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On Stage With Gladys Knight
The multitalented entertainer and multiple Grammy Award-winner just keeps going and going and . . . 
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​Ross’ (David Schwimmer) girlfriend on “Friends.” During seven episodes on the show, Tom was kind of a lightning rod for fans of the show, some who didn’t like the fact that she had taken Rachel’s (Jennifer Aniston) place in Ross’ heart. “Fans still get angry about that,” she says. “There was a live audience [during filming of the show], and they would boo me when I came on because they really wanted Ross to be with Rachel.”
   Not to be discouraged, Tom moved on and exhibited even more of her talents, using her voice in popular animated series such as "Futurama," "The Simpsons," "King of the Hill," "Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness," "Pound Puppies," "Teacher’s Pet," "Batman Beyond" and "Mulan 2." 
   Now, it’s all about Andi Mack, the much talked-about series, where Andi, played by 13-year-old Peyton Elizabeth Lee, was abandoned by her teenaged mother. Enter Lauren Tom as Celia Mack, Andi’s grandmother who made her believe that she and Andi’s grandfather were her parents––and her real mom was her sister.
   There will be more to this continuing story when Andi Mack returns to the Disney Channel on Mondays in June.
Photography courtesy of Disney Channel
–– Walter Leavy
Photograph by Liz Lauren
  THE legendary Gladys Knight, a longtime treasure in the music world, recently showed an overflow crowd at RiverEdge Park in Aurora that she’s still got it. The powerful voice is there. The engaging stage presence can’t be denied, and the showmanship is nothing short of extraordinary. Even without the Pips, Gladys is magic!
   Right from the start, when she opened the show with the 1987 Grammy-winning song “Love Overboard," Gladys was in total control, cruising through an enthralling repertoire that catapulted Gladys Knight & The Pips to the highest levels in the music arena. With the announcement that she was going to have to “go back and get a few things” from the past, the seven-time Grammy-winner proceeded with songs such as "Nitty Gritty,” and “Make Yours a Happy Home,” and, by the time she reached way back for the 1961 hit “Every Beat of My Heart,” the audience had been captivated by a one-of-a-kind performer.
   It’s easy to see why Gladys is often described as the “Empress of Soul” when you see her take charge of her music on stage and at the same time skillfully reach out to her adoring fans. Her easygoing rapport with the audience between songs was a winner as she shared one personal story after another, including how the movie Forrest Gump, starring Tom Hanks, affected her and gave her a new reality when it comes to unconditional love. Additionally, she revealed that she didn’t realize “I’ve Got to Use My Imagination,” a song she and the Pips recorded in 1974, was a part of the soundtrack until she saw the movie.
   After sharing another story about her ineptness with social media, Gladys, who came into national view as a 7-year-old grand prize-winner on TV’s “Ted Mack Amateur Hour,” was right back into her slow walk down memory lane through song. "You're the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me." “I Don’t Want to Do Wrong.” “If I Were Your Woman.” 
As if those emotional tunes of love were not enough, she raised the level with her heartfelt, extended version of the ballad “Neither One of Us,” which won the group its second Grammy Award and highlighted all the pain, hesitation and uncertainty associated with walking away from a failed relationship.
   As expected, the conclusion of “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” prompted another story, this one about Marvin Gaye, whose version of the song eclipsed the 1967 original. Both versions reached the top on R&B and Billboard charts, but the sustained appeal of Gaye’s version earned it a place in the Grammy Hall of Fame for its “historical, artistic and significant” value. “Marvin just took that song from us,” Gladys told the crowd. “I really loved him and still miss him.”  
   Although Gladys had hit the right marks all night, no performance by Knight would be complete without a version of the timeless tune “Midnight Train to Georgia,” the No. 1 hit that established Gladys Knight and the Pips as one of the premiere pop/R&B groups in the world. After appointing the crowd to be her Pips, the sing-a-long could be heard throughout the downtown streets of Aurora. 
   By the end of her hour-plus show, Gladys had proven that, after all the years, it wouldn’t be fitting to describe this multitalented entertainer as “a golden oldie”––she’s just simply pure gold.
–– Walter Leavy