‘Raisin In The Sun’ Star Honored During Lavish Party
By Mark Kennedy
NEW YORK — These days, an invitation to a tea party likely means lots of heated political talk. But at one held this week in Manhattan, the only thing brewing was Earl Grey and a love fest for a Tony Award nominee.
LaTanya Richardson Jackson was the guest of honor as two dozen celebrity friends ranging from Judge Judy to Star Jones came to toast the actress, currently starring on Broadway in “A Raisin in the Sun” opposite Denzel Washington.
The party, at Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon at the Inn at Irving Place, was hosted by Julianne Moore and the good vibes came from as far away as the White House — Michelle Obama sent a letter with her “warmest greetings.”
Among those who attended included producer and writer Tonya Lewis Lee, editor Susan Taylor, dancer and choreographer Judith Jamison, floral designer Saundra Parks, costume designer Ann Roth and actresses Marsha Stephanie Blake, Judith Light, Ellen Barkin, S. Epatha Merkerson, Michelle Beck, Pauletta Washington, Phylicia Rashad and Julie Halston. Richardson Jackson’s husband, Samuel L. Jackson, looked cool in a white cap and white shorts.
“I thank you for this moment,” said the guest of honor, holding a flute of bubbly. “I raise a glass for all of you. Thank you for being in my life. God bless each and every one of you.” She ended with the cheer: “To the women and the women that we love.”
Moore, who befriended Richardson Jackson when they shot the 2006 film “Freedomland,” said she saw “A Raisin in the Sun” on opening night and was “absolutely staggered” by her pal’s portrayal of matriarch Lena Younger.
“She was loving and maternal and fierce and complex and passionate and demanding and manipulative — a million, wonderful things,” said Moore, the newly crowned best actress winner at the Cannes Film Festival. “In short, she was a live human being onstage. And as we know, that’s the hardest thing to do.”
Lorraine Hansberry’s play, set in 1950s Chicago, centers on a struggling working-class black family anxiously awaiting a $10,000 insurance check and the ensuing squabbles over how to spend it.