I could write a book about Aretha. In the year or so I worked with her she certainly made life interesting. She’s the Queen and expects to be treated as such.
Ms Franklin (as she asks to be called) has no secretary, no computer, no cell phone, just a fax machine. On a typical project, she’d call me up and just say “I want to play this theater in Philadelphia and need ads. July 14. 8pm.” She’d expect me to call the theater, tell them she wanted to play there, set up the contract, call the paper, arrange the ad placement, design the ad, fax it to her, etc. And when I invoiced her, her check bounced.
One time she called me up needing an ad for a performance in NYC and told me to fax it to the front desk. “But this is very important. Do not put my name on the fax. Use my traveling name: Tabitha Queen. If you use my name, my fans will find me. So please, I’m anonymous.” I told her I understood. “But when you send it, under Tabitha Queen put ‘aka Aretha Franklin’ so the front desk will know it’s me.” Absolutely, Ms Franklin, whatever you say.
Another time she had me do an ad and told me to fax it to her lawyer so she could pick it up while she was out. I did so. A few hours later she called me, furious. “HOW DARE YOU!! I trusted you, and the minute my back’s turned, you’re sending faxes to my lawyer? Are you trying to destroy me? You never. Ever. Speak to my lawyer. You speak to ME. IS THAT CLEAR???” she yelled, hitting a glorious high note. I stammered that she had told me to fax her lawyer and was trying to explain when I heard her sobbing. “I’m sorry… so sorry… I had a bad day and I’m taking it out on you… sob … forgive me…” and she hung up. The next time we talked, she was back to being chipper.
Aretha is regal and a force of nature, and also a special kind of crazy.