It’s funny, and serves a purpose. At the J.C. Penney headquarters, when an employee inquired about his dinner plans, he said: “We’re going to sell a lot of sheets and pillowcases with that attitude right there, my dear.”
“In life, there’s only one great bridge to the other side,” Mr. Richie said. “That is a sense of humor.” He sees it as a path toward relevance, and relevance as an alternative to retirement.
This fandom keeps him in the mix, Mr. Richie added, rattling off the admirers he often hears about: “My mama, my daddy, my cousin, my brother, my sister, my aunt loves you.” That fan base has to translate, he said. “Somebody is going to buy a towel and hopefully a sheet.”
“I would buy anything for Lionel Richie,” said Lisa Stewart, a 49-year-old mother of three from Lexington, Ky, who was attending Mr. Richie’s Las Vegas concert one Saturday evening. She had already shelled out hundreds of dollars for V.I.P. passes in celebration of her coming birthday.
Although she is a lifelong J.C. Penney shopper — her husband was wearing pants from the chain to the concert — Ms. Stewart had not heard of Mr. Richie’s bedding line. The possibility excited her. (Later, in an email, she said she saw pieces online and loved them all.)
On this particular summer night, Ms. Stewart was part of a crowd that drew people from San Diego and San Antonio, Illinois and Arkansas. For a little less than two hours, a few thousand people stood, if and when they were able, swaying and smiling.