The queen of soul, Aretha Franklin probably made her own history on March 24 when she personally invited a very select group to join her for a private dinner marking her 70th birthday and gifted them with the promise of new music.
The avowed Detroit resident hosted the affair during Women’s History Month and accommodated less than 80 guests at the swank Park Room at the Helmsley Hotel on Central Park South.
On arrival, guests were informed by publicist Gwendolyn Quinn, “Miss Franklin personally arranged the seating order.”
That said, it was no surprise that her mentor, record executive Clive Davis would be seated right next to her at table number one.
As for me, I was placed at table number 4C and happy to be included among the guests to toast Detroit’s most respected singer.
Ms. Franklin arrived promptly at 6:00 p.m. and was met by flashing lights and camera lens.
ABC-TV anchor Dianne Sawyer took the lead to express compliments of the day to the monarch.
Wearing, short-cropped, curly locks, a tri-colored, silver, white and black, sparkly, short-sleeved dress, the soul songstress made her way past opera diva Kathleen Battle, singer, Nona Hendrix, choreographer, George Faison, activist, Al Sharpton, academic, Michael Eric Dyson, singer Fonzi Thornton, BET CEO, Debra L. Lee, CNN commentator, Roland Martin, her on and off fiancé Willie Wilkerson as well as other notables to situate herself at the front of the room.
Loads of fabulously-wrapped gifts were mounted near a dance-floor.
The tables accommodated 10 guests each.
The menu comprised a four-course delectable of cold appetizers, hot appetizers, entrée and desserts.
“She is the queen and still reigning,” Reg Wells told me.
Wells is best known as make-up guru to Oprah Winfrey.
“She looks great,” Tracey Jordan her former publicist told me.
Davis gifted his host with a brand, new record deal.
Allegedly, the two will collaborate again to release perhaps another platinum-seller.
“I have re-signed with Clive Davis, so I’m recording with Clive again,” Franklin said of her resumed relationship with the music mogul who she recorded with when he headed Arista Records.
Franklin added that Davis will celebrate his birthday next month and afterwards, “we’re going to sit together and decide what it is we’re going to record.”
No formal announcement was made during the dinner but RCA Records will likely name the label.
Two ballet performances marked the occasion with a jazz band providing dance music for the elegant crowd.
The revered R&B singer who is best-known for a spirited recording of a song titled “Respect” seemed happy and jovial throughout the dinner.
At one point she joked that like Benjamin Buttons was turning back the hands of time.
“I was wondering, what is it going to be like to be 50?’ I can tell you now it feels like 40.”
In the film “The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons” the character aged backwards to get younger through the years.
“So remember Benjamin Buttons?” Franklin said.
She referred to herself as “Ree Ree Buttons!”
Her adoring guests seemed enthused by her banter laughing and smiling at every gesture and comment. The dinner lasted much longer than the invitation suggested.
Franklin seemed to enjoy her 70th birthday celebration.