Diana Ross and Eris
  astro-psychological notes by Juan Antonio Revilla

1a. Diana Ross, 1
Posted by: "Juan Revilla" jarevilla@amnet.co.cr asbolo
Date: Mon Aug 13, 2007 6:00 am ((PDT))

The most controversial story about Diana Ross I have found is related to her origins in The Supremes, and has to do with the story of Florence Ballard. Florence is Diane's shadow, the anti-Diane or alternative Diane or bizarro Diane, what Diane could have been had she not had such a "strong Sun", a Sun strengthened or emphasized through its fight with what dark and slow, plutonic Eris stands for astrologically. Florence Ballard is the incarnation of Diana Ross' "shadow" Eris.

This period of triumph for The Supremes became one of personal torment for Ballard, as she was forced to watch helplessly while the group she had founded was gradually taken away from her. In the early years of their existence, Ballard had been the group's central figure, although all three singers were given turns at the lead position. Convinced that it was Ross' higher register that would be accepted by the larger white audiences, Gordy reconstructed the group as a vehicle for her alone, reducing Ballard and Wilson to little more than backing singers. Ballard resisted this change, only to find herself a constant victim of criticism and abuse from both Gordy and Ross. Unable to cope with the situation, she gradually retreated into alchoholism - her resulting weight gain and unreliability providing Gordy with an easy excuse to expell her from her own group in 1967. They were subsequently re-named Diana Ross and The Supremes, with vocalist Cindy Birdsong taking Ballard's place.

Carolynn Gill of the Velvelettes explained it this way: "It was Berry's choice to put Diana as lead. I think Diana's voice appealed to Berry because it was young, crisp commercial sound; maybe Flo's voice was a little too strong for that time. I don't think Berry chose Diana because he particularly liked her more than the other girls. They were after all high school kids to him. [But] Over a period of time, favoritism surfaced, which I believe had something to do with the romantic link between Berry Gordy and Diana Ross"

Flo Ballard was legally forced not to use her past with The Supremes to promote her singing career, and lived in poverty until she died in 1976 of cardiac arrest at Mount Carmel Mercy Hospital at the age of 32, weighting 200 pounds. Her sympathizers blame Diana Ross and her romance with Motown founder Berry Gordy for this. Diane was booed by the crowd when she made her diva-style entrance to the funeral mass and went straight to sit on the first row with Ballard's family.

Beryy Gordy was the biological father of Diane's first child Rhonda, born (August 14, 1971) 8 months after she had married Robert Ellis Silberstein, of whom she divorced 6 years later in March 1977.

The best source about who or "how" Diana Ross really is seems to be the book "Call Her Miss Ross" by J. Randy Taraborrelli, published in 1990.

The following account of Flo Ballard's funeral mass, extracted from this book, gives us hints about Diana's "solar" attitude. What do you think is behind this kind of attitude? I feel this attitude dramatizes some important things about the Eris-Sun conflict that dominates her life.

As a limousine slowly inched its way toward [Detroit's] New Bethel Baptist Church, police officers cleared away people who were peering into its tinted windows and blocking its path.
"Who's in it?" someone asked. "Is it her?"
When the car stopped in front of the church, a tuxedoed chauffeur jumped out. The crowd surged forward. A back door opened. Two more men in black suits got out. Finally, one of them opened the remaining door, and a long, black-stockinged, high-heeled leg peeked out, toes pointed demurely.
She looked very small, almost frail, in a black coat trimmed with sable at the collar and cuffs, a matching knit cloche-style hat, and gold hoop earrings. Her face was expertly made up, contoured, blushed and highlighted. Heavy-lashed eyes were properly mournful. She was immediately the center of attention, though she seemed to be oblivious to it all. Flanked by four stone-faced bodyguards, she bowed her head as she walked through the charged crowd.
People started booing as Diana and her entourage made their way through the huge crowd.
Mary Wilson and her mother Johnnie Mae stood in the long, slow-moving line of people waiting to be seated. Ernestine Ross, Diana's mother, also stood in that line, watching sadly, quietly, with a pained expression on her face. It was obvious to her that her daughter was not welcome at Florence Ballard's funeral.
As the battery of news reporters, television cameramen and photographers documented the whole scene, Diana was hurried into the New Bethel Baptist Church ahead of everyone else. Stevie Wonder, The Four Tops, Mary Wilson and other Motown stars.
Diana did not try to slip anonymously into the church and sit with her own mother, Ernestine, and with Mary Wilson and all of the other mourners who were not family. Rather Diana chose to make a spectacular entrance. She sat in the first pew--reserved for the deceased's immediate family--right next to Florence's grieving mother and husband, Tommy Chapman. She couldn't have been any more conspicuous.
"Be quiet. Sit down and be quiet," shouted Rev. C.L. Franklin, singer Aretha Franklin's father. It was becoming impossible to control the 2,200 people inside the church, some of whom came to pay tribute to Florence but most of whom came to see what was left of The Supremes--Diana Ross and Mary Wilson. People were hanging from the balcony, taking snapshots. "The stars have asked us to ask you not to take pictures of them in the church," said one of the deacons from the pulpit. Diana looked satisfied.



Diana Ross, 2
Posted by: "Juan Revilla" jarevilla@amnet.co.cr asbolo
Date: Mon Aug 13, 2007 6:31 am ((PDT))

The point about Florence Ballard being Diane's "shadow" is not that Diane is to blame for what happened to her, nor that she is responsible in any way. The point is that --for a time-- they were "one" in terms of their careers, the paths they had chosen, and this time happened to be Diane's adolescence and rise to fame. They departed later, took different paths...

But then a month after Florence Ballard's death, Diana Ross told People magazine, "Did I cry? Yes, I cried." She said, "People tried to help Florence. I tried to help her. She had it all and she threw it away. "She quit The Supremes, we didn't quit her. Don't make too big a thing of this," she cautioned the reporter. "Florence was very important in my life, but I'm not dead. She did this to herself."

Yes, Diane was not dead, nor was it her fault. But the "Florence" part of Diane (Eris) did not die, it will forever be with her, challenging her Sun, making her Sun stronger at the expense of her shadow, which results in an unbalanced, excessive, "diva" type of Sun. What part is this?

Here are some comments on the "diva personality" that illustrate wonderfully the "paradoxes of an exalted Sun". They do not refer to the dark or shadow aspect of the diva, but are an excellent description of a powerful Sun:


How did an opera term get co-opted by popular culture?

Should the word "diva" be retired, as an overused moniker that is now essentially meaningless? The search engine Google, for example, lists more than two million internet sites for diva. Trawling through even a fraction reveals that the word itself has the elasticity of Flubber. Has the populist impulse, impelled by an egalitarian ethos skeptical of elitism, hollowed out the more traditional and accepted hierarchy of talent that for so many years informed critical taste and public reception? What, if anything, does it mean to proclaim an artist a diva in an age of manufactured talent devoted to the constant churn of fashion and itself hostage to the fickle taste of a public too often bamboozled by glitter more than glamour, and for whom the counterfeit is regularly indistinguishable from the authentic?

To put it another way, what's the difference between Britney Spears and Madonna? Or, say, Shania Twain and Dolly Parton? Or Janet Jackson and Aretha Franklin?

One way the authentic diva may be distinguished from the faux diva is by her powers of self-invention. She fills the stage before uttering a word, she commands every room she enters by sucking the oxygen out of it, she exerts a gravitational field that forces all other personalities to pay fealty to hers. What Wayne Koestenbaum, in his seminal The Queen's Throat, calls her "will to power" is the defining element of the diva's elusive magnetism. Her narcissism and flamboyance, her grandiose and excessive gestures, are part of a repertoire of tactics designed to achieve sovereignty over herself and to declare her right to her singularity. Divas, Koestenbaum rightly insists, also "fight an oppressive order by inventing a resilient self." Francesca Royster echoes this definition in her new book, Becoming Cleopatra. In the patois of what she calls "queer African American cadence," the word diva is an appellation denoting "the strategic use of an outsize theatrical self to protect oneself from persecution." In other words, the usual rules don't obtain.

Mae West said, "Personality is the most important thing to an actress's success. You can sing like Flagstad or dance like Pavlova or act like Bernhardt, but if you haven't personality you will never be a real star. Personality is the glitter that sends your little gleam across the orchestra pit into that big black space where the audience is." The diva personality is at once invulnerable and defenseless. What Kenneth Tynan once observed of Katharine Hepburn applies: "Wide open, yet with no breaches in her armour. It is the paradox which makes stars." To project a personality that is simultaneously unprotected and invincible is part of the warp and woof of the diva personality. The posture she presents to the world onstage is evident offstage as well. She doesn't inhabit roles; they reside in her. She is the story. Even when her command of craft ebbs with age and disappears altogether, the diva remains radioactive, releasing a palpable charge. (See, for example, Gloria Swanson's portrayal of Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard.) As Enobarbus says in Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra, "Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale/Her infinite variety. Other women cloy/The appetites they feed, but she makes hungry/Where most she satisfies." Divinity is a birthright and cannot be acquired, imposed or renounced.

Or can it? Can a wannabe diva morph into the real deal? And, conversely, can an authentic diva devolve into a phony? Consider Cher and Madonna. Each is a study in the seductions of celebrity, both powered by a relentless engine of ambition. Cher begins in the shadow of Svengali-like Sonny Bono but soon sheds him. Over the next decade and a half, she becomes a whirligig of self-invention, is vindicated as an actress by winning an Oscar for Moonstruck, and ultimately ends as an adored queen of suburban pop whose fans flock to her sellout concerts and follow her every cosmetic surgery and retirement, no matter how frequently they are announced.

Madonna, by contrast, bursts on the scene fully formed in Susan Seidelman's Desperately Seeking Susan. She exudes a brash and unapologetic authority and projects a contrarian conceit that is astonishingly commercial all over the world. A teenage Filipino communist guerrilla is photographed cradling his AK-47 and proclaims "Material Girl" to be his favorite song. If, as James McCourt has said, "A star is a temperament in collision with a tradition," Madonna in her early years is a striking exemplar. Eager to rearrange the iconography of desire, she exults in a teasing and uninhibited sexuality. And yet, as the camera reveals in movie after movie, there is a hollowness at the core. Her career begins to founder, and, now diminished, she seems ever more the empty vessel. Only in Truth or Dare, her remarkable documentary of some years ago, did she again exhibit the authority she evinced at the start of her career. In that film, Madonna turns a trope of diva conduct inside out: it is when she pretends to be herself that she is most authentic.

Real divas tell us something no one else can. We learn what life is like from a work of art.

A diva is a living work of art. She is at once irreducible in her singularity and a work in progress. Thus, the trajectory of her career is a source of endless fascination as she works her variations on a theme. (Her theme is herself.) Unapproachable, private, elusive, oracular, a diva reigns as a goddess of secular royalty. She wears her unique personality as a badge of her inherent defiance of convention. For her, rules are made to be broken. She is an original. She refuses domestication and resists a star-making machinery that would extract her essence and turn it into a commodity, leaving her unruly personality as an inert and useless carapace. She is a member of a tribe on the edge of extinction, increasingly under siege by an entertainment industry more comfortable with compliance and conformity than with the deportment of eccentric and willful personality. She is a hand-tooled object in an era of mass-produced mechanical dolls. She is an anachronism.

The faux diva is a confection of tics and conceits, a marketing ploy, dreamed up by handlers and promoters canny enough to understand that the thirst of the public for the real cannot be entirely slaked by the incessant proliferation of tin lizzies, but for whom hope springs eternal. It may be that you can't fool all of the people all of the time, but those you can are enough to grant a flavor-of-the-month the requisite fifteen minutes of fame. And in today's throwaway pop culture, that's perhaps all that is needed to feed the insatiable appetite for cash and glory. List-making is always a fraught and subjective enterprise, but here's a list of virtual divas who fail to measure up: Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, Christina Aguilera. Contrast them with the real thing: Tina Turner, Diana Ross, Queen Latifah, the late Celia Cruz. (I am tempted to rest my case.)

It would be comforting to believe that public taste is infallible and that, in the end, the public can be counted upon to be allergic to fakes. But the metastasizing success of disposable pop divas suggests otherwise. This is so for a number of reasons. It is harder for the exceptional artist to be heard. The noise of the culture is increasingly loud. The grip on the shaping of taste by bottom-line overseers grows tighter. The hope for an ever-greater return on investment constrains the time necessary for the nurturing of authentic talent. The search for stars, however pallid, intensifies. In a culture besotted with fame, there is no lack of candidates. They quickly appear and just as swiftly are dropped down the memory hole. Patience thins. The boundary between the authentic and the inauthentic blurs.

Nevertheless, a nostalgia for the real persists, even if only as a kind of irradiated afterglow. Demand for divas is large; supply is inherently scarce. Hence the pop machine's embrace of technology as a quick-fix elixir. Technology provides for the gullible a verisimilitude that is more than a reasonable facsimile of the real deal. It makes possible the synthetic creation, in the controlled environment of a recording studio, of music (and, later, its reproduction) that is largely untethered to the living and fallible human voice. Recorded pop music prizes perfection over the human factor. Artists are naturally flawed. Passion often trumps craft. But androids never throw tantrums. Real divas are imperfect and wear their flaws as a sign of authenticity. Think of Janis Joplin or Judy Garland or Marilyn Monroe. Each was unprotected, invincible, original.

Perhaps the term diva has outlived its usefulness, since the age for which it was invented seems, at this remove, to be positively Paleozoic. After all, we live in a time that substitutes an indulgent solipcism for unapologetic narcissicism, hubris for pride, salesmanship for authority. No wonder real divas have difficulty being heard.

STEVE WASSERMAN is the editor of the Los Angeles Times Book Review.



2b. Diana Ross, 3
Posted by: "Juan Revilla" jarevilla@amnet.co.cr asbolo
Date: Mon Aug 13, 2007 11:29 am ((PDT))

>fight an oppressive order by inventing a resilient self.
>strategic use of an outsize theatrical self to protect oneself from persecution.
>she doesn't inhabit roles; they reside in her. She is the story.
>wears her unique personality as a badge of her inherent defiance of convention
>refuses domestication
>resists a machinery that would extract her essence

the diva excesses in Diana Ross can therefore be seen as a result of a fight against:

1-) an oppressive order
2-) feelings of persecution
3-) being possessed by her role
4-) domestication
5-) forces that want to deprive her of her essence
6-) being used, manipulated, exploited, invaded

the over-compensation often makes her the oppressor, persecutor, manipulator, etc. Florence Ballard had to fight the same things, in part incarnated by Diana Ross, but she could not "invent the resilient self" and was overpowered by the oppressive system --and before that, probably, by her father. As Diana rose, Florence declined, and when Diana was at its peak, Florence died.

But Diana's success was the success of the diva, of the "invented" self, and this was very evident in Florence's funeral: she did not act as an individual, as a person, as Diane, she did not "share herself" with others. She was, surely, in grief, but she came alone, protecting herself, fully armed, defying the world, defying the criticism. At the top, she is her own invention, and all alone. The rest of the world cannot reach her...

note the analogy with the aloofness of Eris' orbit here...

the power she acquired is the power of the "self" that she personified, and which she became, but this same power separates her from others. Motherhood and singing become the only fully unconditional contact with her humanity, and paradoxically, they contribute the most to her isolation... or more accurately, "desolation" (here we can see probably the Moon/TL66 square).

In any case, in Florence Ballard --her twin sister from a certain perspective-- Diana could see the dark forces of Eris taking over, forces from which Diana strives to protect herself --specially if you consider that she is still accused by many who knew her at the time of being part of these dark forces. Diana "shuts" herself from Eris, so Eris keeps coming back to her and often she cannot help but "mount an act" of Eris-like diva bitchness, which is not really her as those who love her will tell, but is a role that the world is compelling her to perform.

The excessive diva-like features are her armour, which is as excessive as overwhelming are her insecurity and vulnerability. With this armour she is protecting herself against an oppressive marketing machinery, a very busy schedule filled by others for her that gave her very little time and space to find who she really was besides the performer, an oppressive system in her childhood as a black girl in the slums of Detroit, and the public pressure of guilt about what happened to Florence Ballard, which no doubt was only and instance of similar pressures under which she has lived her whole life.

that is what her resilient and empowered Sun is fighting with, that is what Eris is in her life.