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.She couldn t figure out why it had to be so hard.She understood about Diana being the lead singer because she had avoice that sold records.But she couldn t understand why she was so un-appreciated by the Motown establishment.It was surely a weird dynamic.Onstage, fans seemed to have moreaffection for her than they did for Diana and Mary; regularly, shouts of We love you, Flo! or  Sing it, Flo! would resound in the hall.Butthen she d get back to Motown and be ignored as the  establishmentfell all over Diana, and even Mary, whose low-pitched voice was almostalways recessed and was really now no more than that of a good-looking 0306815867_ribowsky:6.125 x 9.25 4/22/09 11:06 AM Page 224224 THE SUPREMESmannequin whereas Flo s human qualities were both vocal, in thehigh, ringing notes she could let fly, and visual with her slightly against-the-grain ingenuousness.This certainly explained why club owners outon the road also loved her, far more than Gordy did while seeing her re-fracted by his obsessions with Ross.Indeed, those shouts of  We loveyou, Flo may have had something to do with Gordy s waspish attitudetoward Ballard, given that Ross rarely, and Wilson never, were the re-cipient of such hosannas from Supremes fans.Gordy s plans meant hehad to get that kind of reaction for Ross, even if he would have to man-ufacture it.It wasn t just paradoxical that he could have regarded any form ofadulation for the Supremes as a threat to his blueprint; it was beyondabsurd.But the fate of Florence Ballard seemed to show that it wasstandard operating procedure around Motown, as Ballard becameknown as a  problem.The more adrift Flo became, the more she found the means to gauzethe hurt with a glass in her hand.For most in the Supremes en-tourage, Ballard s increased consumption of alcohol meant nothingother than that she was a good-time girl who liked to get the juice flow-ing for everyone.At the Plaza, she set up a wet bar in her room, makingSuite 811 the place to be.Here, every day, room service was instructedto roll in her standing order, which was described by one reveler as  abottle of everything, one Scotch, one vodka, one gin, one rum, one rye,and several dozen canaps  along with a dozen each of champagneglasses, water glasses, highball glasses, and shot glasses, and three icebuckets.Everyone just took it as a road-show version of the basement barshe had at home, with the same intent to provide spirits for peoplestreaming into the room at all hours.As always, she meticulously set upthe bar, pouring all the booze from their bottles into the decanters andserving the drinks herself, every inch a lady who could keep waves ofguests entertained for hours.Flo would imbibe freely, but while shecould drink them all under the table she seemed to be able to hold herbooze, too, and almost never appeared to be drunk.But being around all that alcohol was a comfort, too, and duringthe Copa run Flo Ballard needed comfort as her grand dream turnedsour.Even in the opening-night afterglow, before the orchestra had 0306815867_ribowsky:6.125 x 9.25 4/22/09 11:06 AM Page 225 BABY, JUST POUR 225stopped playing, Gordy was messing with her about her amusing ad libduring the final number. About that one-liner you dropped in, he began, uneasily. Realfunny stuff.But he didn t say it as if he really thought it was funny; to Flo, itsounded sarcastic, meant to cushion what he wanted to say, and hersuspicion was well founded when he added,  Diane loved it, some-thing Flo couldn t have cared less about. Oh, she did, did she? she said.He then told her it was a good idea to keep the one-liners in theact, but that  maybe we ll give Mary a line, too. Pause. And, nexttime, I want you to say Before he could utter another word, Flo was in high dudgeon. Holdit, Berry, she said, raising a hand  Stop! In the Name of Love style. I ll do it my way.That s my thing, nobody else s.Gordy, not wanting to create a scene, and typically at a loss when astrong woman refused to shrink before him, mumbled,  Fine, suityourself, and went off to mingle elsewhere in the room.Flo, against what her instincts told her, hoped that would be theend of it.Taking it as a victory, at the second Copa show she moved herone-liner up, to when Diana did the introduction of her as the  quietone. Waiting for it, she chirped,  Honey, that s what you think! only suggesting to the audience what Motown already knew, that whenFlo Ballard had something to say, quiet she wasn t.The reaction in thehouse was the same as during the previous show, but this time Dianadidn t break up and riff off it.Eyeing Gordy, she saw him wince, atwhich point she moved on, afraid that kibitzing with Flo might elevate the Flo line to a fixture of the act which she knew Berry did not want,never mind that it always went over so well, because it encroached onDiana s turf as the group s  hostess.Gordy needed some way short of a face-to-face confrontation toshow Flo who was boss.Days later, it became evident.During a dressrehearsal at the Copa, Harvey Fuqua came in, silenced the musicians,and announced that there would be a change in the show  Peoplewas out of the repertoire.Flo was incredulous, as were those around thegroup who knew what that tune meant to her that as her only leadvocal on stage,  People was the last thin reed of her leadership role thatshe could hold on to.And also that dedicated Supremes fans had cometo expect the song at shows, and would often call out for it from thegalleries.There was even a live track of the tune on the shelved There s a 0306815867_ribowsky:6.125 x 9.25 4/22/09 11:06 AM Page 226226 THE SUPREMESPlace for Us album.With all this as context, Fuqua s explanation thatGordy made the move because there were  too many show tunes in theact seems vacuous, since obviously any other show tune could havebeen killed.The only criterion for killing  People, it seemed clear, wasthat it was  Flo s song.For Flo, there was only one explanation: It was payback fromGordy.And she wasn t going to take it  like a lady. According to TonyTucker, who at the time was a teenager recently befriended by Ballardand employed as a flunky, a ballistic Ballard stormed off the floor andin full costume headed for the front door, letting it be known who shebelieved was behind the back-stabbing [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]

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