BOOTLEG FILES 410: “Motown 25 – Yesterday, Today, Forever” (1983 TV special featuring Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye and the Supremes).

LAST SEEN: The full show is available in a six-part installment on YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: A VHS version was released, but no official DVD version has appeared.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: The lack of a DVD release may be tied to problems with the clearance of music and performance rights.


On March 25, 1983, California’s Pasadena Civic Auditorium was home to a one-shot TV special that reunited several of the major stars of the Motown record label. The resulting production was called “Motown 25 – Yesterday, Today, Forever” and it is mostly remembered for two sequences: the extraordinary performance of a non-Motown song and a smackdown between the members of one of Motown’s most celebrated acts.

Beyond those legendary moments, however, “Motown 25 – Yesterday, Today, Forever” was a fairly mundane production that offered a bumpy celebration of the record label’s illustrious history.

The show got off to a bad start with an opening number featuring the Lester Wilson Dancers performing a cheesy interpretation of “Dancing in the Street.” The show’s host, a visibly ill-at-ease Richard Pryor, followed them by reading his lines off a TelePrompTer with wide-eyed discomfort. Pryor lamely joked about the star-studded evening by claiming, “I’ve seen stars and I’ve seen studs.”

For those looking to enjoy a memory lane stroll, “Motown 25” provided a reunion of The Miracles, who performed a medley of four of their classic tunes, and Stevie Wonder performing a medley of six of his top-charting songs. In both cases, the presentations seemed perfunctory, as if none of the singers were too eager to revisit their classic work.

Nostalgia addicts were equally out of luck in a “battle of the bands” featuring The Four Tops and The Temptations – neither group seemed to be in top spirit for the show. Marvin Gaye, who had a bitter break-up with Motown years earlier, was not originally scheduled to perform. But he showed up and gave the show a much needed energy boost with a moving monologue on African American music history and an appropriately soulful performance of “What’s Going On.” In retrospect, his appearance was the most poignant part of the show – a year later, his father shot him to death during a domestic dispute.

Gaye’s star-turn was matched by a boisterous reunion of The Jacksons, who performed four of their top Motown songs. But the real star of this segment was Michael Jackson, whose solo career was taking off in 1983. Jackson (along with his brothers) left Motown years earlier and he was not particularly eager to be part of the production. He only agreed to appear if he could perform his then current hit single, “Billie Jean,” which was released by the Epic label.

What happened next, of course, changed the course of Jackson’s career and popular music. Jackson’s kinetic performance, complete with the first public presentation of the Moonwalk dance, created a sensation that had not been seen since the Beatles’ arrival on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” The taping of “Motown 25” had to be stopped in order for the electrified audience to regain its composure – and when the show was broadcast, Jackson was immediately elevated from a relatively benign pop star into a trend-setting music industry powerhouse based on this one number.

However, Jackson’s show stopping moment called attention to the problems with “Motown 25.” Despite its stellar line-up, few of the performers gave evidence of their talents. Two legendary ladies, Mary Wells and Martha Reeves, were only given about 30-seconds apiece to present samples of their best-known work – and, sadly, both women were far from their vocal primes. T.G. Sheppard, who recorded for Motown’s ill fated and mostly forgotten country music label in the 1970s, offered a bit of Nashville twang (which was completely out of place in the show’s line-up). Junior Walker and The Commodores also turned up, but neither sparked any fires. Lionel Richie, who abstained from a Commodores reunion, did a pre-taped solo turn and used his screen time to point out that the profits from the special were being used to finance sickle cell anemia research.

Even more confusing was the decision to bring out talent who had no connection to Motown. Adam Ant (of all people) performed an inane version of “Where Did Our Love Go?” while Linda Ronstadt did a duet with Smokey Robinson on “Tracks of My Tears” and “Ooh Baby Baby.” Dick Clark offered a brief overview of famous white artists who covered Motown tunes, Howard Hesseman and Tim Reid reprised their DJ characters from “WKRP in Cincinnati” and fast-talking comic actor John Moschitta Jr. also showed up on stage.

However, the most entertaining part of the production was never shown to the public: the notorious Supremes reunion, when Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong unexpectedly upstaged Diana Ross. Ross – who rejected a multi-song medley in favor of a single number – was initially confused as Wilson and Birdsong strayed from the choreography of their rehearsed routine and Wilson boldly took the lead vocals on “Someday We’ll Be Together.”  But when Wilson closed the number by inviting Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr. to the stage, Ross reacted violently. Just what happened next has been in dispute – some sources say that Ross physically pushed Wilson down the stage, while other sources say that Ross merely pushed away Wilson’s microphone while she was speaking. The videotape of the segment has never been publicly screened, but the news of Ross’ hissy fit confirmed her reputation as an imperious diva and the incident soured Wilson and Birdsong from doing any further reunions with Ross.

But the Ross temper was not the only thing missing from the show. A number of major Motown legends, most notably Gladys Knight and the Pips, were absent from the stage, and no praise was given to the contributions of the Funk Brothers to the Motown sound. After the show was staged, news leaked that James Jamerson, an influential bassist in the Funk Brothers, was denied a ticket to the show and had to purchase a seat from a scalper. He died five months later from alcohol-related health complications.

NBC broadcast “Motown 25” on May 16, 1983, and the program attracted an estimated 47 million viewers. The show won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Program and was nominated for eight other awards. Jackson and (inexplicably) Pryor received nominations for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program, but they lost to soprano Leontyne Price for her guest star turn on PBS’ “Live from Lincoln Center.”

MGM/UA Home Video released “Motown 25” on VHS video in July 1991. To date, however, there has been no DVD release. One can easily assume that issues relating to clearing music and performance rights have held up the DVD premiere. However, it is easy to locate enterprising bootleggers who sell pirated DVD copies made from the VHS release, and the full program has an unauthorized presentation in six installments on YouTube.

But anyone finding “Motown 25” might be surprised at the quotidian nature of the offering. Beyond Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” the program is much less magical than many people may realize.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The unauthorized duplication and distribution of copyright-protected material, either for crass commercial purposes or profit-free s***s and giggles, is not something that the entertainment industry appreciates. On occasion, law enforcement personnel boost their arrest quotas by collaring cheery cinephiles engaged in such activities. So if you are going to copy and distribute bootleg material, a word to the wise: don’t get caught. Oddly, the purchase and ownership of bootleg DVDs is perfectly legal. Go figure!

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  1. I believe that Diana Ross is and has always been a very humble and down to earth give you the shirt off her back person. Kind hearted to a fault and if not for her Attorney’s, Accountants,and her taking courses and, asking questions and hanging out with the good old boys who never took her seriously or even found her attractive as a Woman but saw her as competition, she evolved into a sharp creative, Business Women.Now being a Great, Mother, Mother in-law,Grand Mother,Aunt,Sister,and,decent ,Human being and, Boss., can, Retire whenever she feels it is time. She is the most Spiritual and, loving person I have ever know and I get a healing in my Soul every time I see her. She has done great things that many of us know nothing about and is a truly blessed Woman of God. She has grown and been many things to many people but to us mostly a Brilliant, Actress and, very Talented Super Star. God bless you, Ms. Diana Ross!

  2. Jonathan Schult says:

    I absolutely believe every word Mary Wilson had to say on the subject – I enjoy Diane’s music, but I am not a fan of Miss Ross and her star trip. She acted like she was the Queen Mother and Mary and Cindy were her subjects – and that’s the reason for Mary’s and Cindy’s “upstaging” of her.

  3. Benny says:

    The reviewer must’ve watched a different program than we Motown fans watched and enjoyed on NBC back on that memorable evening in May 1983. I thought that the Tops/Tempts combo and medley was electrifying. I guess I’m looking back on it from the perspective of a baby boomer in his 50s who, along with others of my age group, in that era were presented and fascinated with everything retro, ’60s and Motown. As a result, it was a real awaited special and the performances were something we relished in very much. Also loved the pre-Supremes Reunion clips of the group performing. Don’t forget, in those days those clips, now very common in contemporary YouTube days, were very rare–so seeing The Supremes suddenly switch to color and performing “Stop!” from their ‘TCB’ special, and “Someday” from The Ed Sullivan Show, seemed like ancient history by 1983 viewers’ perspective and were a treat to behold and marvel at. Media from over many decades weren’t so interchangeable and available in those early ’80s days. So one has to understand what the “Motown25” special meant to those who viewed the program in 1983; we just didn’t watch and enjoy it–we lived it.

  4. Berry says:

    I thought the show was great! NOT “lackluster “.
    The Tops and Temps, just everybody. Except Adam Ant.

  5. AllanBo says:

    Regarding Adam Ant, he has gone on record as saying the backing track to ‘Where Did Our Love Go?’ was ropey, and not indicative of his kind of music. However, he was asked to represent the ‘today’ aspect of the show, reportedly at the insistence of MJ who was a big fan of his at the time. As for Diana Ross joining in his performance, not only was Adam flattered, amazed, and starstruck, but he was also very grateful: he had recently had surgery on his knee and the pain was excruciating, which you can hear in his voice and see in his dancing (or, rather, his ‘staggering’). He had even sat down for a rest by the time she came on. IMO, DR gave his performance a painfully needed boost.

  6. cameron says:

    I love the three original Supremes equally. I love them. They make me feel good.

  7. R. Mark Desjardins says:

    Contrary to what every Diana Ross & The Supremes fans thought would NEVER happen, Diana & Mary Wilson got stood together with Berry Gordy in NYC on the official opening night of Motown The Musical. There must have been some tense moments for the women, but now that they have faced each other after all these hearts of bitterness, perhaps all Supremes fans can now rest at ease and go on with our lives, as obviously these two iconic ladies have. “Someday We’ll Be Together,” and sure enough they will be with Florence Ballard, in the afterlife, as we all will be. My advice, let bygones by bygones and enjoy life today, because it’s later than we all think!

  8. Tony Ross says:

    I don’t understand why people here are trying to change history,Diana forgot the words to Someday,We’re Be Together at Motown25,Diana couldn’t find her way back to the lead,yes Mary took it over,waiting for Diana to take it back,Diana was lost,and the Diana Ross fans want to blame Mary Wilson,Diana came out while Adam Aunt was doing a number,he looked at Diana like what are you doing,i’m sure Diana’s fans want to blame Mary for that also,like it on not Diana pushed Mary,i was told you are not ever to touch any one,and that means Mary Wilson,Mary Wilson is doing fine,sure she has had some up’s and downs,and Diana has had her ups and downs,THAT’ LIFE,Mary is JEALOUS of Diana?REALLY?LOL

  9. linda foto says:

    diane will help mikes kids like she helped Flo’s.They are still on welfare.

  10. linda foto says:

    Can anyone tell me where is Diana’s brother Chico Ross?Is he being tolkd to lay low due to his drug use.and selling a story to the tabloids about his siste?Can anyone say.

  11. linda foto says:

    What is Mr Gordy afraid of.Plus on souldetroit form is Berry a crook?His people get quiet upset if you voice your oppoins but he has been suied by Three people I can can buy names.Teena marie,mary wilson.mary wells.and martha Reeves.They won.So my problem is, if you were on the up and up why were you suied in the first place?Flo sued but lost.PLEASE help me with this.I for one believe that his up coming so called musical is to leave some kind of legacy call clean up.want people see through this?”Flo”lost money and that does not sit well with her people and me.I try hard not to loath him.When you tube here of this.He will do good not to be boycotted.He is so much hated.What a joke he is.He feels he can fool the whole world poor rich thing.

  12. linda foto says:

    I just want to ask,is berry gordy making his musical to down play Florence ballads supposely up coming movie.”blondie”.Why is his musical on the way and florence ballards PROJECT on stand still.Is this power or what.Someone please help me.Is he for real.Who will play flo or mary.diana?any news

  13. linda foto says:

    Thank you so much for my post being posted.I feel so much better now.I have been so angry with Mr GORDY and Miss Ross for hurting Flor, breaking her heart just for money. I believe in fair play.I feel cheated not having had the chance to hear Flor sing lead.You see the Funk brothers slaved for Berry only to see most them die in abject poverty.Life is hard in Detroit and large cities.What was fair about Berry’s gambling habits.I read that he really lost control of Motown.Who knows.What we do know is that many were cheated.We can see court records to prove that.Teena Maria is just one example.Mary Wells, flo but lost due to poor legal advice.She had to sue her own lawyer.Dig this the one lawyer that could help her was killed in court.Sounds scarey doesn’t it? Berry had strong connections Flo said she began to fear for her life.I think flo knew too much.All of this came from my 2yrs of research.I haven’t even touched the surface yet.I did my home work before I typed.Not just one book either.Berry Gordy was a Black slave master.I know his slave background also.Just one last thought Miss Ross father wasn’t down with her bs he well let her know it to.I certainly had much respect for her father. Miss Ross barley gainned some of his respect a little before his death.Read the book He said Diane don’t tell me what to do.He was fair play.He saw things he did not approve of in Diana.

  14. linda foto says:

    You know why this frued between miss ross fans and mary wilson can not end.It spells justice.While poor “Flo” lay struggling for her life and future for her kids and no good husband.Left her when the money was gone and came back when more arrived how sorry can you get.Far too many doors closed on her.Many people were alocholics in the 50’S NOW ITS COCAINE and all mixed into one.There were few outlets for blacks back then.I want to comment on Mary’s red dress.In all fairness it may have been wrong but look at Miss Ross history.I have read all books on Motor-town.Diana?changed wardrobes at the drop of a hat on flo and mary.As she gradually took lead, so was that fair?Mary knew this was too good of a chance to lose not to make a grand kiss my but exit.She made a powerful statement that night.That sounds like something me and “Flo” would have done.MARY WAS SINGING A NEW SONG .I’m coming out DIANE as she called her.They said she was drop dead gorgeous!Now anyone in that position having been used after turning her back on her best friend.Used until Miss Ross got on her solo feet and then shoved herself the temptation was too strong.She spoke for Florence and many others before and after who were used by Berry to get to his destination of mega buck.Greed is more like it.I know she was telling Diana and berry Kiss where the sun don’t shine.Now that’s my take on the matter.Remember her promise at Florence’s grave?I will make this right florence.Mary realized at the end that she had choosen the wrong side.She and Bird.was to be gone also.I’ve seen many times people not stand up for you and you get used in the end.So Mary had nothing more to lose.Thank God it was her and not “Flo”.I can only imagine the scene that would have taken place.Used a abused, raped literally and again over and over again symbolicly. I would have dranked, used cocaine the works.I would be like what the hush my mouth is this Bull.What acid trip was I on! All of this was new to me 50?yrs later that’s why people can’t let go. We feel justice has not been served.For “Flo” or mary the funk brothers esp.Mr Jamersom.I have the Funk bros. dvd they made motor town and was kicked under the bridge too many broken hearts and no justice Berry living like a king or napoleon .If history serves me well nap.lost in the end didn’t he.He called him self little napoleon.Read Napoleon history.G washington won didn’t he?Anyway they say that pay day is a oh my my my! I wonder what Berry takes to sleep at night and Miss Ross.Oh yes they take their moneyIMy bad!Iaint mad at you honey. excuse me!

  15. linda foto says:

    It’s me again linda.Hi let me share a real ife story with you.I worked as an l.p.n it stands for licienced practical nurse.I worked from you1972 to2003.Now I am 60 yrs.old.Those were the most miserable yrs. of my life.Why?well RNs were mostly white and I lived in the jim crow days.Ex.whites only ect.Well the reason I have to say this is because if you were not able to be an RN you basically suffered.The worst jobs assignments ect.ect.So when I say I understand Mary it’s because she had to work.That was her profession.She’s a singer and once you really listen to her she sounds like music to your ears.When I ordered her dvd “at copa”the Sands hotel,I was like no then I listened. Now I just love it.Also she had to live in the shadows of Diana.She didn’t mine that it was just like me she had to eat and sleep like Diana.I had to eat and sleep just like the Rn.Now you understand?To be a back ground singer, you have to have a voice.Flo or Mary would have been knocked long ago if they had not had a voice.If I say that I enjoy Mary’s voice more its not because she’s the best singer.She just sounds good to me and me only.Because I am me and you are you.It may also be that I have heard one person so much I could care less. White people in the 50’s were shoved down our throats.If I never see another on tv I could care less.Blacks can act to I enjoyed lady sings the blues.I have never heard “flo” sing lead so I will have to order from Amazon.Her music can only be bought over there.Last but not least they messed up dvd at “the sands” the last 25 mins is damaged?That would never happen to a dvd of Diana Ross.I wish that she could have had something done about it.I had to buy the “U”cd just to hear her next song.Someone else wrote her about it, asked her did she know that they messed up her dvd?Tell me don’t that make you go huh!$_huh! =sabataged?It had to be.How can you produce and sell a damaged dvd.Jealously is rotten to the bone.I for one asked for a replacement same flaw.But I would keep it if onky one song played.I just ordered or am sending for I am changing cd cost $120.00.yes mary at last you are loved and respected.Go on the bank girlfriend.Thanks for keeping “flo” in our hearts and minds and soul keep on keeping on. I close with much love and respect.I am also buying anything I can from Flos family.Her sisters book worth$ go “Flo”s family you all will ge paid.Many of us are buying anything we can of Miss Ballads legecy

  16. linda foto says:

    Hi just want to say it hurts me to hear anyone speak badly about Mary wilso .Shes suffered enough have compassion she lot her her sweet son read the tragic events thats surronds it.She wante so desperately to sing and be apart of motown.I long to have a voice half as good as her.Also Mary shows remorse foir her actions toward “flo”she enjoys what she does.I understand her.I feel her pain.I have just learned in full detail of the death of sons.His last wors as he lay dying was,mommy don`t die.Until your child dies in your arms as you cling for life.My God get off her case.Shes trying to survive.Yes miss ross is rich no question about that.They have all paid a very high price for stradom.My last remark is a bought reflexions.I was disappointed not the sing Only one lead Singer.Now I can make informed decison about marys voice.Fields if gold her you “U”cd she sounds goodI hope to see her in concert if I KEEP living.Mary is Mary she in a class of her own she wants her world not the whole world.She shares her stage with her band.Bigger does`t always mean better.I can never dis respect Miss Ross.But big fame can brig shame Remember mike and Houston and many others yes Ross has a very unique voice but just remember how You treat others can come back to bit us all in the Tu Tu.Smile peace.”FLO”we all loved you.Mary thanks for exposing motor-town.We needed to know the truth.Good or Bad.The history shows that blacks do have a history of sweeping on each other toil get to the top.Floor definitely was too.much of a lady for that.I would rather die poor than to hurt one struggling humanbean.Thanks again supremes

  17. Skip says:

    Wow. It’s amazing how, many years later, the truth can be so easily reinvented. Back when Motown 25 took place, newspapers and magazines were abuzz about the confrontation between Ross & Wilson (the “audible gasp” of the audience when Diana shoved Mary’s microphone away from her mouth), and the account stated here is way off the mark. Mary’s no angel, neither is Diana. Both behaved badly that night.

  18. Stephen Wonder says:

    Don’t think Diana Ross will ever appear in the same room as Mary Wilson ever again.

    Thank God.

  19. John says:

    Such Bulsh-t… Stop ganging up on Mary and Cindy… Diana IS THE STAR, and no one can take that away… unless there is a reunion tour. OH YEAH, that didn’t work out, did it???

  20. Stephen Wonder says:

    Mary Wilson needs to be locked up in Guantanamo Bay in a very large orange jumpsuit

  21. c. birdsong says:

    wow steve weaver and all the other funnyfarm ross fans are here.. wow. surprise surprise. these so-called fans need to locked up in a sanitarium.

  22. james everett says:

    I was so diappointed by Mary Wilson’s nonsense at Motown 25. The only thing that disappointed more was that crappy “Red Hot” album. Maybe someone ought to write a book about Mae Wilson…that’s what they called her before she took on the same Mary. LOL.

  23. The Grammy Organization says:

    We have no record of any Miss Wilson receiving a Lifetime Grammy award.

    We do, however, have information that a Ms Mary Wilson is scheduled to work in Catering Block B during the Grammy celebration ceremonies next month.

  24. Tralfaz says:

    Same s**t different website, same bitter queens.

  25. Diana'sDog says:

    Arf, arf, blah……..

  26. Pedro's Woodshack says:

    Miss Wilson

    You still owe me $100 for that plain oak casket. I heard you’re up for a lifetime Grammy – well done!

  27. Steven says:

    I think it’s a testament to the Supremes influence that they still continue to get such strong reactions from the public almost 50 years after they started out. However, why do people still continue to rehash all this old crap and open the floodgates for idiots to spew their hateful comments one way or another. It’s time to get a life and move on people! Let’s forget all the backstage gossip about incidents that allegedly happened centuries ago and just focus on their place in musical history and enjoy their musical legacy which still continues to bring pleasure to fans of all ages all over the world.

  28. Miss Lynda says:

    What exactly was Mary jealous of? Diana’s run in her pantyhose? Her red toungue? Diana is lucky Mary didn’t snatch that weave off her head. Yes, they call Diana the “Queen of Motown”, but it’s more like the “Drag Queen of Motown”.

    Have any of you actually WATCHED Motown 25? You’ll CLEARLY see that Mary TRIES to give Diana back the lead, but Diana is too busy dancing like some autistic robot. Maybe she was trying to do the Moonwalk? Or maybe she was just bombed as per usual.

    If Diana DIDN’T shove Mary and merely pushed her microphone down, what’s the big deal? But to delete all of the footage? I wonder how many times Diana had to do the splits for Berry for THAT favor?

    By the way, Diana? Blockbuster called. Your VHS tape is 12 years overdue.

  29. Bill says:

    On important thing that was not mentioned is that the official MGMUA home video included an extra 30 minutes of segments that did not appear on the actual television broadcast. A nice tribute was done showing behind the scenes look at the songwriters.

    The biggest tragedy of the entire show was the total ignorance of Marv Johnson. Marv cut the first 45 single for Motown and his name was not even mentioned on the show. Even Motor Mouth did not ramble his name out. Marv went back to the very beginning of Motown and they totally left him out. He was not even invited to participate despite the fact he was still working and available to appear on the show. A real tragedy.

  30. Shantel Baker says:

    Girl, when Diane pushed Mary, Smokey and I decided that he better go out and difuse the situation; we didn’t want no bald Diane Ross up on that stage!

    Unfortunately when they edited that clip, they also cut out my 14 minute version of the Supremes classic “Wait”, which was released shortly after I replaced Freda Payne in the group.

  31. Joe King says:

    I read that Mary Wilson is also now offering to flip the burgers and fry the chicken – as well as perform – at the lounges, bars and grills for $10.

    Is it true Mary crashed her Jeep in the 90s and killed her son?

  32. Craig says:

    So glad to read about what really happened on Motown 25 between Diana Ross and Mary Wilson. Of course Wilson is jealous, one just has to read some of her books to know where her heart is (in her pocket of course). Whereas Diana has always remained gracious when talking about the Supremes and her past. Thank you Chris for putting the record straight! Diana Ross is too often demonised by the media and many of her peers. A lot of jealousy for sure and the tall poppy syndrome.

  33. Bill says:

    I know Motown 25 is best remembered as the show Michael Jackson unveiled the moonwalk, but IMO, the highlight of the show was watching Marvin Gaye sing. To me, that was the performance of the night.

    Now will Motown/Universal finally release this classic on DVD?

  34. Wayne says:

    What a refreshing change to read positive opinions on the internet regarding Diana Ross. Almost makes me realise that there is hope out there after all !

  35. Kirk Bonin says:

    Finally, poster “Chris” gets it right and sets the record straight about marywilson’s devious act that evening. It is so easy for some to want to believe that Diana was some anti-Christ. What few seemed to know is that Mary was actually fired from Motown. There was a press release in Billboard magazine after the release of her disastrous solo debut. She had begun her passive agressive tactics claiming that or rather threatening that she “was going to write a book”. The Motown brass were not going to tolerate her antics without a counter attack. And that counter attack came in the form of a press release that she was indeed fired from the label. Now knowing this important bit of information, why would the one person that was fired from the company introduce the CEO on such an important night? Diana, is and has always been considered “The Queen of Motown”…. No matter where her career takes her. It was only appropriate that Suzanne dePasse select her to announce Berry at the finale. This myth has gone on far too long. The victimized marywilson has made a career of it. The jig is up!

  36. Rick says:

    Mary Wilson could never upstage Diana Ross…Mary is classless…Mary started the whole thing by instigating Cindy into her plans. If Diana had retired years ago…there would be no Mary Wilson, Marys life now is nothing without a Diana Ross mention…No Mary cant ever upstage a Diva like Diana Ross. And its Diana thet wont ever do a Reunion Tour…Not Mary…shes been begging for one for the last couple of years. Mary says its up to Diana now……well Mary,,,,dont hold your breath! Dianas Fans are a Fierce Bunch and We will always protect our Diva!

  37. Timothy says:

    Chris you wrote the complete and honest truth, nuff said, I’m glad someone finally got it right. I’m a true Ross fan and will be forever Diana!

  38. BuffBeachBum says:

    You only have to look at Mary Wilson over the years duplicate whatever “look” Diana Ross was sporting at the time to see that there is something really, really strange going on with this woman. I met her in Memphis and she was very nice, but a little like watching a female impersonator of Ross: amusing, but clearly not diva material.

  39. Samantha says:

    I found Motown 25 a bit lack luster except for Michael Jackson performing “Billy Jean” and Mary Wilson struting out on stage wearing that hot red dress belting out “Someday We’ll Be Together.”

  40. Chris says:

    The Supremes smack down has been twisted and turned by several writers (including Mary Wilson) for profit. Truth is Wilson, like Gaye, had an axe to grind against Motown. That’s why they showed up in red vs. the preferred black, white/ silver 25th anniversary dress code.

    Ross had just left Motown for RCA for $20 million, the most lucrative female recording contract at the time. She was in the firing line of most of the envious Motown acts just as she had been during her tenure with the company as its prize act.

    Wilson had secretly told a nervous Birdsong to follow her every move. She even told Birdsong to sing quietly during rehearsals so the sound engineer raised their mic levels. Come time to the actual performance, their mics were louder than Ross’s.

    Wilson also went off the teleprompter and talked about the loss of Florence Ballard earlier in the show. This was edited out and sparked the fury of both Berry Gordy and Motown head Suzanne de Passe.

    The Supremes were, in fact, prepared to do a medley, but the show ran overtime and it was decided that the girls would only do Someday We’ll Be Together. Such is the unpredictability of doing a live show.

    Ross did not shove Wilson on stage. Ross was given direction from de Passe to make a speech and call down Gordy. It seemed fitting that Ross be the one to do so, but Wilson interceded and cut off Ross, so Ross delicately pushed Wilson’s mic down. It was anything but a smack down.

    It was Wilson, who deliberately sabotaged The Supremes’ reunion — from not reading the teleprompter to strutting out late in not a complementary black number, but a shocking red gown to then stealing the lead vocals on Someday (she later claimed she thought Ross had forgotten the lyrics).

    Wilson needed to spark drama for her memoir, Dreamgirl – My Life As A Supreme, and the press which loves a cat fight, bought into Wilson’s story and pinned Ross to the cross, who by the way, was sick with the stomach flu (notice her red tongue; she was sucking on lozenges the entire night).

    Sadly, at the stroke of midnight whilst everyone was still on stage concluding the chorus of Reach Out And Touch, it was Ross’s birthday. A bittersweet moment, indeed.

    People forget how hard it was for Ross (and Jackson) to return to Motown that night. They were the biggest Motown acts, who had left on not so pleasant terms, but they agreed to do the special out of respect and appreciation to Gordy. So what if Jackson performed Billie Jean. That one performance had an enormous impact on pop culture and prompted MTV to start showcasing black acts. Petty antics by so called stars, who harbored soured grapes at what was to be a celebration, ought to have been the ones lambasted.

    And let’s not forget, if not for Ross and her talent, drive, and yes, affections between her and Gordy, The Supremes might not have been supreme at all. The notion that you could simply replace one girl on lead with another is ridiculous. What savvy business mogul would threaten his gravy train if he had an act with a lead singer that was churning No. 1s after No. 1s and rivaling The Beatles and Elvis along the way?

    Sure Florence had an earthier voice, but she didn’t have what Ross had: superstar charisma and cross-over appeal during a racially divided era in America. Twas only five years girl. If Ballard just sucked it up, she could very well have taken over The Supremes after Ross’s exit in 1969. Was but a mere 5 year run they had.

    But Ballard, a rape victim, was plagued by psychological demons and rebelled in jealous fits of alcoholic rage. If you act out (by throwing a drink in your boss’s face in public, boozing up before a show, gaining weight, messing up your choreography and threatening everything The Supremes had accomplished as a top class act), hell yeah, you are gonna be put out, woman. Period.

    And did Mary Quite Contrary stand up for Ballard during the entire ordeal? Nope. She stayed mum, and only decided to “right the wrong” after Ballard’s death by milking a book deal — profits, from which, I doubt went to Ballard’s family.

    Ross, on the other hand, set up a trust fund for Ballard’s kids, had given Ballard money over the years, and even tried to save her house when it was about to foreclose. Funny how no one ever talks about that.

  41. Phil Hall says:

    The status of the Supremes’ brawl footage is unclear. In researching this article, I read that Berry still has the footage. However, I suspect that it was destroyed. I would have also loved to have seen and heard the unedited audience reaction to the “Billie Jean” number – as stated above, the telecast production was halted until the overly enthused audience was able to regain its composure after over-the-top cheering for Michael Jackson’s star-turn.

  42. Stephan says:

    Diana Ross was not “upstaged” by either woman.
    What Wilson did do was prove her intense jealousy of Diana Ross.
    All Wilson had to do was show up & get into her assigned position, just like The Jacksons, Temptations, Four Tops, Miracles, DeBarge, etc., did, but, Wilson couldn’t be happy where her minimal talents have placed her, and her behavior ruined what could have been a magical moment, but, when you’re as desperate for publicity as is Wilson, what else can be expected?
    The ladies were asked to wear either black or white. Wilson wears red.
    She then proceeds to take over Diana’s lead. She accomplishes this by conspiring with Birdsong to sing uber-softly during the group’s sound check, thus, forcing sound techs to raise the volume levels her & Birdsong’s mics.
    These two acts, ALONE, are great testimonies to Wilson’s pettiness, jealousy & all-around unprofessionalism, which is why Diana’s still selling out Radio City, The Hollywood Bowl and every venue she plays in between for upwards of $250 per seat, while Wilson can’t even fill the lounges & bars & grills she plays for $15 a seat.

  43. Steve Weaver (UK) says:

    I heard that Berry Gordy stood in the OB unit while the deliberate attempt by Wilson to upstage Ross section of the master tape was edited and the so-called ‘fight’ part was immediately wiped. I can believe that because the show was a Motown production and Berry would never allow that sort of fiasco to stay recorded for posterity – despite millions of us wanting to see what actually happened…

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