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Diana Ross '83 Central Park Show Coming to DVD/Public TV

By Rich Heldenfels Published: March 1, 2012

The official word: The legendary New York concert special Diana Ross—Live In Central Park will be released for the first time on DVD on May 15, 2012, it was announced today by Shout! Factory. Originally broadcast in 1983, the concert has never before been made available for home entertainment. Diana Ross—Live In Central Park will contain the entire concert special as it was broadcast, and the bonus features include the complete rain-shortened concert as well as a new commentary by director Steve Binder (The T.A.M.I. Show, Elvis: The ’68 Comeback Special). Additionally, American Public Television will be making a broadcast version of the main program available to their Premium Service client stations beginning March 1st.

Historic. That’s the first word that comes to mind in describing the phenomenal free concert that Diana Ross gave for the people of New York City nearly 30 years ago.

Or, to be precise, concert and a half.

To call the event memorable would be an understatement. On July 21, 1983, Diana Ross—already a legendary superstar for more than two decades—arrived in all her radiant glory on the makeshift Central Park stage and began singing her heart out. From her first number, Diana had the audience’s love. She wanted to give them her all and she was well on her way, but nature had something else in mind.

What started as a hair-whipping wind and bothersome drizzle soon became a threatening torrential downpour. Diana—soaked through and through but never leaving the open-air stage—braved the rain as long as she could, but ultimately put an end to the show at the halfway mark. Not one to disappoint, Diana promised to return the next day.

And she did! Over the two day event it was estimated that over a million fans attended the two concerts. Initially broadcast live around the world, with Diana’s proceeds going toward a new Central Park playground built in her name, this renowned concert was never again shown on television and remained largely unseen for 30 years. Now, with the release of Diana Ross—Live In Central Park by Shout! Factory, the entire spectacular concert, and the rain-shortened concert that preceded it, will be made available for the first time on DVD.

Directed by Steve Binder—who originally worked with Diana Ross when he directed 1964’s iconic rock concert film The T.A.M.I. Show, when Miss Ross was still with the legendary Supremes—Diana Ross—Live In Central Park is a close-up look at one of the greatest entertainers of the past half-century at the top of her game.

In addition to the DVD release on May 15, the main program of Diana Ross—Live In Central Park will also begin airing nationally on stations subscribing to American Public Television’s Premium Service, bearing the special’s original title, “Diana Ross: For One And For All.” Public Television broadcast rights begin March 1, 2012. Participating stations include New York’s Thirteen and WLIW 21 as well as KVCR in Los Angeles, KQED in San Francisco, KRMA in Denver, VegasPBS, KETC St. Louis, WQED in Pittsburgh, Maryland Public Television, WNED in Buffalo and WPBT in Miami, to name just a few. “Diana Ross: For One And For All” is supplied by Northstar Media in association with American Public Television’s Premium Service, a fund that provides fundraising specials to member stations, now in it’s 23rd season. With the financial backing of their public television client stations, APT Premium Service has secured many of public television’s most prestigious and highest-rated programs.

Recalling that fated first concert, Diana remembers: “The entire park was wall-to-wall people. It was an electrical storm. It was alive with energy…an incredible moment of my career. The rain came down like sheets of shimmering glass. I think about that day that turned into night. I wasn’t afraid, even though many were afraid for me. I just wanted the thousands that came to the performance to be safe. My dream came pouring down.”

Ever the trouper, Diana soldiered on, persevering and never losing her calm, eager to continue performing even as the elements continued their assault, sweeping across the city. “It took me a lifetime to get here and I’m not going anywhere!” Diana assured the massive throng on that soggy first night. Alas, Diana realized that canceling the remainder of the show was the wisest choice, but she says now, “I promised the audience that I would be back the next day, that we were not going to cancel.”

At first there was some doubt whether the rescheduled concert could even take place, as the Great Lawn in Central Park was still saturated from the previous night’s deluge just hours before the show was scheduled to begin. But finally, city officials gave the green light and a radiant Diana rewound and kept her word.

Did she ever! Launching into “I’m Coming Out,” her smash of a few years earlier, Diana unleashed hit after hit, including such Top 10 favorites as “Upside Down,” “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “Endless Love,” “Mirror, Mirror,” “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand),” “Muscles” and her definitive remake of Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers’ “Why Do Fools Fall in Love.” Resplendent in one spicy outfit after the next, busting moves as only she can, the smile never leaving her face, she paid tribute to her early success with the Supremes by performing “You Can’t Hurry Love,” “Baby Love,” “Stop! In the Name of Love” and more, and saluted her Motown friends Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson with, respectively, “Ribbon In The Sky” and “Beat It.” Whether stomping out a dance song (“Maniac”), singing the blues (Billie Holiday’s “God Bless the Child”), funky soul (“It’s My House”) or crooning a heartfelt ballad (“Family”), Diana Ross proved herself to be the consummate professional from the moment she took the stage on that wild first afternoon until she said goodbye to New York at the conclusion of the triumphant makeup show.

“This may be the most important moment of my life,” Diana at one point told the multitude that had braved the storm to see her and had now returned to Central Park and the millions more watching at home. Now, once again, with this release, we can all share once again what Binder, who received a Cable Ace Award for his direction of the show, calls “one of the most historical and greatest music concert events ever staged by any artist in Central Park.”

Today, so many years later, the only downpour will be the flood of joy overcoming everyone who watches Diana Ross—Live In Central Park.

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