At 70, Diana Ross still makes it a happening

The singer still has the moves, the glamour, the boas, the spangles: "Femininity of a different order in a vulgar world."
The singer still has the moves, the glamour, the boas, the spangles: "Femininity of a different order in a vulgar world." (STEPHENLOVEKIN /Getty Images)
Posted: June 29, 2014

In a moment of sheer folly, back in the 1970s, I bought a vest made of silver metal discs at a trendy boutique. It was a ridiculous garment that clinked when I walked. I looked like a short wannabe knight in it.

And I blame Diana Ross for that temporary insanity.

I was a pretty passionate fan of the gorgeous songbird - whom I finally got to see in person at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts this week - and I'd seen her wearing something vaguely like my vest. On her, it looked exotic and right. On me - well, my husband, who took very little interest in what I wore, begged me never to wear it in public.

I ultimately sold that vest for less than five bucks at a yard sale.

I've followed the gorgeous Diana through her career, with and beyond the Supremes and, as much as I loved her music, I was far more fascinated by her glamour.

We Americans have steadily declined into, well, slobs, filing into concert halls like the stately Academy of Music in jeans and windbreakers, embracing sweats and gym togs as our default uniforms. But Diana Ross has continued to look as if she were posing for Vogue covers every day of her life. Or about to meet royalty.

Diana has always been in a category all her own. Untouchable. Sexy. Regal. The quintessential anti-Madonna/Lady Gaga.

I knew every word to her songs - "You Can't Hurry Love," "Stop! In the Name of Love," "Upside Down." And, oh yes, "Touch Me in the Morning."

But never, ever had I seen Diana in person. And by now, this old broad has realized that opportunity won't keep knocking.

So I made my way to the Mann with the hordes of D.R. fans this week. My husband, who still earnestly believes that music has never been the same since the big-band era, came along a little grudgingly.

The traffic crawl to get into the Mann was maddening. But the roar when the stunning Diana appeared on stage in a turquoise gown was almost frightening. We rose, almost as one, just to express our awe.

I still can't quite define what the magic is. Yes, it's the voice, coming now from someone 70 years old and totally ageless. It's the grace and presence. The megawatt smile.

She's still an icon. An idol.

You don't see Diana Ross; you experience her.

Buried in my own fantasies is a once-in-a-lifetime grand entrance, dripping cool, confident style.

Who of us wouldn't want to sweep onto a stage, at least once in our lives, wearing spangly, clingy sequined gowns and feathered boas in jewel colors - and pull it off?

Diana Ross can make a simple fan into a totally seductive accessory, the sort that stirs even the aloof man. It's femininity of a different order in a vulgar world.

Diana knows exactly how to move like molten liquid. How to blow kisses to her audience without looking ridiculous. How to present the lucky ones in that audience with a meant-just-for-you smile.

I was not one of the groupies who danced wildly at my seat. I'd probably have pulled a muscle if I had tried.

But I did feel overcome by a rush of gratitude for the chance to be in her audience on a summer night.

As we filed out into the muggy night air, I was still under the Diana spell. I asked my husband whether he thought I could ever get away with carrying a lavender fan. Or wearing a yellow feather boa.

He was kind enough not to answer.

Sally Friedman writes from Moorestown.

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