Vital Signs

Fillet of Soul

Entertainment industry awards shows are, almost by definition, public orgies of televised backslapping. Still, TV viewers stick with them, not so much to discover what the best movie, TV show, or record is—for each viewer already knows what's best—but in order to see personalities in environments that put them out of character and in competition with other celebrities. During, say, the telecast of the Miss America pageant, there's no panning the audience. But during an awards show, audience shots are often a highlight of the presentation.

These thoughts were engendered by a viewing of the Dick Clark-produced American Music Awards. The AMA (and let there be no confusion with the medical organization—although the aid of a few physicians could have been helpful to an industry suffering from outsized egos) has been around for 14 years. It's not quite the Grammys. Still, it had a contingent of performers that will rival the show that results in little gold stickers on album jackets.

This year's hostess was Diana Ross. Diana has gone from being the lead singer in a popular soul trio to a lonely mainstream voice looking for a style. In her opening number, Ross spent an inordinate amount of time with her skirt being blown up around her waist a la Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch. Later in the show, Ross did a tribute to Billie Holliday, whom she portrayed several...

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