Diana Ross may have been a Motown goddess, but she was a devil as a boss, according to a new bio. “Most of the time, Diana’s emotional outbursts were about things that really didn’t matter much to anyone but her,” writes J. Randy Taraborrelli in his “Diana Ross,” out in September from Citadel Press. The one-time Supreme fired her entire staff, for instance, after unflattering stories about her found their way into the papers. Not satisfied to stop there, Taraborelli says, she bad-mouthed eight of her former assistants in a letter. “If I let an employee go, it’s because either their work or their personal habits are not acceptable to me,” wrote Ross. “I do not recommend these people. In fact, if you hear from these people and they use my name as a reference, I wish to be contacted.”
The missive got her sued for millions by at least two former employees, including her ex-administrative assistant Gail Davis, who was listed in the letter. Davis settled her case three years later, says Taraborrelli. Those around Ross were routinely asked to avoid eye contact with the diva. “Avert the eyes” soon became a catch phrase to announce Diana’s arrival, Taraborelli claims. Ross often demanded that her concert dressing rooms be redone for her arrival. “She asked that it be made to look like a star’s dressing room,” recalls one venue manager forced to repaint and recarpet. Once, Ross reportedly clubbed an airline worker with a hat box, presumably unaware that the box contained a small dog. But it was personal assistant Michael Browne who hefted the heaviest load of Ross’ whims, Taraborelli says.
He put up with her then-9-year-old daughter, Tracee, who was known for carrying a notebook and pencil everywhere she went. If she saw one of Ross’ functionaries doing something she thought was wrong, she would quickly jot it down and later report it to her mother, says the author. Just before Christmas one year, Ross flipped out when Browne failed at his task of hiding $100,000 worth of wrapped presents on a private jet Ross and her daughters were taking to Vegas. “I thought I told you I didn’t want to see a single present,” hissed Ross when she spotted one under her then-8-year-old daughter Chudney’s seat. “Not one single present. … Is it so much to ask?”
According to the author, Browne managed to dissuade Ross from her plan to switch all the presents to a second private jet, pacifying her with a glass of wine. The holiday must have made her feel guilty: His exhausted appearance after the trip caused her to say he could visit his family for Christmas, and bring his mother 500 purple orchids she’d been sent.
Then there was the upstaging of Florence Ballard – who Ross allowed to be kicked out of the Supremes, and the basis for Jennifer Hudson’s “DreamÂgirls” character Effie – at Ballard’s own funeral. Taraborrelli writes how Ross marched from her front-row pew to the altar, took the microphone and announced, “Mary and I would now like to have a silent prayer.” Supremes member Mary Wilson, Taraborelli says, was sitting discreetly in the back of the church. From her surprised expression, it was obvious, the writer recounts, that “the last thing she wanted to do was go up to the altar and be the center of attention.”
Â» SOURCE: NEW YORK DAILY NEWS