Look out, Hollywood. Watch out, fashion world. The legendary Queen of Soul is about to arrive.
Aretha Franklin, the golden-throated owner of 24 gold records and 14 Grammy Awards, is branching out.And there's little doubt the lady from Detroit will command "R-E-S-P-E-C-T" in her new careers in film and fashion.
But fans of the sassy songstress, who has immortalized such mega-hits as "Think," "Chain of Fools," "Natural Woman," and "Freeway of Love," can relax.
Aretha is not giving up her singing.
She's just going to slow down a little to have time for some other avenues she has wanted to pursue but never had a chance to get around to.
"What I do now mostly is mini-tours," said Franklin, in Atlantic City recently to perform a rare two-concert event at Trump Castle, where she belted out a medley of her hits as well as some Broadway show tunes, including selections from "Les Miserables."
"I've done the 20- and 30-nights years ago and I don't have the slightest intention of doing it again," said Franklin, 46. "I can be more selective now, fortunately. It gives me more of an opportunity to get into other areas."
Franklin, who got her start as a child singing gospel tunes at church services conducted by her Baptist preacher father, is actually somewhat of a recluse despite her popularity.
She performs live concerts infrequently, in part because of an intense fear of flying, and rarely gives interviews. But Franklin said her recent trip from Detroit to Atlantic City in a customized luxury bus may change all that.
"I was a little concerned about the ride, but I found that it was quite comfortable," said Franklin, who said she passed the time reading and playing cards.
Now that the travel barrier has been broken, Franklin said she ordered her agent to book her in a mini-concert tour next year, and will perform in New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., in June.
In the meantime, Franklin is turning her attention to threads and celluloid.
Her passion for fashion emerges early next year with the opening of a chic women's fashion salon in Detroit named "The Royal Courts." The salon will feature evening wear, European imports and ready-to-wear from American designers.
"It's just something I wanted to do," said Franklin. "If I do not take the time out to do it now, I'll never get to do it between recording sessions and concerts.
"I love fashion. I'm a big reader of all the glamour magazines. I study fashion. I'd love to do some designing. I know that I can be good, but it's not an easy field to break into."
What kind of clothing would the Queen of Soul design? Casual, "very loose" pieces stressing comfort and easy care, she said.
"I think if I can find a name designer that will do this line for me, I would like to have some of my own things in the salon," Franklin said.
Franklin is also looking to re-enter the film industry. She made her motion picture debut in 1980 in "The Blues Brothers," burning up the screen with her version of the song "Think."
"I'm really looking for a good script," Franklin said. "I'd like a good starring part in either something dramatic, or romantic, or a romantic comedy. A good follow-up to `The Blues Brothers.'
"I have an agent that is looking at different things for me, but I have not seen anything that I feel is appropriate yet."