Sunday, March 14, 2010

My evening with Miss Ross

One hot July day, Richie and I drove to NYC from NJ, then got on the subway to take the C train to Central Park West.  It was sunny and warm and we were late as usual.  We knew we would get there after the concert had started, but we figured we would snake our way through the crowd and somehow get up close enough and be happy.  So, we got off the subway car and saw hordes of wet people rushing toward the train.  They looked like hungry wet rats scurrying toward the last piece of cheese.  We had to fight our way up the stairs of the 72nd St station.  We wanted out; it was suffocating.  Once we escaped, we found ourselves in front of the Dakota Building.  Looking up, we wondered if Yoko were watching the madness.

We could now see how dark the sky had gotten.  It was one of those summer storms that come out of nowhere with wind and clouds that open up and drop buckets of water.  Everyone was soaked through.  It put an end to the Diana Ross Central Park Concert.  

The rain had let up by the time we were outside and it was just coming down lightly.  We decided to take a walk into the park and see what remained.  It looked like 800,000 people had fled and left behind whatever they couldn't carry.  Blankets, clothing, coolers, children and so on.  We walked through the park, surveying the damage and destruction, then decided to take a look behind the stage and scaffolding that supported it.  Somewhere along the way I saw a green fabric patch on the ground, picked it up to see that it was a press pass for the concert.  We thought that would make a good souvenir and held on to it.  After viewing all of the devastation, we left.

Then we found out that Miss Ross was going to return the next day and start all over again. Richie could not get the day off from his summer job at Great Adventure, so I decided I would go it alone.  I didn't want to stand in a crowd of people and view from a distance so I decided I would put on a seersucker jacket and attach the press pass to it.  Since I knew the way to the backstage area, I figured I could just walk right in.  I decided to get there shortly before the concert.  I took the trail we had taken the day before that lead to the backstage entrance.  I saw security stopping people and checking for passes; I felt confident that I would be ushered right in.  As I passed a guard, I showed him my press pass and he stopped me, saying, "That's yesterday's pass; today's pass is blue." I had to think fast and quickly said, "Oh yeah, I left my blue pass on my desk and just grabbed this jacket I was wearing yesterday and ran out of the office.  Do you need me to go back and get it?  I'd hate to miss the opening of the concert."  He said "No problem; go ahead in."  I was surprised he let me in since I looked so young.  The most I could have been was a reporter for my high school newspaper.

But I was in.  I was up close.  I was excited and now in the backstage world of the concert.  I scouted around and saw that I was free to go anywhere I wanted.  The concert was about to begin so I decided I would climb on the scaffolding and sit at stage level on stage left.  I could see the crowd out in front and watched the whole concert from that position.  It felt like I was right on stage and since the scaffolding was slightly in front of the stage I had a perfect view.  I could see her sweat and her tears.  And her dresser kept walking right past me for every costume change.

After a couple of hours, the concert was over.  Miss Ross finally left the stage after singing to the exiting crowd and thanking the "men in blue."  I felt like an insider, so I decided to explore the backstage area.  There were a few tents set up.  One large one with food & drink and a lot of people inside.  I considered walking in to get something to eat but thought that if there were security at the entrance, I didn't want to be asked again for "today's pass" so I kept walking around and found myself in front of a trailer.  Suddenly, the trailer door opened and Miss Ross appeared in a flowing white gown. 

(At the 3:13 minute mark, you can see the trailer door where she came out to find me standing there.)

She was alone; no one was behind her and no one was waiting for her.  It was just Diana and Duane.  She saw me, smiled and put her hand out for me to take.  I helped her down the small steps in her big heels.  She then locked her arm through mine and we proceeded to the big tent.  I was her personal escort!  It seemed so natural, as if this were all planned and intended.  I told her how great the show was and what a fantastic job she did and how beautiful she looked.  She thanked me and as we approached the opening of the big tent, she took a deep breath, turned to me and said, "Here we go."  She squeezed my arm and the last thing I remember was seeing her get swallowed up into the crowd of people inside who were all waiting to get to her.

I stayed a while and had some food and drink.  It was all very exciting, and yet something was lacking, which would have made it the perfect experience: Richie wasn't there to share it with me.

On my way out of the tent, I passed someone I recognized and said "How ya doin', Mayor Koch?"

 "How'm I doin'?"


  1. I was at both of those concerts, and the images are seared forever in my brain - her costumes, the songs, the approaching storm, her urging everyone to leave calmly and orderly, her graciousness in holding a second show. If being at them in the crowd was so amazing, I can scarcely imagine what it was like to experience it as you did. Wonderful story.

  2. Wow what a story.My BFF Steven loves Diana Ross.He missed three of her concerts due to circumstances beyond his control.I had to call him about this.Steven wishes he was Duane now.

  3. I never knew the part about her grabbing your arm and saying "Here we go." That gave me goosebumps. There are always details that you leave out when you tell me stories!

  4. That's a really lovely story--it pulled a tear but then I'm a sentimental sap so get too excited. Ha! Seriously, that was nicely written on a couple levels. And to think that the Monkey condescends about your intelligence. You just indulge him so he can feel important, huh?

    I have some fun behind the scenes/celebrity close encounters. Next time you see me (yeah right) ask me about my close encounter with Peter Hinwood (the actor that plays the monster in the Rocky Horror Picture Show). Oh yes i did! and Shirley MacLaine the year i lived in Paris. Ah, youth. Dana

  5. Yeah Steve, that's true. I can't remember what I did last week but I still have vivid memories of those 2 days.

    Frank, is BFF Steven sure he wants to be an Ape?

    So Dana if I don't run into you soon, where can we read about your encounters?

    Richie, I always have to save some for later...see if your paying attention. Heh Heh

  6. What a fantastic time in the lives of those who were around to experience the force of nature known as Diana Ross. Your write up 27 years later is still relevant which would make the press pass authentic.

  7. I was lucky enough to see Ms Ross in Sydney many years ago and what a concert that was. I was also prviledged to briefly meet her after the concert back stage as my then partner was a sound engineer at the concert..bloody brilliant and she does takle the air out of the room in the best possible way


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.