Jet Cover Story: 2003 Jun 18, 2007 10:38:36 GMT -5
Post by Emerald City on Jun 18, 2007 10:38:36 GMT -5
Gladys Knight - Interview - Cover Story
Jet, March 3, 2003 by Aldore Collier
* HAVING THE NO. 1 SHOW IN LAS VEGAS
* HEALING AFTER HER SON'S DEATH
* BEING MARRIED TO A YOUNGER MAN
* 50 YEARS IN SHOW BUSINESS
Gladys Knight has been performing for more than 50 years and is just as hot now as when she first burst on the scene all those decades ago.
Hers is the top-rated show in competitive Las Vegas, she has a two-year marriage to a younger man she loves and she's celebrating 50 years in show business and has her own record label.
Sure, the 58-year-old Atlanta native has been on stage most of her life and has performed on the Las Vegas Strip many times. But recently, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the city's leading paper, voted hers the best of all the shows in the supercompetitive entertainment center with all its megahotels and casinos.
She has a four-year contract to do five shows a week at the huge Flamingo Hotel on the strip. Hotel officials said Knight has really boosted attendance in the main showroom, bringing in fans of all races and ages. She does her signature Heard it Through the Grapevine and Midnight Train to Georgia and throws in medleys of Motown artists, gospel, comedy routines with brother Bubba, fun encounters with the Flamingo crowds and her background singers.
And there's a tribute to one of her biggest mentors, Sammy Davis Jr. "They didn't want me to have Sammy in my show since so many others were doing Sammy," she told JET during an interview at her spacious Las Vegas home. "But Sammy taught me so much."
Being stationary in Las Vegas, her home for more than 25 years, makes it easier for Knight to help tend to her business affairs managed by daughter Kenya. Her company is called Shakeji, named after all three of her children, Shanga, Kenya and deceased Jimmy, her oldest who died in his sleep in 1999 at the age of 36.
Jimmy was his mother's manager and helped her launch her own record label, Many Different Roads. "Jimmy knew how to wheel and deal," she said. "Jimmy took me to another level from where the Pips and I were. He had been the road manager for Gladys Knight and the Pips before I decided to go solo and when I did go solo, he became my manager. Jimmy had five kids (Kenya has six and Shanga none). We definitely came together as a family. Rishawn, Jimmy's oldest, was most devastated. He had gone into a shell. William (her husband) and he sort of embraced each other. William never had a father, and he and Rishawn came together. Rishawn just cried. My faith (as a Mormon) and my family brought me through his death."
She recalled that Kenya was pregnant when her brother died but managed to have another healthy child. Knight stressed that her large and extended family embraced one another, pointing out that such trauma could either pull the family apart or bring them together. "We really pulled together."
Following Jimmy's death, Kenya immediately stepped in and began to manage her mother's business affairs. "She stepped right up to the plate," Knight proudly boasted. "She was kind of co-manager with Jimmy. She has really done well." Shanga lives in Atlanta and manages Knight's restaurant there.
Being stationary for an extended period for the first time in her life also gives Knight a chance to give her undivided attention to William McDowell, her fourth husband. Even though she is 58 and he's 45 and she hadn't had much success in the matrimonial arena, she said this is the happiest she has been as an adult.