Wow, 2015 has been a whirlwind thus far! I haven’t stopped for one minute in the past two or three months. Thank God for people like Carl Feuerbacher and Jon Chusid for keeping the word out for me in the social media world. You know what they say, “Beware of what you wish for as it may come true”. I am busier than ever, and good things are “happening”.
As you may have heard, I have begun acting classes in LA. No, I have not moved there but spending more time in LA because that’s where my classes are held and also my grandchildren live there. I began the classes in February and have been attending two classes per week in between touring.
MOTOWN HISTORY MONTH
At last, HDH were honored with their own Star on Hollywood Boulevard. It was a wonderful event with an after-party at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Mr. Berry Gordy, Stevie Wonder and I all spoke at the induction ceremony. Stevie Wonder sang at the party as we all joined in. Some of my favorite people sat at a table with me – Brenda Russell, Glodean White, and Freda Payne. Of course, my actress friends, Beverly Todd and Judy Pace were part of the group of ladies with Shirley Washington who organized this event.
And let’s not forget about our Motown alumni. What a great year for them! “Motown the Musical” is doing so well. First it opened on Broadway, then Chicago, Detroit, and now recently it opened in Los Angeles. I attended the NY opening and the Detroit opening. I believe it will also head to the UK later this year.
MY 71ST BIRTHDAY
Thank you all for the wonderful birthday cards that you sent for my 71st birthday on March 6. I really appreciate your remembering me each year. I know I used to send letters and thank you cards, however, now with eight grandchildren there is just not enough time to do it all. I have so much fun reading all of the beautiful cards and receiving your lovely gifts. Thank you all so much. The love is heart-felt.
I flew to NYC to host the “Figure Skaters in Harlem” annual fundraiser on April 13th. This event was so much fun. My favorite dress designer, B. Michael, designed a lovely short blue dress for me to wear. You may have seen some pictures of me wearing this new dress on the red carpet at the event. There were lots of people in attendance including some of the young ladies of “FSH” who performed some beautiful poems. Some of the people in attendance was designer Vera Wang and Gloria Steinem, and of course, B. Michael and his partner, Mark Anthony, both looking marvelous in their great designer outfits.
LIVING LEGENDS TOUR
Speaking of lovely ladies, I flew over to London from April 14-19 to do a week of press and promotion for the upcoming “Living Legends” tour with Ms. Dionne Warwick, Roberta Flack and The Drifters. I did several radio interviews and major TV shows such as “Good Morning Britain” hosted by Piers Morgan. That was so much fun. Piers kept trying to talk about a reunion with Diane. I also had the chance to see some of my dear English friends whom I’ve known for years. Lee John always puts together a great dinner party for me. It was a fast five days of back to back PR for the tour that starts on October 3rd in London at Wembley Arena, October 5th in Birmingham at the Barclaycard Arena, and finally, October 6th at the Manchester Arena in Manchester, England. These are going to be great shows and I am so excited about performing back in England this fall. I left the UK to fly back to LA and go straight to my acting class.
BACK TO THE SIXTIES
Michael Childers, a spectacular photographer, held his annual fundraiser “Back to the Sixties” in Palm Springs on April 22nd.for the’ Jewish Family service of the Deser’t, It was indeed a fun filled evening with lots of Broadway stars in attendance. I got the chance to hang out with Loretta Devine, actress, and of “Dreamgirls” fame. She is such a cool lady and such a great actress. She performed this evening and sang the heck out of “Respect”. During the after-party, both Parnell, my background singer, and I got up and sang. The wonderful Ann Hampton Callaway played piano for me as I sang “Stormy Weather” from my Lena Horne show. I used to be so frightened to get up and sing at various functions, but I have gotten over my fears since I started doing my jazz show and singing songs I am comfortable with performing. I have so much more confidence now, but it did take me long enough to get there.
THE BARNSTABLE DIABETES FUNDRAISER
In between all of these activities I’ve highlighted here, I have had some really nice gigs, too. The last one was at the Woodbine Casino and Raceway in Toronto, Canada on April 30. However, flying to the Kentucky Derby in Louisville on May 1 was a bit of a challenge as I had missed my early morning flight. I should have arrived in Louisville at 2:00 pm that day, but ended up not arriving until 10:20 pm that evening. Every flight I tried to get on was overbooked. I almost missed the “Barnstable Fundraiser” that evening. Thank God the show usually goes on until early in the morning. When I arrived, I had to change in the ladies room at the airport, throw on my blond wig and put on my makeup in the police car. Officer Sherry Smith and my friend, Mark Bego, were waiting for me and we drove as quickly as we could to get there. Boys 2 Men were on stage by the time we got there, followed by Salt n Peppa. I followed Richie Sambora who pulled me up on stage with him to sing a song I did not know. Boy, I hoped no one taped that performance J It was then my turn to sing. The Barnstable Fundraiser brings us all in to raise money for diabetes research. The Barnstable twins are the famous twins who did the Doublemint gum commercial years ago. At the races the next day, the twin’s mother told me how they started this event for diabetes. It seems that one of the husbands died from diabetes and the family then started this event which occurs each year. I enjoy being a part of this great fundraiser because my father, Sam Wilson, also had diabetes and eventually had one of his legs amputated. So, despite the trial and tribulations in my travel to get there, it turned out to be another fantastic evening. As a side note, May 1st is also the birthday of my good friend Rita Coolidge. I called her from the racetrack and we sang Happy Birthday to her.
The 141st KENTUCKY DERBY
Because I had been stuck at the airport all day on Friday, May 1st, I missed the first day of racing at the “Oaks”. The next morning, however, I was up early and got dressed and wore my new “big” green hat that I had bought last year in anticipation of this year’s 141st Derby and off we went.
My friend Mark Bego, who attends the Derby each year with me, and I managed to coordinate our outfits without intentionally doing so. B. Michaels had suggested that I get a navy dress but because I did not get in town in time to go shopping, I had to wear my “backup dress” made up of many colors. Mark’s jacket was many colors too, but thank God, both of us had the same colors.
This year I had no “mint juleps” as there’s too much sugar, so I stuck with champagne. It was a very fun day at the Derby and we were seated next to Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, formerly of the Fifth Dimension. We won several races and to top it all off, Mark and I both won the big race…Yea!
Every year we stay over a few days at our friends’ Bed and Breakfast house in Louisville, called the “El Alexandra. I have to admit, all I did was sleep!
As I said, the last couple of months have been super busy for me. Next up are a couple of lectures later in May in Hampton, Virginia and Richmond, Virginia. And on June 5th, I will be performing at the Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club in Bethesda, Maryland for the first time and really looking forward to that date. I hope to see many of my Washington, DC and Virginia fans at the show.
Happy Spring…and thank you all so much for your support and love.