A Diva's Dilemma
Ross finds you can't curry love with high prices and substitute singers

Focus

First things first: The Return to Love tour has been something of a misnomer from the start. Shortly after it was announced that Diana Ross and the Supremes would stage a reunion came news that, thanks to financial and creative squabbles, founding member Mary Wilson would not take part. Ditto Cindy Birdsong, who replaced the late Florence Ballard, the third original Supreme.

By the time Ross took to the road last month with latter-day Supremes Scheme Payne and Lynda Laurence, it appeared that fan affection was but a pale reflection of the love that used to be. Local papers reported sluggish ticket sales in Columbus, Ohio (3,000 of 19,000 seats sold), and Tampa (5,000 of 20,000), and poor advance sales elsewhere. Even the June 19 Detroit show was "far from a sellout," says Gary Bongiovanni of concert-trade magazine Pollstar. "That's not good when you're a Motown act playing in Motown."

The Supreme snub, says Bongiovanni, is a result of the public's view that the tour "wasn't a real Supremes reunion." Wilson agrees. "People who wanted a reunion will not go," she told The Philadelphia Inquirer. Also damaging: a top-tier ticket price of $250. Tina Turner, Ross's contemporary, is charging $85 tops on her current tour and doing fine. "I'd like it to be better," Ross conceded recently. Still, tour publicist Rick Gomes insists, "it's going great. We have not canceled any dates and we don't plan to."

Sting's King Gets Dinged
Every move you make, every pawn you take, every king you mate, I'll be watching you: He didn't quite present the challenge of, say, IBM's Deep Blue, but singer-actor-activist-chess hound Sting still managed to put up a fight in a June 29 charity match against legendary grand master Garry Kasparov. To keep his attention from wandering, Kasparov simultaneously played four of the singer's band members during the New York City event, which benefited the Rainforest Foundation. The Russian champ handily picked off each musician until only Sting's king was standing; the British balladeer conceded. "We've played before, so I knew it was going to be a public humiliation," Sting told USA Today after the match. "I had no illusions about this." Still, he'll try again—but maybe without an audience. Asked if there might be a rematch, Kasparov said, "Yes, but not a public one."

Oh, Those Cosmopolitan Girls

Okay, maybe you can't have their limitless designer wardrobes or even their gym-toned bodies. But nearly everyone can afford that other essential accessory of the women of HBO's hip-hot Sex and the City: the cosmopolitan. Sweet, pink and well-chilled, cosmos—traditionally a mix of vodka, Triple Sec and cranberry and lime juice—have become the trendiest cocktail since James Bond's not-stirred martini. "The impact the show has had on the cosmopolitan—I've never seen anything like it," says Frank Marro, who tends bar at the Green Dolphin Street in Chicago. "Sales have shot up dramatically."

Says Rita Berlin, manager of Manhattan lounge Whiskey Park: "We go through several bottles of vodka a night, and I'd attribute it to [the show]." Martini Bar in Florida's Coconut Grove and the Asia de Cuba bar in L.A.'s Mondrian hotel report similar results. Also notable, but not surprising: The cosmo probably wouldn't be John Wayne's first choice after a dusty trail ride.

"Mostly women order them," says Amy Sacco, owner of Lot 61 in Manhattan, where cosmos now account for about a quarter of all liquor sales. But men, she adds, are "slowly starting to get into them."

A Winfrey Windfall

The press doesn't hesitate to point out when celebs do something dumb, so it seems only fair that it should also be clearly noted when a celeb does something extraordinarily decent. A remarkable example occurred on June 28, shortly after guest of honor Oprah Winfrey, as a surprise, was serenaded by members of the Abyssinian Baptist Church at a New York City luncheon organized by the nonprofit group A Better Chance, which places academically gifted minority students in top-ranked high schools that they might otherwise be unable to attend. "We know that she's spiritual and she likes music," says A Better Chance's president, Judith Berry Griffin. "We thought, 'This is as good as it gets.' "

Sometimes it gets even better. The guru of gab, who has supported the group in the past, then took the stage and held up a check for $10 million. "I was absolutely stunned!" says Griffin. Winfrey says her very, very large largesse was prompted by the group's approach: "A Better Chance has proven that you can make a difference in a child's life when it counts the most."

Spears's Louisiana Louvre

In Memphis, pilgrims venerate the King. In Kentwood, La., the big draw is current Princess of Pop Britney Spears, who grew up in the three-stoplight town (population 2,700) and whose family still lives there. "It's pretty common for teens to

come to town looking for Britney's stuff," says Kentwood city council member Kathy Bryan. Hoping to capitalize, locals have drawn up plans for the Britney Spears Museum, to be housed in a section of the Kentwood Museum, which currently features military memorabilia.

Isn't it premature to be curating the career of someone with just two albums? Not according to Bryan, who is working on the project with Spears's mom, Lynne, and museum director Sandy Reed, and who notes that the 18-year-old singer is "very pleased with the idea." Starting next year the faithful will be able to view various pieces of Britney arcana, including a necklace she wore in last year's Mardi Gras parade and two dresses she sported as a kid contestant on Star Search all those years ago.

In York, Honk If You Love Geese

Duck! Duck! Duck—goose! A refrain from the popular children's game, yes, but in York, England, those words are also an increasingly overheard warning. It seems that a gaggle of 100 Canada geese have invaded York's Rowntree Park and rendered it most foul. Concerned that the droppings pose a health hazard, the City of York Council plans to kill half the birds by lethal injection.

When Yorkshire-born Dame Judi Dench got wind of it, she fired off a letter calling for a reprieve. "I am outraged that the geese are under threat," wrote Shakespeare in Love's Queen Elizabeth. "I desperately hope that the Council will change its mind and act in a compassionate manner"—preferably by accepting an offer to house the birds at the Swan Lifeline Sanctuary in Windsor. The city says it will consider the options. Anna Peri of the sanctuary notes that Dench "is very altruistic and passionate about the protection of wildlife."

POP QUIZ

with Tommy Lee Jones

He has had great success chasing people (The Fugitive) and aliens (Men in Black), but in real life there are few things Tommy Lee Jones would rather do than mount up, grab a mallet and pursue the ball in a game of polo. Scoop talked to the native Texan, 53, at the Traditional Jewelers Christopher Reeve Polo Classic, a charity match in San Juan Capistrano, Calif.

Why polo?

When I first came to California from New York, I hoped to resume my athletic life, which is hard to maintain in New York. I could no longer play football. I tried tennis, but it was too boring. Golf was too slow. I had started roping calves when I was a boy, and in California I hung out with some polo players. One of them gave me a mallet. All of a sudden I owned eight horses.

Could you use any of your old football skills in your new sport?

Football is designed to create a collision. Polo is designed to avoid them.

You have said, "Polo is the finest thing a man and a horse can do together." Why is that?

It has to do with the quality of the horse and one's ability to ride him. It's a skill. It's an old art.

Do you practice much?

The motion picture business has been hard on my polo. You need to practice every day. A string of polo horses is like running a football team. You need to work them every day too.

Is polo risky? Can you keep from getting injured?

Yes. Just don't do anything stupid. Do your kids play? My daughter [Victoria, 8] has shown an interest. My son [Austin, 17] has not.

Do you consider polo to be an elitist sport?

Yes. If you can't ride a horse, you can't play polo. In Texas, it's not socially elite. But it's not for the common rider. The common image of white duck pants, blue blazers, big hats and champagne flutes on the sidelines doesn't exist in Texas. It's rare anywhere.

A quick description?

It's fast. If you can't think, you can't play.

Should more people play?

I would encourage everyone to spend as much time as possible near a horse.

ON THE BLOCK

HARVEY'S HUDSON HIDEAWAY
He tends to play tough guys on film, but offscreen, Brooklyn-born Harvey Keitel knows what it's like to be a country gentleman. Now the actor has decided to sell the retreat. What will $650,000 get you? An 1860 two-bedroom stone house on 4.3 acres in bucolic Stone Ridge, N.Y., about 100 miles north of New York City, along with a pond, stream, pool, cabana and a barn where the Pulp Fiction heavy is said to house a punching bag. One more plus: Local real estate agent Kate Wetherby says the property, at the foot of the Catskills, is "made private with natural landscaping."

  • Contributors:
  • Michelle Tauber,
  • Kathryn Beaumont,
  • Ivory Clinton II,
  • Chris Coats,
  • Alexander Drexler,
  • Mariela Flambury,
  • Michael Fleeman,
  • Lucia Greene,
  • Kristin Harmel,
  • Melissa Harris,
  • Esther Leach,
  • Ulrica Wihlborg.