types didn’t hold back a penny!
Other notables included Marlo Thomas (who appeared with a rejuvenated Miss Piggy), Martha Stewart, Jessica Simpson, Hillary Duff, Gayle King, Kristen Bell, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Ann Hampton Calloway (who sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”) and the effortlessly funny Sarah Jones. And our very own Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney was there, too–she’s helping make a National Women’s History Museum a reality in Washington, DC on the Mall (http://www.nwhm.org/).
PS Kudos to my pal Liz Smith — she gave hilarious speech and was in top form. She said that she loved getting scoops and had been on plenty of “hit” lists–Frank Sinatra and Donald Trump’s each–but that she had always endeavored to write gossip in a flattering way. She did, she has, she does, and I sure wish the glut of what passes for gossip today took a page from her book. That’s how you achieve longevity in this biz.