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Aretha Franklin, the eternal icon, is honored in New York!

Liz Smith

"WITHOUT MUSIC, life would be a mistake." -- Friedrich Nietzsche

ON DECEMBER 12, the one and only Queen of Soul, Miss Aretha Franklin, will receive the first-ever "Icon Award" at the Billboard Women in Music Awards, happening at Cipriani Wall Street.

Taylor Swift will accept Woman of the Year, Ariana Grande for Rising Star, Paramore's Hayley Williams is to be recognized as a Trailblazer and Idina Menzel as Breakthrough Artist of the Year. Did I miss something -- didn't the fabulous Ms. Menzel "break through" ages ago?

Anyway, the night's gonna be All About Aretha, so I hope the rest of the ladies grasp that concept. When Miss Franklin enters the room, hold on to your oxygen masks, because she's the center of energy and life force.

INCIDENTALLY, Taylor Swift was just glorious singing with her gals "Welcome to New York" on David Letterman the other eve. She is so professional; you can understand her lyrics. She is beautiful, and a real star among so many lesser "talents." It is no wonder that right now Taylor is the world's most popular singing star, hands down.

Glamorous, too!

ABOUT that New Yorker magazine cover, dated Dec. 8, showing the iconic Gateway Arch in Saint Louis, Missouri, I want to congratulate the publication on the best nonspoken editorial comment in the country. This is Cape Cod's Bob Staake's "Broken Arch" showing instead the division between blacks and whites in the U.S., via the famous Arch. Artist Staake has made many landmark works of art. He says, "I think a good New Yorker cover should have a shelf life of like a week. It's a response to whatever is going on in the country at that time."

SOMETIMES we don't know our own strength around here. I have written twice about the new book from the Oxford University Press, "Lighter As We Go." This has been written by the highly respected Dr. Jimmie Holland of Sloan Kettering and Mindy Greenstein, Ph.D. I didn't think you were paying attention. But this week none other than the Wall Street Journal pointed out that this amazing work -- with the mysterious subtitle "Virtues Character Strengths, and Aging" -- has impressed them so that they named it the second of six books on best information to advise all of us about life after 50.

Now, I know that nobody reading this is 50 yet, but you will be if you are lucky. And I will repeat again that Dr. Jimmie Holland is married to another Dr. James Holland at Mt. Sinai and they are both from Texas. (Never mind; they live in New York where all Texans come eventually.) There'll be a party for these smarties at the Cosmo Club at 6 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 8. The one and only documentary creator and WNBC reporter Perri Peltz will introduce Holland and Greenstein.

BUT BACK to magazines. "Down with the Brits!" That's what Stephen Marche writes in the current issue of Esquire (with the adorable Channing Tatum on the cover holding a dog, which makes him even more adorable!)

It's only a few paragraphs, a box in the middle of a page, surrounded by an unconnected article. But, brother, does Marche get to the point. He disdains TV shows and movies such as "Downton Abbey, "Sherlock" and "The Imitation Game," declaring, "We've made heroes of some of humanity's vilest people: The English upper class."

Space won't permit, but here is a salient part of the slam: "The British upper classes are anti-Semitic by instinct, racist to the core and convinced of their own superiority despite 100 years of collapse. They celebrate inequality; they nurture it. ... They are everything we despise, collectively. Except we adore them."

Hmmm! Rather of two minds, there. Probably a big closet "Downton Abbey" fan.

THERE WAS a terrific interview with the vampire queen Anne Rice in Time magazine recently. Rice says she won't take credit for the resurgence of vampire movies, books and TV shows since the debut of her "Interview with the Vampire" 38 years ago, but ... she knows it's true.

Rice abandoned her bloodsucking characters for a few years, because they depressed her. She found religion and wrote several Jesus-centric books. She's back with the undead with the release of "Prince Lestat." She hasn't given up her religion, but declares herself "unaffiliated" to a church. Her work always had a spiritual bent anyway. She admits: "There are a number of Christian friends who tell me I did a better job talking about God in the vampire novels!"

The next Rice novel to get big-screen treatment will be "The Tale of the Body Thief," which will have the relative safety of being scripted by her son, the writer Christopher Rice.

Anne admitted to Time's Daniel D'Addario that she is unsure about Hollywood preserving the "philosophical" aspects of the book. ("Interview with the Vampire" certainly didn't!) But Rice says, "I love movies with all my heart. I'm willing to take the chance."

And for a woman who has mainly dealt with the darkest of subjects, what a surprise to read her manifesto: "Doesn't it come through? I'm an optimist. And I think we're living in the greatest time ever."

Maybe Anne Rice should run for political office? Everybody else is so downbeat.

(E-mail Liz Smith at MES3838@aol.com.)

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