HughE Dillon: Rice and Franklin Take the Mann

Plus: Have Hank Baskett and Kendra Wilkinson found new Center City digs?

Breaking Rumor: I hear that Hank Baskett and Kendra Wilkinson-Baskett just signed a lease at Center City’s Residences at Two Liberty Place, former home of Cole and Heidi Hamels. I wonder how the neighbors will feel about having the cameras filming Kendra’s reality show around the swanky building?


Last night Condoleezza Rice played with Aretha Franklin at the Mann Music Center for a near-record 8,000 people. The concert was held to raise money for music and the arts for children of Philadelphia and Detroit.

A 75th anniversary gala was held before the concert at the top of the hill, overlooking the beautiful sunset that made the Center City buildings glow. Guests dined on a summer-inspired menu by Stephen Starr Events.

ABOVE: Alison McGill and mom Charisse Lillie from Comcast, Karen Buchholz, also from Comcast, and Carl Buchholz, managing partner& CEO at Blank Rome. I always enjoy seeing Charisse, who I met years ago when I worked at the Camden city solicitor’s office and she was Philadelphia’s city solicitor.

ABOVE: Greta Greenberger (Philadelphia City Hall tour director), Alan Greenberger (executive director of the city’s planning commission), and Joyce Lenhardt. Greta and I had lunch the other day at Sampan, and discovered they have expanded their lunch menu; they now serve till 4 p.m.

ABOVE: Mariska Bogle and Sean Reilly. Mariska, whose family owns the Philadelphia Tribune, tells me that the gala celebrating the newspaper’s annual list of the city’s Most Influential African-Americans will be coming up in September.

ABOVE: Justin L. Jeffrers and Lauren St. Clair Lynch. Thin and deliciously dressed, Lauren is the girl you may have heard about that is eating her way through Philly by following Philadelphia magazine’s January 2010 239 Dishes You Must Eat Now. Follow her on her blog, Love to Eat, Eat To Love, as she eats her way through Philly. She plans to finish by midnight on December 31st.

Simon Powles, of Starr Events, Dr. Bob, Catherine M. Cahill, the Mann’s president and CEO, and Mark Focht, Fairmount Park executive director. Also sighted: Romy Diaz and Dennis James, Ford Drapper III, Jessica Hawkes and Scott Webster, Kathleen and Nick Chimicles. On the eve of the concert, Chimicles (who’s a Dem) had a dinner in honor of Condoleezza Rice at his Devon home. My invitation got lost, but that is one dinner party I wish I could have recorded for history.

Ahmeenah Young, president & CEO of the Pennsylvania Convention Center, and State Rep. Dwight Evans. Dwight Evans lost so much weight I didn’t even recognize him.

Opening the concert at 8 p.m. was Rossen Milanov, conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra. After the first song Rice performed Mozart’s Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K. 466. On Saturday, I heard that Rice ate at 10 Arts at the Ritz-Carlton and met briefly with Top Chef Jennifer Carroll.

After intermission came Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin, who was dressed to the nines in a beautiful white evening gown, long white gloves, dangling jewels, and the belief that a full-bodied woman looks great in white. You go girl! Ms. Franklin started out the concert on a high note with Respect, which sent chills up my spine. From Respect to Natural Woman, Aretha wowed the crowd with songs from the past and from her new CD, which will be released later this year, A Woman Falling Out of Love. She told stories of her early years playing in Philly at the Cadillac, The Showboat, and hanging at the clubs with Bill Cosby.

I Say a Little Prayer For You was an interesting choice of a duet for the staunch Republican and the staunch Democrat … or maybe it was just a little funny, too.

Before I knew it, the two-hour concert was over. Aretha Franklin left me with a memory that will last my lifetime as she is truly an American icon. Last year I got to meet her for a brief moment. I was walking down 59th Street in NYC on my way to shoot a movie premiere. I saw the goddess with her entourage walking near the Plaza Hotel. I asked for a photo, and she graciously obliged. I told her that in my house when I was growing up, Dad only listened to country and Aretha Franklin. When she asked me how he was doing, I replied with tears that he had passed away three years earlier. Aretha moved closer to me, whispered I’m so sorry, and stroked my arm. Such a sweet lady.