Aretha Franklin, the one and only queen of soul, is coming to New York this weekend.
Miss Aretha, the hands-down diva of all divas, is going to tape a special performance for Queen Elizabeth's 50th Jubilee right here in New York. She will not be attending the big celebration in London on June 3 because, as you well know, our queen does not board airplanes.
But Aretha will be regal when she regales the queen with some of her biggest hits. She's wearing a $13 million diamond necklace supplied by Vivid Collections. According to my sources, her necklace was made of all white diamonds with a flawless 18 carat pear shaped drop and a 58 carat emerald cut diamond ring.
The taping occurs Friday, on a closed set at VH-1.
Meanwhile, Franklin is finally busy recording a new album for Arista Records. According to insiders she's already put down four new tracks and will be assembling the balance of them over the summer.
"It's very soulful, very old school," says my source. "All of the writers are young, and they each contributed something that has that feeling."
All hail Aretha, I say!
If you thought Halle Berry was hot stuff in Monster's Ball, just wait until you see the next movie with Anjelica Huston.
The fascinating actress/director has signed to play Josh Hartnett's stepmother in a new Paramount flick called Shadow Boxer. It's the story of a boxer who's having quite an affair with his dad's wife.
The same group that put together Monster's Ball is behind this, including Milo Addica, Lee Roberts and Eric Kopeloff. The script is said to be a doozy.
This wouldn't be the first time incest and boxing have crossed paths in the same movie. Back in 1979, Tom Berenger played a boxer who was seduced by his mom (Suzanne Pleshette) in Flesh & Blood, based on a novel by Pete Hamill.
Rapper Jay-Z has an alter ego, and on Tuesday night I had the pleasure of dining with him. Damon Dash, a 32-year-old entrepreneur from the Bronx, has been guiding his and Jay-Z's fortunes now for more than 10 years. They own Roc-A-Fella Records and all its ancillary projects including a clothing line that competes with those owned by Russell Simmons, Sean "P. Diddy" Combs and Tommy Hilfiger.
He doesn't even have a college education, although Dash — who took us to his favorite restaurant, Mr. K's in the East 50s — did go to the famous Dwight School, a private school on Central Park West. Before that he attended public school on Park Avenue. He was no slouch, obviously. His mother, he said, made sure he got a good education.
So now Damon Dash — who wears the mandatory platinum cross and dresses in a L.A. Raiders jersey and hat — is rumored to be dating Sale Johnson, the freshly ex-wife of Ross "Woody" Johnson and mother of Casey Johnson, young girl about town.
"Forget it," Damon said, referring to local tabloid reports that are frankly preposterous for so many reasons. "It isn't true, but the press liked it." He is in a custody battle for one of his two children; he has custody of the kid right now, although the mother, he says, is trying to get more money out of him.
But basically Dash came to dinner to tell me about his new recording artist, Cam'ron, whom he rescued from another label. "I knew Cam'ron from my neighborhood," he said, "but it wasn't possible to work with him right away. At Epic he had a bad time. They were uncomfortable with him."
It seems that Cam'ron was vociferous and spoke his mind to unsympathetic execs at Epic. "I can talk to him," Dash said. "Basically, Epic released him to me." You get the sense that Epic was relieved to see Cam go. But Dash knows what to do with him. "I know trends, I know what urban people like. I know what they're wearing and what they want."
Cam'ron is what they're going to like next. I believe Damon Dash.
He said a proposed tour featuring Jay-Z, P. Diddy and Ja Rule would not be coming together. And he disavowed any participation in Jay-Z's current record with R. Kelly, which is kind of a stiff considering how well Jay-Z's album did last fall.
And what of Jay-Z having to admit in court that he stabbed a man? Dash is not impressed. "The guy wasn't a good guy," he said. "And that was the deal."
He is loyal, that's for sure. He still retains Lizzie Grubman as his publicist, even as she negotiates her way out of last summer's scandal over her jeep backing up over 16 people. "When Jay-Z was in trouble, Lizzie was right there," Dash said. "And we're there for her."
We're going to see a lot of Damon Dash in the months to come. He's directed his first film, called Paper Soldiers, and is waiting for Universal to release it. He's produced two other movies as well: Backstage and State Property. All of them feature many members of his stable. He's also very good at using his first cousin, actress Stacey Dash, in his films. Stacey is a burgeoning star on her own, known to fans as Dionne from the Clueless movie and TV show.
What's next? A traveling revue of Roc-A-Fella performers including Jay-Z, Cam'ron and about a half-dozen other of Dash's acts. The tour starts later this summer, and you already know it will be filmed as a documentary with an accompanying soundtrack. Damon Dash leaves no stone unturned.