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article on Diana Ross NY concert that occured 30 years ago

Sun Jul 21, 2013 5:04 pm ... -1.1404781

30-year anniversary of the night Diana Ross reigned as it rained in Central Park

Torrential downpour drenched performer and 450,000 fans. Ross returned the next night to perform for 350,000

By Tripp Whetsell / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Sunday, July 21, 2013, 12:35 AM

Richard Corkery/New York Daily News

Diana Ross performed in sexy bodysuit before torrential downpour cut show short.

It's been 30 years since Diana Ross proved there ain’t no mountain — or thunderstorm — that could keep her from gettin’ her music to 450,000 fans on Central Park’s Great Lawn.

“All of the big concerts had been done by white performers,” former Parks Commissioner Gordon Davis, who planned the show, told the Daily News last week. “I was uncomfortable with that, so I began talking to (rock promoter) Ron (Delsener) about who might be a good fit. It wasn’t long before we decided on Diana.”

Richard Corkery/New York Daily News

Diana Ross turned heads in this skimpy outfit.

A cut of the proceeds from a Showtime pay-per-view show, “For One and For All,” and souvenir sales in the park were earmarked to build a children’s playground in Ross’ name at W. 81st St.


This aerial view of New York's Central Park shows the Great Lawn as hundreds of thousands gathered for a free concert given by Diana Ross on July 21, 1983. A heavy rainstorm ended the performance 45 minutes after it began.

The performance was set for Thursday night, July 21. The city was in the middle of a massive heat wave; temperatures hovered above 95 degrees, and thunderstorms were in the forecast.

Ross emerged on stage about 6 p.m., wearing a studded orange bodysuit. As she completed a dance number with Harlem’s Bernice Johnson dancers, she stripped out of her multicolored coat, grabbed a microphone and yelled, “Hello, New York!” before singing “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”

Carlos Rene Perez/AP

Diana Ross belts out a song to the crowd on July 21, 1983.

The roaring crowd stood shoulder to shoulder amid the darkening skies and winds. As the first raindrops began to fall, Ross told the audience, “It took me a lifetime to get here, and I’m not going anywhere.”

Carlos Rene Perez/AP

A crowd estimated at 450,000 professes their love of Diana Ross.

But as the storm intensified, instruments began shorting out and Ross nearly fell off the stage. With a showman’s instincts, she tried to calm the audience, which included celebs like Andy Warhol, Annie Leibovitz and Rob Lowe.

Backstage was a different story.

Richard Corkery/New York Daily News

Ross sang 'Ain't No Mountain High Enough' at the soggy and shortened show.

“It got really dicey for a while,” said director Steve Binder. “Our biggest concern was Diana, but we were also afraid for our own safety because we were up to our ankles in water in the mobile control truck.”

Richard Corkery/New York Daily News

As the storm intensified, Ross nearly fell off the stage.

When it was no longer possible to continue, Ross promised to return the following day — without any confirmation from then-Parks Commissioner Henry Stern or her record company.

As the singer was led from the park by mounted police, production assistants were dispatched to buy hair dryers to dry off the drenched equipment, while costume coordinator Diana Eden, wrapped in a garbage bag, walked barefoot to the Parker Meridien hotel to wash Ross’ jumpsuit in the bathtub.

Jack Vartoogian/Getty Images

The day after the free concert on July 21, 1983 was rained out, Diana Ross took to the Central Park stage again.

Ross returned to perform before a smaller crowd of about 350,000 the next night, though the evening was marred when a group of teenagers harassed and robbed bystanders.

The city lost the $2.5 million in profits from the first show, and there was no money left for the playground — until Ross herself donated $250,000.


Diana Ross performs during the free follow-up concert on the Great Lawn.

Rene Perez/AP

Diana Ross shows off her New York City Parks Department raincoat on Jan. 18, 1984 in with New York City Mayor Edward Koch. Ross presented a check for $250,000 to build a children's playground in Central Park, part of an agreement when she staged her free concert there in 1983.

Dominique Charriau/WireImage

Diana Ross, 30 years after that 1983 free Central Park concert, pictured at a charity gala on June 18, 2013.