A Taste of Paradis: Diana Ross, in Conversation With Andy Warhol
Over its 258-year history, Hennessy has pioneered and elevated the art of cognac, a spirit fit for kings and queens. Interview hasn’t been around quite as long–just 54 years–but we like to think we, too, have curated conversations and photography that aspire to a similar level of elegance and sophistication. In honor of Hennessy’s storied Paradis marque, we poured through our archives to recirculate conversations with personalities, entertainers, and icons who personify the brand’s spirit of refinement, grandeur, and artistry. Today, we revisit the September 1975 issue, in which the disco goddess Diana Ross sat down with Interview founder Andy Warhol to discuss fashion, art, and family.
Thursday, June 24, 1976, 1:20 P.M., the Carlyle Hotel, 35 East 76th Street.
AW and Peter Lester, who are 20 minutes are for their date with Diana Ross, go inside the Carlyle restaurant to find her already curled up on a Ultrasuede banquette picking at an avocado salad. She’s with Shelly Burger, her longtime friend and aide. DR is wearing khaki pants and a safari jacket of her own design and a straw hat. AW is wearing the usual. PL is wearing a grey cotton suit from Jackie Rogers. SB is wearing a blazer, bluejeans and an open-neck shirt.
(Tape #1, Side A.) (introductions)
DR: It’s really terrific to be able to eat. I haven’t eaten because I just woke up.
AW: I think you should eat and work at the same time. You should eat on stage. Or you could have your nails done.
DR: Wouldn’t it be terrific? That would be fabulous. I should have that as part of my act. We almost did some thing like that in Las Vegas. They stopped serving dinner so they were going to roll my dinner out onto the stage!
DR: It’s nice to meet you.
AW: Gee. I used to go see you all the time.
DR: That’s terrific. Did you see the show?
AW: I saw it opening night. It was just great.
DR: I told Shelly I thought I saw you opening night.
AW: I brought you my book. It’s easy to read.
DR: “From A to B.” Is it done like a dictionary?
AW: No, it’s just philosophy—comic philosophy.
PL: You’re working pretty hard now, no?
PL: I thought you were doing a show and recording at the same time.
DR: Yeah, I am but I’m playin’ at that. I’m only doin’ it because I want to do it so it’s not really work. I mean, it used to be work. Do you know what I mean? I mean, now the show is set and when I walk out on the stage I’m really havin’ fun. I decided I was going to do the recording session because everybody’s up and excited when they leave the stage, do you know? And they want to go out there and do some more. It’s like gettin’ finished. So that’s why I decided to do the session. Also, I’m producing—I’m playin’ at producing, do you know what I mean? I’m going into the studio, I have an idea of what I want to do and we’re just playin’ around. Last night we got two really good things.
AW: I like straight singing, which you do so well—just standing at the microphone and singing. I don’t think you have to do much if you can really sing. Do you write some of your music, too?
DR: I’m going to this time. I have a feeling that we all can do whatever we want to do by not makin’ it really hard work.
AW: I want to know who did your clothes.
DR: Ray Aghayan. I work with him now. It’s like I can’t do it myself. I got a chance to do that and got off on it. You know how you desire to do things and have dreams? I thought, “If I could only be a designer, if I could only…
AW: But your clothes were great in Mahogany. That was my favorite movie last year.
DR: I’m glad. I like it, too. There’re certain portions of the film that I loved but I liked the whole thing.
AW: Well, I loved it all. It was my kind of movie.
DR: How did you start to make movies?
AW: I just took a trip to California. And then I bought a movie camera.
DR: Yeah! And you decided, “I want to play with that!” It’s the same thing I did with the designing in Mahogany—same kind of thing.
AW: Do you have a line of them? Do you sell them?
DR: No, but somebody asked to do a line.
PL: Isn’t there Mahogany makeup?
DR: Yes, but it has nothing to do with me. I don’t know why. I really should have gotten some of that!
AW: But it came out at the same time the movie did.
DR: Yeah, but I had nothing to do with it at all. There was a thing where they tried to make a connection—”China Bronze” by Revlon. Actually, it’s my intention right now if they were to do anything else like that I will make sure I will be involved in it.
SB: The name Mahogany isn’t registered. They just used the word “mahogany.”
PL: Wasn’t there a Revlon billboard in the movie?
SB: Yes, but that was the “China Bronze” thing.
DR: That’s too much. I don’t want the tomatoes. I just want the avocado and that right there. I’m not hungry. I would love to be hungry!
AW: Were you always this thin? You’re great looking.
DR: Between five pounds one way or the other. Right now I’m 98. Isn’t that terrific? Right after the baby I weighed about 112 pounds and I went on a seven-week tour of Europe, came back and weighed about 105, went into Las Vegas, stayed up every night and gambled, and came home at 98 pounds. And, for some reason, I can’t get back over that hundred-mark. I’d like to be about 105. I’m bony. That’s the way I am. That’s the way it is. I should just be with that and not worry about it. It’s like people worryin’ about being fat and all that stuff. I’m a skinny chick and that’s the way it is!
AW: Your kids are so cute. Do you take them to every show or was that just for opening night?
DR: They come every other night.
AW: When are you going to get them up on stage?
DR: They do in certain places. When I’m in Las Vegas they come up on stage. They love it.
AW: Do you worry about people attacking them when they’re out in the audience?
DR: I can’t get paranoid about it. They have to be part of my life and they have to get used to bein’ out there. The way they’ve grown up is I’ve given them a lot of my paranoia. And I went to Hawaii with them and I noticed a complete difference in them. All of a sudden, they got mellowed out and they weren’t afraid of anything. There’s something about people in show biz. They create so much fear in the children. That’s why these kids grow up so intimidated and everything. I’m thinkin’ about movin’ someplace where my kids can walk down the street and be one of the other kids. I might move to Hawaii. I have to figure out what my values are—what’s the most important thing for me and my kids.
PL: You wouldn’t stop working?
DR: Oh, no. I just feel I can communicate to “communicate”! I mean “commute.” I can’t “communicate” but I feel I can “commute” to Los Angeles to work if there’s a film comin’ up or something like that. Have you ever been there? This was my first trip there.
AW: When I went there it smelled like sex when you got off the plane. I don’t know why.
AW: Didn’t it though? With all those flowers and everything?
DR: The particular hotel I stayed at was very sensual. See, I’ve always passed through there on my way to Japan or Hong Kong but this was the first time I’ve ever stayed there. By the end of the ten days there was nothing that I wanted to do. I was reading and just bein’ comfortable and my day was filled. I didn’t get bored. For sure, I thought I would be bored because I’m used to doin’ something all the time but I didn’t.
AW: They have fruit there, my favorite thing—the best fruit.
DR: Things you can’t even find!
AW: I know—strange fruit.
PL: Do you like to sleep late?
DR: Only when I’m up late. When you have children you don’t. My ears are attuned to their sounds. If they wake up at 7:30, so do I. Today I slept late but that’s unusual. I was up recording til six this morning. It was really funny when I walked out and it was daylight.
AW: There’s this great new club on Eighth Avenue called Othello. I took Elizabeth Taylor there. Have you been?
DR: I’d love to go. You know, I don’t know New York too well. Everytime I come here New York has been good to me and I always say, “I wish I had an apartment here.” There’s some kind of incredible creativity here that always inspires me. That’s another reason why I’m in the studio at night. I’m not ready to go to sleep at home. For some reason, I want to do more.
AW: But don’t you get nervous? That’s really the hardest work—to perform. Isn’t it?
DR: I don’t know what place I’m in right now but when I walk on the stage I’m not as afraid as I once was. It’s not that I’m that much surer about what I’m doing but I’m not scared anymore. I’m not really scared anymore. I’ve faced my fear about what I’m afraid of on the stage. Mostly I’m afraid that hot not going to sound good. I’m skinny, I’m not pretty—I’m not throwing this out to be funny! I really am not. I’m sure you think I am. But those are the things that I used to walk out on stage and be afraid of. Now I’m not afraid of those things. Am I makin’ myself clear? I used to walk out and I was competing. I was afraid that I’d wouldn’t be up to what was expected of me. And now—it’s not that I don’t really care now—but l’ve accepted the way I am.
AW: I read that your show is the biggest show that they’ve ever had at the Palace. They said it made more in one week than Shirley MacLaine or any other show. But those were all sold-out. How could something sell out more than something else sold out?
SB: I can explain exactly how it happened. First of all, the ticket scale for Diana is higher. OK, that’s the first thing. Secondly, the sell-out that they talked about for Shirley MacLaine was not really a sell-out. You see, they’re not used to selling the Second Balcony at the Palace. They feel if they sell the Orchestra, the Mezzanine and the Balcony…
AW: You mean there’s another balcony?
DR: Yes, and it’s frightening! It’s all the way up at the top. You know where I’m lookin’ up and I’m sayin’, “Hello.” and there’s a light way up there? There’s people up there! When I’m warm down on stage I wonder if they’re burnin’ up. I wonder what it’s like up there.
SB: I don’t know if anybody ever sold out the Second Balcony. Nobody could have had more people but on a gross basis, this was the record.
PL: Do you prefer doing the show or making movies?
DR: Honestly, I think doin’ the shows.
AW: You’re my favorite movie star and you’ve only done the two movies. But I loved the show. You played with those bananas so well.
PL: Are you going to do the Josephine Baker movie?
DR: Hank Kaufman and Gene Lerner have contacted me with interest. And I told them I’m very interested in that lady Josephine (Baker). She was an absolutely incredible, multi-faceted woman. There’s lots of different areas about her that people still don’t know about. I get incredible feelings about this lady. And I think she’s probably somebody that would be very interesting to do but after doing Billie Holiday, a film about someone else’s life would have to be absolutely, completely unique for me to do it. It would have to be very special. Anyway, I told them I would be very interested in knowing whatever I could know about her because it makes me know more about the ladies and what they had to do. They are responsible—that’s what I’m really sayin’ on the stage.
AW: You should do your version of A Star is Born. Why not?
DR: Barbra’s (Streisand) doin’ that movie. It’s going to be terrific, I think. I don’t know her well. I’ve been around her maybe once or twice. There’s a few ladies in the business whom I like very much but they all give the impression of bein’ untouchable and it’s probably not really so. Maybe their impression of me is the same—do you get what I’m sayin’? It’s just difficult to get together. But Cher and I are very close. I can be close with her and talk with her and it’s straight. There’s no shit. But I bump into a few of the ladies and like right away you feel like they don’t want to let go because there’s competition. Do you know what I’m sayin’? I’m Barbra’s fan, for sure, but we’ve only come close at two different parties, where we sat with each other and had eye contact. That’s about it. But my best girlfriend goes to the same beauty salon, Jon Peter; although Jon doesn’t do her hair. (Jon doesn’t do anyone’s hair!) But they have seen each other in the beauty salon and they’ve talked about the kids and me and whatever and we just never have talked. But we will.
PL: Where did your daughter Chudney’s name come from?
DR: I just created it—made it up! I didn’t really have a name for a girl. I really had a name for a boy—”Robert Ellis Silberstein, Jr.” And the lady kept comin’ back sayin’, “We need a name on the birth certificate!” I said, “Look, this name has got to be with that child for the rest of her life! Won’t you give me a break?” And people were comin’ up with names like “Courtney” and suddenly I thought of this spicy fruit, chutney. And then we thought to make it a little different we’d make it “Chudney” with a “d”. (The honest truth is I couldn’t spell and I spelled it wrong!)
DR: My house is a miniature art gallery. It was owned by the Factors.
AW: Oh, yes. I know them. I’ve been there.
DR: I love it so much but I’ve outgrown it. In fact, I’ve put the house up for sale.
AW: But do you have their pictures?
DR: No, I don’t have their art. I wish I did!
See, I don’t know that much about art. All I know is what I like. Mostly, my taste is…
AW: People always say you should buy what you like but actually you should just buy what’s valuable.
DR: For sure, they’re telling you lies when they tell you that.
AW: You have to see it like dollar bills up there. If you’re not going to buy something that’s valuable you should just paste dollar bills up there. Or buy a diamond—buy anything. I like jewelry. Do you buy it at all?
DR: No, I don’t. I guess I don’t buy it because I don’t wear it.
AW: I was out with Elizabeth Taylor last night and she had one that big. Ooo… it was so beautiful.
DR: We went out the other night with this chick… man, she had diamonds all over! And I said, “P-I-I-lease!”
PL: You don’t need diamonds. What lipgloss do you use?
DR: Lipgloss? You mean on stage?
AW: You mean you have different lipgloss on stage?
DR: Yes, for stage I line my lips. I have a pencil that comes in the tube. What I have on now is what was a copy from me—Mahogany lipstick. I’m wearin’ my own copy!
AW: Really? How great.
DR: But you have to put in on with a brush. It is very oily. It smells terrific.
PL: What make is it?
DR: It’s Flora Roberts. It smells like cherries or something. It really is terrific because it’s good on, too.
AW: I always thought make-up was all artificial but I think with the good stuff they actually use real fruit.
DR: I thought, “All I’m interested in is takin’ care of my family and I can’t take care of anything if I can’t take care of myself.” And I stopped. It’s really something when you have the responsibility of children -all of a sudden, it’s not just you anymore. Then you start thinkin’ they don’t have anyone else to come to but you. I don’t even like to fly in planes anymore.
PL: Do you like it better this way, with all the responsibilities?
DR: Every once in a while. . . no, I like it better this way.
PL: Do you ever wish You were still a Supreme?
DR: No. But I remember a lot of loneliness then. Now I don’t have to ever be lonely. I always have the kids. They’re always there and they’re mine, you know? You look at them and they change every day. And they learn every day. They’re really very special. I think that’s the real special part of my life now. Before, when I was with the Supremes, there was a lot of loneliness. Man, we were together on the stage and grinnin’ and smilein’ and makin’ everybody else happy … and then go home to your room all by yourself. I never partied a lot. Mary did get a chance to get out of that. She had lots of friends and she socialized. I never socialized a lot. I wasn’t comfortable-that was my own personal hang-up. And then it was difficult for Florence, too. Her whole thing … it was just very difficult. We became a piece of baggage travelin’ all around. Towards the end there, we were just workin’ together. But we were still friends and kind of feedin’ off of each other while we were travelin’ around. But it was very difficult. I think it was difficult also because we made it very difficult. We didn’t really know how to handle what was happenin’. All of a sudden, we were makin’ a lot of money and we were able to… only thing we wanted to do with our money was buy clothes! That’s all. We didn’t know anything else to do with it. We didn’t know if we were bein’ taken advantage of. We were just little kids—doin’ it, you know?
DR: There’s a few people in this town got it in for me.
AW: Really? No! Who?
DR: I can’t remember who wrote this review. Somebody called me and read it to me. But this is where I’ve had my best interviews, my best reviews, everything right here in New York. There’s something incredible about me and New York. I guess because of my love for New York, it’s really right there. I get it right back from the audience. But every once in a while I say, “Where did they get that from? I mean, really! They don’t know me!”
AW: I thought it was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. I can’t see how anybody could.
DR: This particular girl did not review the show. She reviewed me.
PL: In the Post, they said: “GODDESS DIANA REIGNS SUPREME.”
SB: And we were really thrilled with the Clive Barnes review.
DR: You know what? I’m really a pain in the ass. What I was really doin’ just then was complainin’. You can get all the positive reviews and one negative and that’s the one you pay attention to, right? That was really stupid.
AW: It’s strange. Maybe someone tried to get an interview years ago.
DR: And I turned him down? I never turned anybody down. It was all Motown!
AW: It must have been something like that because it was one of the best shows.
DR: I’d love to see some of the other shows.
PL: Did you see Raquel’s show?
DR: I just saw the write-ups from it in Eurоре.
AW: I saw it in Westbury.
DR: Was it good?
AW: Her presence and her body on stage are just great.
DR: I really think she’s come a long way. I remember seein’ her in Las Vegas and she was really frightened. And now, I see incredible confidence in her—this is just from pictures. I would love to see her show. What else is in town that’s interesting? I love hangin’ out.
AW: If you want to go to the richest restaurant and the best place and get the best food go to Regine’s.
DR: I want to go to the worst place! I don’t want to go to the best place. I want to go where everybody is.
AW: Do you want to go to the leather bars?
DR: Do you go?
AW: No, I’m too scared.
DR: I’ll go with you. I’ll protect you. I’m not scared of anything!
SB: Discretion is the better part of valor, Diana.
DR: I love it so much. When Cher and I came to New York together we hooked up with Bette (Midler). You wouldn’t believe the places we went! We just walked in and the three of us just got on the floor and just started to dance and the people went absolutely insane! We started out at Le Jardin and then we went down to the Village to somewhere across from where Bette lives—you know, a little joint. People were hangin’ out in the street. We had such a wonderful time! Then we zapped up Elton (John) and he was with us and the four of us started runnin’ around.
SB: Can you picture going into a club, sitting down, and all of sudden…
DR: Not sittin’ down! Nobody sits down in these places. What we did is walked very fast. We got out of the car, went straight into the place and got straight on the dance floor. And I’m here, Cher’s here, Bette’s on the floor, the lights are flickerin’ and we’re just dancin’ like to die, right? And kids would just stop dead on the floor. Guess who got the biggest attention? My husband was the star! Those guys were reachin’ between his legs! I said, “Now you cut it out! That’s mine!” We had a wonderful time! I could do it again. I have incredible memories of that time. And we wouldn’t just walk in lookin’ regular. Like Cher had one of her costumes on from television with her hair down to here and Bette…
AW: But you weren’t working then, were you?
DR: No, we weren’t working then and that was at the point that Bette had semi-retired—in other words, takin’ a look at what her life was and what she wanted. We had some long conversations about our careers.
AW: I think she should’ve taken the part in “The Fortune.”
DR: I didn’t know she was offered that. I was just talking’ about that last night with Shelly—how fuckin’ fantastic Jack (Nicholson) was in that.
PL: She didn’t make a mistake, though. She’s just formed a company with Columbia called “Divine Pictures.”
DR: You see, moves happen for the best.
Maybe it was really right. She very much wants to make movies. I know that’s one of her desires. I really dig her. I love people that are very witty. Cher’s like that. She’s really a funny girl. She comes out with incredible things. She calls you dirty names. She’s a terrific lady.
SB: I think one of the great things was that TV costume award thing. Ray Aghayan was producing and Diana had just finished Mahogany and he got her to present an award, he got Cher to present an award and, all of a sudden, Cher…
DR: What happened was I forgot it was live. I‘d been doin’ a film where you can stop and start if you want, right? And I walked behind the microphone and I really blew it. Usually when I blow it I can stop and start all over so I said, “Hey! Can we stop and do this all over again? And Cher’s yellin’, “It’s live, Diana! You really blew it!” from backstage.
SB: “You’re really terrific, Diana!”
DR: “That’s really terrific, kid!”
SB: “Try using the cards! Try that one time, Ross!”
DR: It was a riot. I just talked to her recently. I’m going to give her my baby nurse because she said, “I’ve got to start interview. ing baby nurses, I don’t know what to do, da-da-da-da She always complains. She’s a tragedy queen for sure!
(End of Side A.)
(Tape #1, Side B.)
DR: Shelly, do you remember the name of the kid that did that painting of me? It’s the most incredible thing. Did you see “Casa-blanca”? The picture reminds you of that. My hair is like blue-black but the face looks more like me than any kid has ever painted me. And the smoke from my cigarette spells R-O-S-S. I want to use it as an album cover. It is so fabulous. So that’s what gave me the idea to go ahead and produce the album. This kid, who wants to be a graphic artist, said, “I’ve been lovin’ you since I was 11 years old,” and did this incredible picture of me and I wanted him to know how fabulous I thought it was. So I sent it to Los Angeles quickly and told them that I wanted to use it and to get with the kid and see what we can do for him. But that’s where I got the idea to do the album.
PL: What songs have you done?
DR: I don’t know. I gave them names last night. One of them is “What a Feelin,'” another is “Beware”—I just created these names.
AW: You mean you just made them up? How great.
DR: That’s what I’m doing through the whole record. I’m doing all originals. I’m going to write words, too. I’ll take your book and underline everything that’s exciting to me—”Love (Puberty)’—and then we’ll take it and put it in my record.
SB: “Love and Puberty”? Wasn’t that a big hit in ’53?
PL: Did you choose your own material for the show?
DR: Yes, this whole show was my idea.
PL: And you start with “Here I am.”
DR: I sat down and had a talk with the guy that really helped me to put it together, Joe Layton, and he said, “I don’t know what you want to do. What do you want to say when you walk out on the stage?” And I said, What I want to say is, “Here I am.” So we started searchin’ for songs that say, “Here I am.” Well we found one. It said-(DR sings)-“Here I am.” And I said, “You know, I really don’t have to say, ‘Here I am.’ I want to show, ‘Here I am.'” But the song was so right we just used a piece of it-(DR sings)-“Here I am, here I’ll stay/All of my life will be together,” which is very true and very honest. So from there we worked on the other little pieces.
A W: You sang just a line of the John Phillips song which is so pretty.
DR: You see, I used to do the whole song and then my show got to be so long that I had to shorten pieces of things—hold the value of them yet pull them together. We had to make them explain themselves. Sometimes I’m really not sure that they do. Like when I do all the ladies the reason for that is I want to really say why I am where I am today—why is a black chick able to be workin’ at the Palace and be doing what I’m doing today, compared to a long time ago. Do you know what I mean? The girls couldn’t do movies. I think the only one that got to do a movie was Lena Horne. Otherwise they would end up bein’ the maid. Not that this was the sort of subject I wanted to get really heavy on. I just wanted to show all these ladies and what they were all about. I really don’t know if I’ve rally said it. But, you know, some of them ran off to Europe. Why did they run away? Why did Bessie Smith stay here and work out in the South? It’s an incredible story. I mentioned the life-story of Josephine Baker. There were so many others of these ladies that were so interesting. They had incredible lives and they’re very much like mine. And I see an identification—an underlying identification—with them, just like I do with What’s-Her-Name? I’ve forgotten her name. Billie Holiday!
AW: I used to go to all the concerts you did around New York in the 60s. It’s so great meeting you.
DR: You’ve been into my life for a while, too. You’ve got a name that people know. It’s terrific to know you.
AW: I met Berry Gordy at the opening of “Pippin.” He’s really nice.
DR: He’s a good guy. He’s really special.
AW: He’s given so many people opportunities.
DR: People don’t really realize the value of Berry. I don’t know if they get who he really is—what he’s all about. Everyone thinks that he’s just very clever or very lucky but it’s much, much deeper than that.
AW: I think he did a wonderful job with Mahogany. Wasn’t that a big change when he let all those people go?
DR: Yes, it was. He was puttin’ his money out and he wasn’t gettin’ what he wanted. If you’re puttin’ money you want to get what you want. A lot of people can’t make decisions. Berry’s a decision maker and it takes an incredible energy to make decisions. I know people who can’t ever give you a straight answer. They never say, “Yes!” or,”No!”
AW: Are you going to do any more things with him?
DR: Yes, I will. Absolutely. You see, we’re both growin’ and we’re going to grow together.
AW: Your co-star was so handsome.
DR: Billy Dee (Williams)? Yes, he is. Oh, he’s just a pain in the ass he’s so handsome! He was doing a play here. I called him from Paris when I knew he was doing it. I pick up the phone and I say, “Billy Dee! Do you know what you’re doing? Do you know…?”
SB: “Do You Know Where You’re Going To?”
PL: That was my closing line!
SB: I want you to know we use that line 15 or 20 times a day.
DR: No! Goddamn it, no! And I don’t care, either!
PL: Do you enjoy singing your old songs or do you get a bit bored?
DR: No, now I’m havin’ fun. Now I’m gettin’ bet off. I’ve…OK, it’s comin’ up. I’ve done a cat turnaround in my life. Now it’s not the same Diana Ross it used to be but yet I’m very much the same. Do you know what I mean? and I’ve had a transformation in my life. My valves are different now. (This sounds so corny!) They’re not different but they are different. I’ve taken a look at the things that work for me and I want to do those things. My livin’ in the past…I don’t want to do that. I want to be here right now. Everyday I want to get up and say, “Look at this room. I really like this room. It’s funny and it’s nice.” I want to be now. I want to be with the present. And I’m really not even thinkin’ of my goals. I have certain intentions and things that I want to do-“Do You Know Where You’re Going To?” No. All I know is I like to do a lot of things. I’m a creative person. And if I stay open and loose there’s a lot of things I can do. I can do anything I want to do. Sounds cocky, doesn’t it?
DR: I just feel I want to do a lot of exploring in my life and I’ll take the responsibility if it doesn’t work out for me. I’ve already lost once I’m scared. Before I did “Lady Sings the Blues” I remember callin’ Berry up and sayin’, “I’m scared.” And when I took a look at that, I realized I had nowhere to go thinkin’ that.
AW: You did some improvising in that, didn’t you?
DR: Yes. You see, there’s where I got value out of bein’ with Motown and with Berry. Berry trusts my instincts about things—my gut feelings. He’s always trusted me. If I say I can do something he’ll go with me all the way. It’s kind of the same way my mother did. When I told my mother, “I don’t want to go to college, I want to sing,” she said, “OK, I’ll go right with you.” And I’ve got people around me that are incredible—that really trust me, which also is frightening in a way because you think, “Uh-oh! They said, OK, you can do it. Now I got to do it!” It’s just like when I asked to do the costumes in Mahogany—“Do the costumes? Are you crazy?” And I said, “Yes.” And they said, “OK. If you want to do them, go do them. It’s just like, “Do you want to produce a record? OK. Get a budget.” That’s where Berry comes in. If I had done my first dramatic performance with someone who didn’t trust my feelings about things and was just going to lead me around, I would’ve been lost.
DR: Whenever I say “Eartha Kitt” I think of a very animalistic kind of lady. And she knows that, too. And Josephine, I felt, did that same thing, too, with the eyes. They’re a couple of pictures of her where she’s lookin’ sideways and it’s incredible. Eartha. I met one time. My conductor went to talk to her and it was incredible because she went at him. She pounced on him. You see what’s happening to me? When I think of Eartha. I think of…
AW: A kiss.
DR: It’s like, “G-r-r-r-r-r.” Josephine I feel something different for the ladies I—really got different things from—incredible things. Anyway… have you always lived in New York, Andy?
AW: I came here when I was about 19 from Pennsylvania so that wasn’t so far. I liked it so much. And New York is more exciting now. It’s like the 60s again. It’s gotten so exciting again this year.
DR: This is a good year. It certainly is a good year for me. I’ve been doin’ a lot of things that I always wanted to do.
AW: Last night I did something exciting. Elizabeth Taylor took me to meet Jimmy Carter. He’s really nice. Are you thinking about politics at all?
DR: I think it’s very important that we really take a look at these candidates. Each person should really think they’re the person that is going to make the President of the United States. In other words, if I think, “I have the choice, me, all alone, it’s my decision,” then I would take more time in evaluating each one for the right position. Shelly’s reading “The Final Days” now. My goodness, do you realize.
AW: I liked it a lot. I didn’t think they made Nixon sound so bad at all. They made him seem really real.
SB: But when you think that the President of the United States is the single most important person in the world–this guy is just floating around saying things I would think a racketeer would say.
DR: But you know what I think? I think people have an incredible point of view about the President and doctors and people like that. They think doctors are God. But they’re all just men, they’re all just people—same hang-ups, same everything.
AW: Oh, I know. But it takes a while to learn that. When you learn that about your mother and father then you’ve really learned everything. They’re just people. There’s nobody that great. But you do learn from them. Did your family have a voice?
DR: Yes, my mama’s the baby of 12 children and they all sang in church choirs. That was the way to sing in those days. If you were going to sing you sang gospel things and my mother’s father was a minister. My mother has a lot of sisters and all the sisters get together and sing. My girls, too, are going to be involved in show biz some way. You should see them. They’re upstairs now but I tell you they are show biz. Put some music on and Tracee goes like this-(DR shimmies in her seat.)
AW: I think that’s great. You should have them do everything.
PL: They should form a trio.
DR: That’s been said many times before. But it’s funny because I have them in the bathtub with me, right? I’ve got this big, old-fashioned bathtub on legs and we all get in and there’re mirrors all in front of us and I say, “You guys are so beautiful! You look just like me!” And Rhonda say, “Mommy, who are the Supremes? They say we look like the Supremes.” My daughter, Rhonda—I think she’s been here before. We talk and she looks at me and she says, “Mommy, who is Diana Ross?” I say,“You’re Diana Ross!” She say, “And you’re Rhonda Silberstein!” I say, “Yes, you’re right.” She watches television and some of the commercials come on where they’re sellin’ the records and she comes up to me and say, “Diana Ross? Who is Diana Ross?” I say, don’t know. I really don’t know who she is.”
AW: You mean she doesn’t really know it’s you yet?
DR: No, she does but she’s playin’ a game.
SB: Their home is a home. It’s not a house, it’s not a movie star house—it’s a home. It’s a family—a family unit. Even I get a kick, sometimes when you watch these commercials and you hear all the old Supremes records and then they say,“And to order at this—it’s not in the stores—write to Diana Ross, P.O. Box.”—it doesn’t sound like my Diana Ross, the Diana Ross I’ve loved for ten years.
DR: I love them so much. I think at one point in my life I thought I would never have children. But now I look at them and they’re gettin’ bigger. They come to the show and all of a sudden they realize that other people love me or there’s something happenin’ and I’m giving out love on the stage. Rhonda looks at me and she say, “Mommy, people love you because you’re a star, right? And they love me because I’m an artist.” My daughter thinks she’s an artist. She draws pictures and doesn’t just draw a flower in a vase, she fills up the whole page. The top of a flower becomes a vase or something. And she just loves to use colors and she thinks she’s an artist. She say, “You love me because I’m an artist, right?” And I say, “Sweetheart, I love you because you’re you. You’re me. You’re really me. You grew right here in my stomach.” They’re very special girls. And my second child is very much a girl. As soon as a guy walks in the room-he can be from age two to 50.
AW: What’s her name?
AW: That’s a pretty name.
DR: T-R-A-C-E-E–to make it a little bit different.
(Tracee, Rhonda and Chudney)
DR: Do you want to go upstairs with me and meet them? C’mon, let’s go!
DR takes AW and PL upstairs to her suite where she introduces them to Tracee, Rhonda and Chudney. They show AW their art. Then DR plays a tape of the disco-style instrumental background of the record she’s producing for herself (She still has to over-dub the vocals.) The rest of AW’s tape is inaudible.