Diana Ross Prepares Supremes Tour Without Famed Group Mates

Summer outing, with replacement members Scherrie Payne and Lynda Laurence, to begin June 14.

NEW YORK — Downplaying the absence of her former group mates, Diana Ross announced on Tuesday (April 4) an upcoming tour featuring her and two replacement Supremes.

"The tour's not about me; it's not about individuals," Ross said as she stood on a stage next to Lynda Laurence and Scherrie Payne, who joined the Supremes in the early '70s, after the legendary girl group's fall from prominence. "It's really about the music, and it's about what we represented — and still represent — in music, as far as image and possibility."

Ross, 56, made the comments from Grand Central Station, during a press conference to announce the 30-date summer tour featuring Diana Ross and the Supremes, as they're being billed. The Return to Love tour will be the first time Ross has performed with Laurence and Payne. It will kick off June 14 in Philadelphia.

Ross' comments came as wire reports surfaced that former Supreme Mary Wilson claimed Ross was offered significantly more money for the tour than either she or their former partner, Cindy Birdsong. Wilson, according to Reuters, said she was offered $2 million and Birdsong $1 million, leaving Ross with the remaining $15 million to $20 million in talent fees.

Arthur Fogel, who is promoting the tour, denied Wilson's assertions. Ross said all eight women who've been members of the group throughout the past 40 years were offered slots on the tour.

Wilson, who is touring in England as part of a revue, and Birdsong could not be reached for comment.

Together Ross, Wilson and Birdsong sang a succession of Motown hits, including "Stop! In the Name of Love" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Baby Love," between 1964 and 1970, the year Ross quit. Wilson hired Laurence and Payne to join in the group. Laurence said she was excited about the outing, regardless of the circumstances.

"It's wonderful to be able to sing the music that people love and that's transcended time, and to be able to be part of a group that was, and still is, an incredible image for young people," Laurence said.

Tickets for select shows go on sale next week, according to Fogel. Ross said she's contacted songwriters Denise Rich, Diane Warren and Luther Vandross about writing a song called "Return to Love," to serve as the tour's theme.

Diana Ross and the Supremes tour dates:

June 14; Philadelphia, Pa.; First Union Spectrum

June 16; Pittsburgh, Pa.; Mellon Arena

June 17; Cleveland, Ohio; Gund Arena

June 19; Auburn Hills, Mich.; Palace of Auburn Hills

June 22; Atlanta, Ga.; Philips Arena

June 24; Tampa, Fla.; Ice Palace

June 25; Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.; National Car Rental Center

June 28; Houston, Texas; Compaq Center

June 29; Dallas, Texas; Reunion Arena

July 1; Chicago, Ill.; Allstate Arena

July 4; Toronto, Ontario; Air Canada Centre

July 6; New York, N.Y.; Madison Square Garden

July 9; Washington, D.C.; MCI Center

July 12; Hartford, Conn.; Hartford Civic Center

July 13; Boston, Mass.; FleetCenter

July 17; St. Louis, Mo.; Kiel Center

July 19; Minneapolis, Minn.; Target Center

July 21; Denver, Colo.; Pepsi Center

July 24; Seattle, Wash.; Key Arena

July 28; San Jose, Calif.; San Jose Arena

July 31; Phoenix, Ariz.; America West Arena

Aug. 3; Anaheim, Calif.; Arrowhead Pond

Aug. 5; Las Vegas, Nev.; MGM Grand Hotel and Casino