Diana Ross has finally broken her silence on ex-Supreme Florence Ballard, who died recently at 32, while on welfare. "Did I cry? Yes, I cried," says Ross. "People tried to help Florence. I tried to help her. Sometimes I wanted to get hold of her and shake her, but nothing seemed to work." Then, harking back to Ballard's split from the group in 1967, Diana continued, "She had it all, and she threw it away. She quit the Supremes—we didn't quit her. Don't make too big a thing of this. Florence was very important in my life, but I'm not dead. She did this to herself." Still, Diana attended Ballard's funeral—which some Motown brass, including Berry Gordy, skipped—and she has quietly started a trust fund for her ex-partner's three young children.
Hollywood tongues are still a flap over the recent party at which Swedish actress Britt Ekland did or did not slug her man, singer Rod Stewart. Seems Stewart was paying undue attention to starlet Susan George (who made a previous publicized move at Wimbledon last year cavorting with Jimmy Connors while Chris Evert fretted). "I have known Susan George for years—I certainly don't regard her as competition," explains Britt. "I'm no slut. I don't get drunk, and I don't hit people in public." Stewart agrees, up to a point. "She didn't hit me at the party," says Rod, "but she gave me a right-hander when we got home."
Back in the 1960s, "Coca-Colonization" was an epithet coined by foreign nationalists to protest the global hegemony of American products. Recently, the sovereign of Tonga, a Southwest Pacific island kingdom, checked into the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in L.A. Did the well-traveled King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV order up gourmet food from room service? No, his 400-pound majesty preferred to send out for a midnight snack of 30 Big Macs.
The flick Lucky Lady still continues to twirl more intramural tension than turnstiles. Now Burt Reynolds reveals that "about eight times Gene Hackman turned into a Popeye Doyle and almost drowned [director Stanley] Donen" before shooting was wrapped. Not that Burt is all that enthralled with Donen. Asked at a press conference if he'd work with him again, Burt snapped, "No." A subsequent letter of apology to Donen, says Reynolds, earned him a terse response: "Up yours."
Off the Rack
In America, polls to determine the most admired women usually find the likes of Rose Kennedy and Golda Meir at the top. But in France, when a cross section of women between 25 and 45 was asked whom they most identified with, the winner—and resulting choice for a $200,000 contract for several days' shooting of TV spots for ready-to-wear clothes—was Brigitte Bardot, 41.
•Charlotte Rae, a onetime Emmy nominee and at present co-star of NBC's Rich Little Show, was so knocked out by Ann-Margret's last special that she dashed off a fan note and mailed it c/o the network. Rae, 49, says she received a prompt answer: "A form letter and an application to join Ann-Margret's fan club."
•If Glenda (Hedda) Jackson blows the Best Actress Oscar by one vote, she'll have only herself to kick. Seems the British actress, already a two-time winner, neglected to cough up her $50 annual dues (that's the nonresident rate—Yanks pay $75) to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. So the Academy revoked her membership—and her ballot.
•At a recent Washington shindig, a three-decade veteran counseled a beleaguered foe. "If you don't laugh in this town," Hubert Humphrey told Henry Kissinger, "you'll go nuts."
•On Kojak, Telly Savalas picks on brother cop Stavros (played by his bushy-haired real-life sibling George) as much as on perpetrators. But, according to Demosthenes (George's stage name), "when the cameras aren't looking, I sure get my own back. Any time Telly comes with that Hollywood star bit, I've got a pair of sharp pointed shoes to kick him right in the butt."