Saturday, April 21, 2007

And Now for Something Completely Different

"Stop in the name of love, before you break my heart, think it oh-oh-ver...."

******Holland/Dozier/Holland for the Supremes

In the best traditon of mystery and suspense, I should keep you hangin' on for the big finish, but I can't resist going the "picture is worth a thousand etc." route and showing you this first:

Do you recognize who this is? Of course that's me on the right--singing, which is unbelievable enough. But, hilarously and amazingly, that's Mary Wilson on the left. A music icon, a true idol, princess of Motown and the original authentic dreamgirl--a member of the original Supremes.

Here's how it happened. I got a call from the organizers of the Women's Congress. They were putting together a convention in Boston, a series of seminars and workshops for entrepreneurs, women in business, finance--all the hot shot movers and shakers. Women with big ideas and their eyes on success. Anyway, the organizers asked me if I would emcee one of their lunch meetings--they said hearing from a veteran investigative reporter would be interesting to the attendees. (And probably be comforting for them to see someone like me who's been doing my job, happily, for thirty years.)

By the way, they said, the luncheon speaker would be Mary Wilson, one of the original Supremes.

(Luckily this was all on the phone so I could stay casual and nonchalant. But, I thought, Are You Kidding Me? I know every word of every one of their songs. Back in the 60's my sister Nancy and I used to force our sister Nina to stand on the coffee table with us and do 'Stop in the Name of Love,' complete with choreography. Mom put up with our perfomances as long as we had our shoes off. We were Diana Ross, Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard. We wanted their voices, their songs, those dresses!)

Anyway, I said sure, all casual, figuring I could scoot out of Channel 7, no problem, unless there was some huge breaking news.

Which there wasn't.

So the day of the lunch, all goes as planned. We're all waiting in the green room, and in walks Mary Wilson. She's gorgeous. She's what? In her sixties? No way. She's smiling and gracious, chic in a black knit suit trimmed in bugle beads, a full length fur coat (mink, maybe?) and slinky shoes. Glamorous. And charming.

I'm googly but trying to be cool. I tell her I know she's heard it many times but I'm a huge fan, have always been, and I may have even told her about me and Nancy and the coffee table. But maybe not. She's friendly and casual, and asks where I got my suit and who made my shoes.

Chit chat chit chat..and then in walks one of her dear friends...and it's Ruth Pointer of the Pointer Sisters! I'm still attemptng to be cool, but here we are:

So the lunch starts, and I'm introduced to the room of about 1000 women, then I do my little speech to introduce Mary Wilson. She walks on stage, and sort of puts her arm around me. She whispers in my ear: "Are you ready for this?" I thought: ready for what?

And before I could decide "what, " She throws her left arm out in the gesture we all know so well --and starts singing: "Stop! in the...

So what could I do? I knew the moves from coffee table days, so I put my arm out too, and someone took a photo at "bee-fore you break my heart"

And then they took another at "think it oh-oh-ver..."

Hilarious, huh? My little dreamgirl moment. Afterwards, she smiled at me, and said "You know it, girl!" And I thought--well, sure, who doesn't?

She then gave her speech, and then I moderated the audience q and a. When people were shy to ask questions, I asked how she felt when she first heard some of those amazing songs. "You were the first to hear Stop, and You Keep Me Hangin On, and Baby Love, and all those...did you know at that moment they were destined to be hits?"

And she said their first number one hit was "Where Did Our Love Go," and that she and Flo hated the song because Diana sang all the good parts, and she and Flo only got to sing "Baby, baby" about a million times. (Which was so funny. I never thought about music from the standpoint of the backup singer.)

So then she burst into "Bay-bee Bay-bee, where did our love go?" And of course I know that song, too--and (can't resist) here we are--again--singing it.

So. Just another day in the life for Mary Wilson. But I still can't believe I was dreamgirl--if only for a moment.

We now return you to our original programming.

Ro: Oddly enough I just wrote a short story about a backup singer. Coincidence? I think not. Can we all get gowns and big hair and recreate Hank's experience somewhere? I'm game.


  1. Amazing. Did she say anything about the movie Dreamgirls?

  2. Dreamgirls is also the name of her book, I think. What I want to know--did she say anything about Diana Ross?

  3. Hank!!! You look awesome!!

    I'll bet your enthusiasm made them feel so good and made the event roll.

    I don't make anyone take their shoes off on my coffee table, just so you know.

    My personal best is Lesley Gore's "You Don't Own Me."


  4. OK, Becky. You're on. At the next writers convention. You and me. "You don't own me, I'm not just one of your--many toys. You don't own me, don't say I can't go with--other boys..."

    We could put our hair in flips and wear wide belts.

    Who's with us..?

  5. Okay, that's it Hank. I'm going to make you sing at signings! (I'll bring my guitar, you bring the high heels and the hairspray).

  6. I always have high heels and hairspray.

    But do you really play the guitar? Wow--never a dull moment on Jungle Red!

  7. Yes...Jan and her son play together, right? I'll stay in the background and do hand movements..

  8. And syncronized dancing with Hank??