Mahogany: Where Did Our Love Go!By John Calendo / Thursday, March 1st, 2012
Funny what ages well. And what doesn’t.
Take Diana Ross, she of the one too many wine-coolers.
Her first movie was a moist Billie Holiday biop, and Diana, whose sizzle was being compared to the young Marilyn’s, was actually nominated for an Oscar. Today, you couldn’t pay Jeff Gannon to sit through the leaden Lady Sings the Blues.
It’s Mahogany, her second film, the one denounced as a vanity production and a bomb, that remains The Ultra-Sonic Diana Ross Experience.
And yet even though this QUEER 101 movie is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, there is no two-disc DVD tribute planned. In fact, there has never been a DVD of Mahogany at all. Go do a search on Amazon. Go tell it on the mountain. VHS ONLY!. Oh, the Scandal!
No matter. Mahogany remains ENDLESSLY watchable. This shameless star-vehicle not only gave us Diana in the icon-freezing role of a too-much-too-soon fashion designer, it allowed the singer to actually design her own too-much-too-soon costumes. "Mahogany was my debut in the fashion business," Ross said, according to Dick’s Diana Ross Website (a mad event all on its own.) "Paramount gave me an entire floor to use when I went about making my patterns."
For those of you who somehow missed this seminal event in your education, we found a review by Stephen Moser of the Austin Chronicle that nails Mahogany in about 17 different ways. We stand back in awe and quote at length:
“This is the movie that made me want to be a fashion designer and a drag queen," writes Moser. "Like Mommie Dearest, where you know you’re looking into the heart of Joan Crawford, Mahogany makes you feel you’re looking into the heart of Diana Ross … Diana as ‘Tracy’ is in school to be a fashion designer, and we know this because we see her riding the bus around town sketching big drag queen-y outfits."
While working in a stock room, the beauteous Tracy is naturally mistaken for a fashion model by Scavullo-esque photographer Tony Perkins, who at this point in his career is all scary eyes and pursed lips. Soon Tracy is the toast of Paris and lives in a Roman villa, where she is now both model and designer.
"This leads to a particularly favorite scene," confides Moser. "Ross as the prima-donna couturierre parades through her workroom, issuing demands and dictums, eventually becoming entirely unglued, shrieking and cursing at her workers." [Sounds like a premonition of 2002 when Ross carried right straight on with a traffic cop!]
"The scene," declares Moser, "sums up Ross herself and is utterly delightful — though not exactly pleasant!."
Nightcharm’s Senior Editor John Calendo has his own website, stop by and say hello.
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