THE SUPREMES — Mary Wilson, Flo Ballard and Diana Ross — used to sing “Nothing but heartaches … nothing but heartaches,” way back when. Heartaches by the number actually then came to all three women. Ms. Ballard, furious over Motown’s Berry Gordy elevating Diana above all else, left the group. She died young, bitter and broke. Ms. Ross, of course, went solo and became the triumphant “Miss Diana Ross.” Later in life, however, personal and professional set-backs humbled this grand diva. (Nevertheless, Diana is currently wowing them in a world-wide concert tour.) But it is Mary Wilson, whom Diana herself once called “the most beautiful Supreme,” who had the biggest heartache. She fought mightily to keep the Supremes together with the new lead singer Jean Terrell. They had some big hits, but mogul Gordy lost interest. For him it was all DIANA ROSS, all the time. So Mary struggled for years to keep the trio together in one way or another. Money was scarce, bookings scarcer. She kept on keeping on and survived with grace, carving out her own performing niche. Come June 19, Mary Wilson, who once stood behind Diana Ross, stands front and center at Feinstein’s at the Regency. She is an iconic figure in pop music and it will be good to see her alone at the microphone, doing it her way.
FRIENDS are reaching out to the wonderful actress Dina Merrill after learning that her beautiful daughter, Heather, died recently at age 38 of ovarian cancer. She was in Buenos Aires seeking treatment and both Dina and her former husband, Cliff Robertson, went to Argentina.
IS THERE an honor left for Oprah Winfrey, other than the Nobel Prize? She will be feted Sunday by the Elie Wiesel Foundation at the Waldorf. Barbara Walters is to emcee; Katie Couric, Itzhak Perlman and Jessye Norman will be there. Call 212-490-7788 but I expect you’re already too late. Oprah packs them in… … ON Thursday, Gilda’s Club (and we do mean Gilda Radner) will celebrate at Cipriani 42 St. and you can mingle with those whose families are affected by cancer. Z100’s Elvis Duran hosts, Rosie’s Broadway Kids entertain along with Rosie herself, CBS anchor Hannah Storm presents to Carmen Marc Valvo, the man of slinky gowns, and “Dreamgirls” stunner, Anika Noni Rose, will sing. Call 914-579-1000. … JULIE ANDREWS, who is once again the voice of the queen in the latest “Shrek” movie (opening May 18), says she has almost finished her own autobiography, and she is now nudging her famous director hubby, Blake Edwards, to write his own life story (I’d like his side of how he convinced Julie to bare her bosom in “SOB.”) Miss Andrews also has a new children’s book, co-written with daughter Emma, “Thanks To You: Wisdom From Mother and Child” … IF YOU are loving Showtime’s “The Tudors,” you are no doubt impressed by Maria Doyle Kennedy as Henry VIII’s heartbroken, but steely, Queen Catherine of Aragon. What American audiences don’t know is that Maria is a great singing star in Ireland, called “The Celtic Patti Smith.” She has a new album coming out on May 18 and then it is back to the “Tudors” for the second season of what was supposed to be a one-season-only series. How successful has “The Tudors” been? Why, the History Channel just whomped up a big Henry and Anne Boleyn special — imitation is the sincerest, etc.
THE ROUNDABOUT ends its inspired theater season with a spectacular “110 in the Shade.” Starring Audra McDonald, John Cullum, Steve Kazee and Bobby Steggert. The opening night audience seemed to be as one — with a long lingering ovation for cast, company and creators of this uniquely integrated, sunny production, directed by Lonny Price. Mike Nichols and Diane Sawyer actually let go of holding hands to join the applause. Audra is one singular sensation, a national treasure. Steve is brilliant, John charming and Bobby appealing. My longtime college pals, the composers Tom Jones/Harvey Schmidt are walking on air. Almost 50 years since writing “The Fantasticks,” they now have two revivals running within four blocks of each other. Talk about a last-minute tug at the Tonys.
(Email Liz Smith at MES3838@aol.com)