1a. Diana Ross, 1
Posted by: "Juan Revilla" email@example.com
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'
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
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
Her Miss Ross" by J. Randy
Taraborrelli, published in
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
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
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" firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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:
an opera term get co-opted by popular culture?
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?
it another way, what's the difference between Britney Spears and
Madonna? Or, say, Shania Twain and Dolly Parton? Or Janet Jackson and
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.
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.
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.
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.
divas tell us something no one else can. We learn what life is
like from a work of art.
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
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.)
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.
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.
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.
WASSERMAN is the editor of the Los Angeles Times Book Review.
2b. Diana Ross, 3
Posted by: "Juan Revilla" email@example.com
Date: Mon Aug 13, 2007 11:29 am ((PDT))
an oppressive order by inventing a resilient self.
use of an outsize theatrical self to protect oneself from persecution.
doesn't inhabit roles; they reside in her. She is the story.
her unique personality as a badge of her inherent defiance of convention
a machinery that would extract her essence
the diva excesses in Diana Ross can therefore be seen as a result of a
1-) an oppressive order
2-) feelings of persecution
3-) being possessed by her role
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,
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.