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Society Confidential: Bettye LaVette’s in mud and on TV

Susan Whitall and Chuck Bennett

Bettye leaves her imprint in Detroit

Detroit’s own Bettye LaVette, the sassiest singer this side of — well, anywhere — is in town to perform at “Detroit Performs Live” at the Fillmore, presented by Detroit Public Television and carried live on WTVS (Channel 56) at 8 p.m. Friday night. She took some time out Thursday to put the imprint of her hands into fresh concrete at the Detroit Historical Museum’s Legends Plaza.

The WTVS show will also be streamed online at the same time at, and in addition to bad Bettye, features singers Jessica Hernandez, Ty Stone, Ben Sharkey and flutist Alexander Zonjic, along with a non-Detroiter, Italian tenor Pasquale Esposito. There are still balcony and VIP tickets available; go to for information.

Chaka Khan gets a visitor

When R&B diva Chaka Khan performed at Freedom Hill in Sterling Heights a few weeks ago, she was caught off guard by a surprise visitor in the middle of her set. Keo Motsepe from “Dancing with the Stars” came to town to surprise the Queen of Funk on stage and announced that he is her dance partner for the upcoming 21st season. A video clip of Chaka and Keo’s onstage meeting at Freedom Hill was shown this week on the season premiere of the popular dance show, with a big shout out to Detroit. If you missed it, you can see a clip of the surprise intro on the Freedom Hill facebook page:

A gangster’s lair

Prominent Detroit dermatologist Lorna Thomas hosted an intimate cocktail party at her palatial digs on Detroit’s northwest side Wednesday for this year’s sponsors of the Michigan Opera Theatre’s 2015 Opera Ball. During a brief welcome at poolside, Thomas took the opportunity to share with guests some of the interesting history of her home, where she’s lived now for 42 years.

“I’m only the third owner of this house, which originally belonged to one of the bosses of the infamous Purple Gang,” Thomas explained. “I discovered a room downstairs that was bricked up. I hired some guys to unbrick it. I left them in my home with these instructions: If there’s money behind this wall, call me. If there’s a body, brick it back up. When I returned home, the room was bricked up.” Everyone laughed — cautiously, and then an amazing dinner prepared by Chef Warren Thomas of Signature Grille was served. The Opera Ball, honoring Maggie Allessee and featuring a performance by the highly acclaimed ballet dancer Misty Copeland, principal dancer of the American Ballet Theatre, is Oct. 3. For information, contact or (313) 237-3268.