Arts & Entertainment
Diana Ross comes home
Show at the Opera House part of 10-city mini tour
By Jason Michael
Originally printed 11/12/04 (Issue 1246 - Between The Lines News)
The last few years have been replete with challenges for Diana Ross. The Detroit native and Motown legend has been searching for her proper footing pretty much from the start of the new millennium. OK, even before.
In 1999, she divorced her husband of more than a decade, Arne Naess. Subsequently, she was detained in London's Heathrow Airport for allegedly assaulting a security guard who frisked her a little too firmly. The following year the plug was pulled midway through her highly anticipated Return To Love tour, which was supposed to reunite her with her former singing partners with the Supremes but settled instead for two latter day divas who'd never before shared a stage with her, after only a handful of dates.
Two years later, Ross was pulled over in Tuscon, Ariz. and arrested for driving under the influence. She was officially convicted of the crime in February, a month after her ex-husband died tragically in a mountain climbing accident, and sentenced to spend two days in jail. Ross did her time in her hometown of Greenwich, Conn. but was nearly forced to return to Tuscon for double duty when it was revealed that she was sent home 90-minutes early because there was no longer a female guard on duty.
Add to all this a stint in rehab and a boob jiggling incident involving a pastie-wearing Lil' Kim and you can see that the last handful of years have not been easy ones for La Ross. But as the old song says, she's still here.
Just after serving her 48 hours - well, 46 and a half - Ross did a successful tour of Europe in the spring. Her shows, which sometimes feature as many as two dozen of her hits and the requisite several elaborate costume changes, were well received. This month, Ross is mounting a mini-tour of the U.S. - her first since the failed Return To Love - with a scheduled stopover in her hometown on Thursday, Nov. 18.
Mind you, she's playing the Opera House, a small sign that the times have, indeed, changed for queen of the Motown Sound, who used to not only play the larger Fox Theatre when she came to town, but play it for several consecutive days. But Ross, who turned 60 in March, is not bitter. Her reputation is still intact as one of the most successful female recording artists in history with six number ones and 20 top 40 hits, plus the additional 12 number ones she racked up with the Supremes.
Despite it all, what Ross calls her greatest accomplishment is her five children, and what many folks probably don't realize is that the legendary lady is also a legendary mother. Her oldest daughter, Rhonda, whose father is Berry Gordy, is a successful jazz singer. Tracee stars in her own sitcom on the UPN network. Then there's Chutney and teenage sons Evan and Ross, her two children by Naess.
"In the last year they have given me what they've always given me: love and support," Ross said in a recent profile in Essence magazine. "We're a family. When one is down, the others are up. But when you know you're loved by the people who are important to you, you can get through everything."
No doubt about it, Ross has always been an overcomer, dating back to her days as a youngster living in Detroit's Brewster Projects. After graduating from Cass Technical High School, Ross was signed - along with Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard - to Motown. For the first few years, the group was referred to around Hitsville, Motown's headquarters on West Grand, as the no-hit Supremes. But that all changed in 1964, when "the girls," as Ed Sullivan called them, hit the top of the charts with "Where Did Our Love Ago." They quickly went on to become the most successful girl group in history and the most successful act on the Motown label.
Ross went solo in 1970, was nominated for an Academy Award for her portrayal of Billie Holliday in the film "Lady Sings The Blues" a few years later and soon earned a well deserved reputation as one of the most exciting live performers ever. The success carried well through the 80s, but the last decade has been a quiet one for Ross. She's released two very decent albums, 1995's "Take Me Higher," which is among her best solo releases ever, and 1999's "Every Day is a New Day." But unlike her contemporaries, Cher and Bette Midler, whose latter day albums continue to reach gold status, Ross seems to have lost much of her selling power.
When you're rich in love, though, Ross says you're never lacking.
"It's a fleeting thing, the celebrity of your life," she told Essence. "I've had a wonderful career, but career doesn't last forever. And the men have been fleeting. But my children are still here. I would be terribly lonely without my children. Nothing would matter without them."