A real dreamgirl guest coming to The Abbey tonight: Mary Wilson of The Supremes!
Okay, calm down Greg.
Oh my God! Mary Wilson is going to be at The Abbey in West Hollywood tonight! The Motown legend, one of the original Supremes, will be the special guest host celebrating the publication of Mark Bego’s new book, Elton John: The Bitch is Back (Phoenix Books).
Mary herself is the author of two best-selling memoirs: Dreamgirl: My Life as a Supreme and the follow-up Supreme Faith.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Mary over the phone earlier this year and just about fell on the floor when she sang a bit of the Supremes hit Floy Joy for me. My sister had the single when I was a kid and would play it over and over.
“Smokey Robinson wrote it,” Mary told me from her Las Vegas home. “It was the first time I sang lead on a single.”
Mary was on lead because Diana Ross had left the group by then. The reconstituted Supremes went on to score several big hits, including Stoned Love and Up the Ladder to the Roof.
“I think in the ’70s we were a new group,” she said. “The original Supremes have a special place in my heart – what we represented to black women not just in music but also in fashion and image.”
Mary still performs live in venues around the world and has been busy promoting a year-long celebration marking the 50th anniversary of Motown Records, the Detroit label founded by Berry Gordy that spawned such acts as the Temptations, the Four Tops, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Stevie Wonder, Mary Wells and the Jackson Five.
But no Motown group was bigger than the Supremes, formed in the late ’50s by Wilson and her childhood friends Ross and Florence Ballard.
“It’s also the 50th anniversary of the Supremes – or the Primettes, as we were originally called,” she pointed out. “Who knew it would last so long? That’s what’s so phenomenal about the Motown sound – it was the sound of young America, the sound of the time.”
I’ve often wondered what happened to the fourth young woman, Barbara Martin, who was a member of the group when they first signed a recording contract with Motown. She left the group in 1962.
“Barbara was on that first album ‘Meet the Supremes,”‘ said Mary, who is still in touch with Martin. “She had met the love of her life and when we signed, she left. And she’s still with the same guy all these years later, the only one who’s had the (same) man the entire time.”
While Martin found personal happiness, Wilson says that “she (Martin) regrets (leaving the group) sometimes.”
The Supremes took a few years to reach No. 1 with 1964′s Where Did Our Love Go, but once they were on top, they stayed there with an astounding 12 No. 1 hits, including Baby Love, Stop! In the Name of Love and You Can’t Hurry Love.
With worldwide fame, the trio had adjusted to early growing pains such as Ballard being replaced by Ross as lead singer. The arrangement, publicly at least, seemed to work well for a good five years before Ballard – depending on who you believe – either quit or was pushed out of the group for unprofessional behavior. She was replaced by Cindy Birdsong and the group was rechristened Diana Ross and the Supremes.
This all kind of sounds like a movie called Dreamgirls, doesn’t it? Mary has mixed feelings about the obvious similarities.
“It’s a piece of work, a piece of art,” she said. “Anytime you have art, and it’s good, you have to acknowledge it. However, it was not the Supremes story. Whoever wrote it was inspired by the Supremes, they used our images. “That’s OK, but if you’re going to write about someone, you should say it’s them. It’s not plagiarism, and yet it is. I’ve always been on the fence. If anything was closest to reality, if would be the (Effie) character – a singer so good who didn’t fit the image. It was kind of eerie. And yet, it wasn’t really Florence.”
Dreamgirls has resulted in continued interest in the Supremes, with fans desperate for a reunion of Ross, Wilson and Birdsong, who have not been on stage together in 25 years (Ballard died in 1976).
There were plans for a reunion tour called “Return to Love” in the summer of 2000, but negotiations famously fell apart over money. Ross carried on with the tour anyway with Linda Lawrence and Scherrie Payne (pictured left), who were members of the trio with Wilson in the ’70s – years after Ross left.
The tour was a spectacular flop and canceled midway through. Mary told me she is still open to the reunion everyone really wants to see.
“I’ve always been open to it – it just has to be negotiated again. It’s if Diana is open to it, if she’s ready. I sincerely hope she is.”
She and Ross had a famous falling-out after the publication of Wilson’s best-selling 1986 book, Dreamgirl: My Life as a Supreme, which led off with an incident at the taping of the Motown 25th anniversary show, with Ross allegedly pushing Wilson while on stage.
But things seem to have thawed a bit: “There’s a card here and there, and she gave me a shout-out at the BET (Awards). Even if there’s never a (reunion) tour, I still believe we are friends and sisters and will one day sit down and have Starbucks.”
Oh, I’d love to be sitting at the next table!
The event at The Abbey tonight begins at 6pm. The Abbey is located at: 692 N. Robertson Ave. in West Hollywood.
(All comments are reviewed before being published, and I review submissions several times per day.)
Why on earth would Diana Ross want to share a stage with this talentless back stabbing polyester clad, crack smoking parasite EVER AGAIN?, Diana was good enough to overlook the fact that Mary did nothing but slag her around in that trashy book she wrote, Diana’s promoter offered her close to 4 Million Bucks to sing ooooh baby, baby, but this idiot turned it down.
Forget it Mary, Diana would be better off to stay @ least a thousand miles away from the likes of you!
You had less than anyone to do with the success of the Supremes, hell you didn’t even sing on Love Child or Someday We’ll be Together, but you still get the same royalty check Diana does.
Thank god that you were Lucky enough to sing BACKGROUND behind Miss Ross, Thank God Berry Gordy & Motown tolerated you as long as they did!
Have a friend that says i favor you. So i decided to look at some of your photos…I thought it was a big compliment because growing up I thought you were the pretties of the group…and you still hold your own I might say. It would be nice to speak with you or your PR person in the future about booking a show in the Dallas Texas…Think about it.Its a fundraiser for the foundaiton.
Be A Blessing for Someone Today!