By Larry Widen Special to OnMilwaukee Published May 20, 2023 at 10:56 AM

Anyone in the audience for Patti LaBelle’s Dec. 10 show at the Riverside last year certainly remembers the panic and uncertainty that ensued when the star was taken off stage in response to a bomb threat. Milwaukee Police Department K-9 units searched the theater while nearly 2,500 attendees were safely evacuated. Ultimately no bombs or explosive devices were found. 

Members of the Pabst Theater Group staff quickly worked to reschedule the concert for Saturday, May 20 at 8 p.m.  

In a career that has spanned seven decades, Patti LaBelle has sold more than 50 million records worldwide, been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, and taken her place on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of 100 Greatest Singers. Prior to her rescheduled performance tonight, LaBelle, age 76, talked about some things she’s enjoyed on her journey.

OnMilwaukee: When you were taken off stage on Dec. 10, what was your first thought? That’s certainly an unsettling thing to happen while you’re performing.

Patti LaBelle: I had no idea what was happening at first – and of course I didn't want to stop my show! But when my security told me what was going on, I knew how serious it was! And I just wanted everyone there, my band, the audience, the staff to be safe. And I'm thankful that everyone was!

Emotional, powerful vocalists like yourself often find their singing voices in church. That’s a wonderful influence on anyone who wants to sing the music that you do. Can you talk about that? 

When I was growing up, the church was one of the few places that people who sang or who were musicians could hone their gifts. So, it provided an essential outlet for me and many others of my generation. And church was where I was able to overcome some of my shyness because my choir director believed in me and pushed me out front.

“Lady Marmalade” put you front and center because it became such a huge hit. What changed most about your life after that, and how did you deal with it?

"Lady Marmalade" brought us more mainstream exposure, but Sarah, Nona and I continued to do what we had always done – and that's put our hearts and souls into our music, our performances and everything we did!

Do you psych yourself up in the dressing room right before you go on? What does that first wave of applause, the greeting from your audience feel like? 

I don't have to psyche myself up when I go onstage because I love performing. It's my life! And the applause and the energy I feel from the audience never gets old. It's electrifying!

Can you elaborate a bit on your passion for being in the food industry, and how you chose to immerse yourself in it?

I love to cook and always have! I come from a family that loved to cook, and I learned how to cook from my mother and father. I inherited a love of cooking and good food and have passed that down to my children and now grandchildren. It's something I always loved, so writing cookbooks came naturally to me. And then I desired to take it a step further and that's how my Patti's Good Life brand came about. I want to share what I love with the world!

What kind of food did you cook for Mick Jagger? 

It was so long ago, I can't really remember, but I'm sure it was some of my specialties. Beef brisket, potato salad, macaroni and cheese – all that good stuff!

Without revealing any surprises you may have planned, can you tell me what your set at the Riverside might encompass?  Some of the Bluebells songs? Favorite covers? Gospel?

My shows are never the same because I'm a Gemini and I'm spontaneous! Most times, we don't finalize the set list until right before the show. But it will be a mixture of eras, genres, you name it. No matter what, it's going to be a great time!

What would you like to be remembered for?

For being kind and being a lover of people.