Motown fans are wondering what Diana Ross meant last week at the BET Awards during her acceptance speech.
Ross surprised everyone when she dedicated her Lifetime Achievement Award “to all the Supremes” and then added “especially Mary Wilson.”
Indeed, no one was more surprised than Wilson herself. She was just starting her second and final week of sold-out shows at the prestigious Feinstein’s at the Regency in New York. There she performed songs from her new live album (available on her Web site, www.marywilson.com) including jazzy versions of the Supremes’ hits “My World Is Empty Without You” and “Reflections.”
It was just a few years ago that Ross, thinking she’d organize a Supremes reunion tour for their 40th anniversary, offered Wilson several million dollars less than she was getting to go out on the road again.
Wilson declined, saying she would only go as equals. Ross went out anyway, with women who’d worked as replacement Supremes after her 1969 departure. The tour was a failure, and Ross and Wilson have not spoken since then. That’s what made Diana’s comments so unusual.
But it might have had something to do with her recent failed album on EMI. Even though the CD was well-made, and Ross was in good voice, the audience simply wasn’t there.
What is the audience there for? The real Supremes: Wilson, Ross and Cindy Birdsong, who replaced Florence Ballard after she was fired in 1967. The Ballard saga inspired the Effie storyline in “Dreamgirls” in the Broadway musical and movie. Effie lives. Ballard did not. She died in 1976 at age 32, broke and sick.
On Friday night, Wilson celebrated Ballard’s birthday on stage at Feinstein’s and had a toast to her afterward. During the show, she was greeted by Thomas White Jr., a member of the New York City Council, who read a proclamation from the city in her honor. And, ahem, flirted shamelessly with the still gorgeous 63-year-old star.
Wilson said she’s as mystified as everyone else about Ross’ comments last week. Not to say she isn’t grateful, too. Maybe with The Police reunited and touring, and Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono doing joint interviews, a Supremes reunion really is possible.
Michael Moore’s “Sicko” is a bona-fide hit after this weekend. It finished ninth in the Top 10 box office, but only played in 441 theaters. That’s huge.
“Sicko” also had a huge per-screen average — $10,200 — that was third highest of the weekend. This gives it the second highest opening weekend for all documentaries ever.
The documentary now has a total box-office take of $4.5 million. The Weinstein Company will add 200 more theaters Tuesday with the expectation that audiences will continue to throng to it over the Fourth of July holiday.
You’ve got to love the PR aspect of “Sicko,” too. Between the Cuba controversy and Moore being prohibited from entering the New York Stock Exchange, this has been old-fashioned campaign to get people's attention and make them curious about a movie.
It worked and even better, the film is good. You can’t do better than that.
You probably know by now that Joel Siegel, the film critic for “Good Morning America” and a good friend, died on Friday night. He was 63 and had battled cancer for some time.
Only a week or so ago, another friend, Claudia Cohen, died of cancer as well at the age of 56. The ironies abound. Even though Joel was a bit older, he’d told Peggy Siegel that the first date he’d had in New York (he was from Los Angeles) years ago was with Claudia. He’d taken the wrong subway to her apartment on 57th Street and wound up in Harlem.
Joel and Claudia were still very friendly in recent years. The pair, along with Peggy and Ron Silver, often attended events together.
Joel was also great friends with actress Michele Lee from “Knots Landing,” whom he’d known for years. He also had a close circle of male friends his age including Robert Shapiro, the Hollywood criminal lawyer with whom he’d gone to high school.
Everyone who knew Joel loved him. I was lucky enough to be his friend in later years and always looked forward to long talks and lots of jokes.
In the last year he was carrying a machine that pumped chemotherapy into him. It was just awful, but he laughed about it, wore the contraption with a designer suit, and didn’t complain.
He lost his hair. It came back: it was white. It was gray. He didn’t care. You just wanted to hug him if it would keep him from what he knew was an obvious end.
So we’ve lost two friends in two weeks, and they were each the kind of people you wanted to know for 20 more years.
It’s not a cliché to say we won’t see their kind again, and we will be so much worse for it.
Joel, you were the best. Rest in peace.