LaBelle at the Dell means anything can happen - almost

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Patti LaBelle: "If you don't move it, you lose it." PAUL MORIGI / GETTY IMAGES

PHILLY'S OWN Patti LaBelle recently wowed audiences with a surprise performance on the BET Awards.

Earlier this year, the music legend competed on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" and also made a guest appearance on the season finale of the Fox hit "Empire." She told me yesterday that the key to staying young in spirit even at age 71 is to keep trying new things, which is why she took a chance at competing on a dance show.

"It was, like, I did something that I had said 'no' to for years," LaBelle said. "I said, 'I didn't want to get up there and make a fool of myself.' "

Looking back, she found the experience of competing weekly - on an injured knee - transformative. She danced with pro Artem Chigvintsev.

"If you don't move it, you lose it," LaBelle said.

Even though she believes in trying new things, there are a still couple of things she won't do. One of them is drive. I was surprised by that. LaBelle refuses to operate an automobile.

"I've never driven a car," she admitted.

And the other is something that "Empire" director Lee Daniels suggested. They were discussing her coming back on the show and Daniels asked if she'd be willing to stretch her range as an actress and do something really out there. LaBelle told the award-winning director that she was willing. Then, according to LaBelle, Daniels asked: "LaLa, will you stretch? Will you take the wig off?"

"I said, 'No,' " LaBelle recalled, laughing. "I'm not that girl."

So don't expect any wig removing from this Grammy Hall of Fame member.

Still, she praised actress Viola Davis, who did just that during a powerful 2014 scene on ABC's "How to Get Away with Murder." "She did it, and I loved it," LaBelle said.

LaBelle is known for bringing the glamour, as I'm sure she'll do Thursday night when she performs at the Dell Music Center in Fairmount Park.

Formerly known as Robin Hood Dell East, the historic venue had been shuttered in recent years before reopening for the 2010 concert season.

"It looks nothing like the venue from 2007 and prior years," said Susan Slawson, deputy commissioner of recreation and programs.

A good thing, too, because LaBelle always brings it. If we're lucky, she might even kick off her stilettoes when she sings my all-time personal favorite, "Over the Rainbow," as she has been known to do.

"I love to work," she told me yesterday. "I have to sing. Music is my life."

And she might not go by her 20-odd song list.

"This Gemini might do anything," she said. "I'm very spontaneous.

"You're going to get a great show."

With LaBelle, you expect nothing less. Wig on, thank you very much.


On Twitter: @JeniceArmstrong

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