Saunders

Saunders: Dress up for a diva

Staff WriterMarch 15, 2011 

Baby, baby. Where did our style go? That's the song that raced through my mind when Diana Ross began singing one of her iconic songs at the Durham Performing Arts Center on Friday night.

Wait a minute, I said, looking around. You mean to tell me the Queen Bee of Divahood comes here and this is how you dress to greet her?

Ross' audience skews older - toward people who should know how to dress for the occasion - and she is the matron saint formany gay men.

Hey, I didn't make that up. Many gays appropriated her song of liberation, "I'mComin' Out," as an anthem.

That's why I was dismayed at the general lack of fashion bravura or even appropriateness at Dame Diana's show.

Chill, homes. I'm not fixing to pick on gay guys. It's just that in many cities and in fashion magazines like GQ, gays seem to be the arbiters of style. Thus, wasn't it reasonable to expect her most ardent fans to amp up the glitz just a little bit? Not Friday night, when many guys seemed to think that pulling on blue jeans and a fleece North Face jacket constituted "dressing up."

No, that constitutes dressing down or, worse, just not caring.

Oy. Many in the crowd looked as though they were dressed for the symphony - if by "dressed for the symphony" you mean they were dressed the way they were when I wrote about the woefully inappropriate attire worn to hear the wonderful Durham Symphony in January.

Remember how I said many concertgoers looked as though they'd been raking leaves when a pal drove up and said, "Hey, Cleve. You wanna go hear that there sim-FO-NEE?"

Well, some Diana Ross concert attendees looked as though they'd been raking a yard, hanging out at the local gin mill or lounging around the crib watching "Twilight" when someone dropped by with a free Diana ducat and they had no time or inclination to change.

I don't even like Ross, but after 90 minutes of watching her glam it up onstage and flawlessly singing songs she'd made famous - respecting the audience's money, in other words - even her biggest detractors had to acknowledge that she is, purely and simply, a star. The least the audience could've done was respect showbiz royalty by dressing up.

J. Randy Taraborrelli, Ross' biographer, wrote that whenever her employees hear the phrase "avert the eyes," they know Ross is near and they must adhere to her rule to avoid eye contact with her.

True story or not, it was impossible to avert one's eyes following her costume changes Friday night. I counted four, each one more beautiful and glamorous than the previous one and drawing a greater roar of appreciation.

After talking to people who claim to have seen her change outfits a dozen times in a show, I'm guessing she looked out at the indifferent attire of many in the audience and concluded, "Ah, what the heck. These weed benders won't appreciate it anyway."

barry.saunders@newsobserver.com or 919-836-2811

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