Patti LaBelle is one diva who isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. The Philadelphia native, who’s also the author of several cookbooks and has her own line of prepared sauces, cooked up a huge Christmas meal that included a brisket, a capon and a ham, along with stuffing, potato salad, sugar snap peas, apple pie and sweet potato pie.
LaBelle, who appears 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 10, at Caesars Atlantic City, has a similar work ethic on stage.
The two-time Grammy winner is known for her high-octane approach, putting her multi-octave voice and backing band to the test, as she segues among signature songs such as “Over the Rainbow,” “You Are My Friend” and “Lady Marmalade.”
A typical performance culminates in LaBelle kicking off her shoes, throwing down the mic and gesturing dramatically as she screams out a particularly high note.
Although her career stretches back to the early ’60s, when as the leader of a girl group she scored her first hit “I Sold My Heart to the Junkman,” LaBelle is still very much in the game.
The voice behind such pop-R&B hits as “On My Own,” “New Attitude” and “The Right Kinda Lover” plans to release a long-awaited jazz record this year and return to the studio to make a dance album and a recording of all ballads.
Plus, she hopes to reunite as LaBelle, the ’70s-era R&B trio with Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash that was known for its space-age costumes and smooth harmonies, which most recently got back together in 2008 and 2009.
Ahead of her latest A.C. show, LaBelle, inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, Apollo Hall of Fame and Hollywood Walk of Fame, talks about kicking it live and what’s left on her career bucket list.
Q: This A.C. date is practically a hometown gig for you. How do you approach the show?
A: I just go there like I’m playing Philadelphia. I just have fun for 90 minutes — it’s very unpredictable. There are things that I do throw in and certain songs I cannot leave the stage without doing. I’m also doing some way back, way back Patti LaBelle.
Q: How do you get your voice ready for a live performance?
A: I pray for my vocals — we all pray before we do the show. I don’t do scales or anything. I drink spirit of peppermint drops and tea with lemon and some pretend sugar, because I’m diabetic. I used to do honey and whiskey, but I don’t drink anymore.
Q: Is it a sure thing that you will kick off your shoes at some point?
A: I will kick that pump off, if it’s not sticking to my foot. The last set of shoes I purchased were Manolo Blahniks. They’re closed in and not the slingbacks. I went to kick it off in Cleveland and it stuck to my freaking foot. I couldn’t kick it off, so I had to nudge it off with my other foot and then kick it. People look forward to me kicking off the shoe, throwing the mic down and sweating and looking at the mirror to see if my makeup is running.
Q: Which song is most likely to inspire you to go for broke?
A: It happens usually on “Over the Rainbow,” and sometimes on “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” the Bonnie Raitt song that I recorded years ago. But it could be any other song — I’m very unpredictable.
Q: Speaking of being unpredictable, is there any chance you won’t perform your 1975 Labelle hit “Lady Marmalade?” Do you ever get tired of singing that one after all these years?
A: Never do I feel that way, because it’s a fun song, and I have fun with the audience — that’s where they participate. Never ever will I leave that song out — that’s a must-do.
Q: What’s happening with LaBelle?
A: We’re going to get back together and do some music and touring. Nona Hendryx is the best writer in the world, and Sarah Dash still has the most beautiful voice, so we’re doing to do it.
Q: With so much going on, is there anything left on your career bucket list?
A: To sell a trillion records and to get five more Grammys.
Q: Two aren’t enough?
A: Two is cute — I have bookends, but I want five more.
For LaBelle, Tupperware is a girl’s best friend
A diamond ring from Elton John, below, may sound like a fabulous gift, but Patti LaBelle would rather have her Tupperware back.
Back in the day when John was an up-and-coming piano player known by his real name, Reginald Dwight, he played in LaBelle’s band during a London stint.
LaBelle cooked dinner one night for John and his bandmates, sending them home with leftovers in Tupperware. She never got her containers back.
Years later, LaBelle reunited with John to record a song, and he spontaneously gave her one of his diamond rings.
“I said, is that payment for the Tupperware or what?” Labelle recalls. “He said, ‘Not really, I just want you to have it.’”
However, the ring wasn’t enough.
“I didn’t ask for a diamond ring, I asked for Tupperware,” she says. “It’s beautiful — (but) it’s much too big for me to wear.”