Friday night: Miss Aretha Franklin, Queen of Soul, dined with pals at the four star La Grenouille, took in a performance of “Driving Miss Daisy” with James Earl Jones, then took over the Park Room at the Helmsley Park Lane Hotel on Central Park South for an elegant, soul filled 69th birthday. Her guests included not only me (I was lucky enough to be invited) but also Clive Davis, Smokey Robinson, Bette Midler, Tony Bennett (who brought a portrait he painted of Ms. F), Roberta Flack, Al Roker and Deborah Roberts, Star Jones, plus Cissy Houston, Gayle King, Wendy Williams, Vaneese Thomas, Fonzie Thornton, Gwendolyn Quinn, Terry Stewart (of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum), and a couple dozen friends she’d brought from Detroit.
Our pal, ABKCO Records’ Tracey Jordan, did a fine job lining up the night which featured performances by Tito Puente Jr. and band, jazz singer Nnenna Freelon, and Motown great Dennis Edwards, who coaxed Aretha up to the foot of the stage to sing a little of “The Way We Were.” Franklin looks sensational, in a flowing white caftan, her hair cropped chic-short. She has lost a good amount of weight, looks rested and ready to hit the road again.
In fact, I’ve heard she’s coming back to New York on May 3rd to celebrate the release of her new album, “A Woman Falling Out of Love,” which Wal Mart will carry exclusively. When a cake was brought out, Aretha strutted over to cut it, and then shimmied as the deejay played “Respect” over the sound system. What a way to start your 70th year. All hail Aretha Franklin!