❉ Critics panned it, audiences loved it. We celebrate the insanity that is Diana Ross’s 1975 movie Mahogany.
‘Mahogany’ is not just any bad movie. It is a cinematic train wreck of epic proportions that somehow works its way all the way back to brilliant. ‘Mahogany’ takes the concept of camp and elevates it to a whole new level. You may not know where you’re going to, but you will not care once this frenzied movie starts.
‘Diana Ross as Mahogany’ debuted in cinemas in October of 1975. Reports of theatre damages resulting from sonic shocks vary dependent upon where one secures information.
Critics panned it. Audiences lined up to see it. The film did especially well in France, though it would appear this was largely due to the fact that many of the French mistook ‘Mahogany’ for satire. Most importantly it inspired several generations of drag queens! Ms. RuPaul was at the head of the line!
Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing ‘Mahogany’ at several public screenings. This has given me opportunity to speak with several who saw it upon its initial release. I secured feedback from some of those original audience members:
“Oh, child! We loved it! It was Diana Ross looking fierce!”
“I loved it, but we were laughing at it back then.”
“It is a seminal work of cinematic art! It is not camp! Back off, bitch!”
“Like Miss Ross, I was there for the stunningly beautiful fashion! She designed the clothing!”
“I do not really speak of ‘Mahogany’. What happens in that cinema stays there.”
My family had a copy of the movie’s soundtrack album. It featured the big hit single. The ‘Mahogany’ soundtrack essentially strings together various instrumental versions of that one song along with only a couple of flaccid disco instrumentals in between. But that album cover rocked my gay seven year old eyes! It was fierce! An illustrated incorrectly proportioned Miss Ross is decked out in a flowing gown covered with her character’s name plus a fab pair of long purple gloves.
It would be a decade before the movie was released to VHS. Interestingly, that tape was not particularly easy to locate. But ‘Mahogany’’s release to DVD is the thing of legend. Paramount knew there were buyers waiting for it, but they didn’t do much in the way of remastering other than to ensure it was presented in widescreen format. I pre-ordered my copy. It was due to arrive in 2006! But then something horrific happened. Miss Ross found out that ‘Mahogany’ was about to be sent back into the world.
She panicked and set out to utilise every connection and every last shred of power she had to halt the DVD’s release. For over eight months, the Diva held all of Paramount’s newly printed and packaged DVDs hostage. Luck for all of us, Paramount, Berry Gordy, and Boy George were able to convince Miss Ross to relent. Look, I am not jerking your chain! This is the information that was being passed around. It is allegedly true. Just think – The Boy might be the reason we now have access to ‘Mahogany’.
‘Mahogany’ is not just any bad movie. It is a cinematic train wreck of epic proportions that somehow works its way all the way back to brilliant. ‘Mahogany’ takes the concept of camp and elevates it to a whole new level. You may not know where you’re going to, but you will not care once this frenzied movie starts. This is one cult movie that never lets the viewer down. ‘Mahogany’ is more fun than attending a county fair under the influence of MDMA!
Like its battle to the DVD player, the film’s production was not easy. Berry Gordy originally secured Tony Richardson to direct the movie that promised to cement Diana Ross’ standing as The Most Brilliant Star of All Time! It was also expected to push Miss Ross forward as a respected fashion designer! What was Berry Gordy’s goal? The main objective was to make both Faye Dunaway and Yves Saint Laurent envious! But to be fair, Diana Ross did not share these goals. Mostly all she ever wanted was to look beautiful in dazzling gowns. Much fuss was made regarding her fashion designs, but she only created the five gowns shown in the film’s opening scene. These five designs are bad enough to last any Diva’s lifetime.
Miss Ross was actually quite upset when Gordy fired Richardson. She tried to get out of making the movie, but The Master of Motown was the only being who actually frightened The Main Supreme. Miss Ross was forced to make this movie. It is your duty to man-up and see it!
I put forward the following reasons you should see ‘Mahogany’:
❉ See The Fashion Montage that inspired RuPaul Andre Charles to become RuPaul!
❉ See Miss Ross spin, move, dance and squeal at her peak weight of 35 pounds!
❉ See some of the most God-awful clothing ever created!
❉ Hear the hit song over and over again in various lush interpretations!
❉ Experience Miss Ross as she twirls and screeches for the camera! “Weeeeeee!”
❉ Marvel at the power and beauty of Super Modelling!
❉ Grapple with the endless struggles of boundless beauty and glam!
❉ See Anthony Perkins as The Most Important Fashion Photographer in the World!
❉ See Mr. Perkins’ Moose Knuckle in an endless array of pants so tight he can barely think!
❉ See Norman Bates force Miss Ross to pose, vogue and swim!
❉ See Miss Ross halt a rapist dead in his tracks with but a few snappy words of jive!
❉ See a young Billy D. Williams swoon over Miss Ross’ awesome erotic charms!
❉ Hold on to yourself for the most awkward and uncomfortable homoerotic wrestling matches ever filmed!
❉ Guess who wants that hot oiled gun of love the most? Miss Ross, Billy D., or Norman?
❉ Watch Out for Miss Ross’ one and only brief nude scene! Don’t blink! You might miss it!
❉ Find out if Death can be captured in a fashion shoot!
❉ See some of the worst injury make-up ever put forward in the history of film!
❉ See a Diva pushed to the absolute limit and snarl, bite fabric and howl at her subordinates!
❉ See a Super Model attempt to surrender to the higher calling of American politics!
According to those who should know, Diana Ross prefers to be called “Miss Ross.” Allegedly she refuses to speak of ‘Mahogany’. Allegedly she reserves the right to have any person/persons physically removed far from her sight should they mention her glorious 1975 movie. Somehow the Diva’s odd refusal to offer even a nod to ‘Mahogany’ makes viewing it all the more fun.
As the insanity of ‘Mahogany’ unspools, it is important to note that Miss Ross is sitting somewhere silently judging you.
❉ ‘Mahogany’ is currently out of print on DVD. You can watch it on YouTube, but remember, not a word to Miss Ross!