Diana Ross's concerts at the Sporting Club in Monte-Carlo – June 29, 30 and July 1st, 2001
Monday 7, May 2001 – email to Joey, my dear friend from San Francisco: 
(…) I have just learned today fantastic news: Diana Ross is coming to Monaco for 3 concerts at Monte Carlo June 29, 30 and July 1. The venue is rather small (950 persons) but the prices are for this kind of concerts a lot less expensive that what I would have thought. (it’s 138 euros for dinner & show and 77 euros for a show only!) I will go to the three concerts… Why wouldn’t you plan to stay longer with me for the Diana Ross concerts????? You cannot miss that!!! (…) 
Joey’s reply, Wednesday 9 May: 
I DO want to go to the concerts with you – I hope you haven’t bought the tickets yet. I can’t afford all three dinners, however. I could do one dinner and all three concerts. 
We’ll talk later. 
Joey’s next reply, the same day: 
Hi, Well, let me think about the dinners. Maybe I can do all three – it would be wonderful to be that close to La Ross. I can’t believe this is happening!!!!!!!!!!!!! I was so excited about this news that I didn’t even notice the end of your letter, saying you would be here in September (…)* 
Grosses bises! 

(* I had planned a trip to SF in mid-September which was cancelled due to the 09/11 attacks) 

That’s how it began… 
   My friend and I rejoined Joey in Paris the week previous the Monte-Carlo concerts and spent most of the week there. Unfortunately, my friend couldn’t go with us to Monte-Carlo and had to go back to home to work. So, Joey and I took a train early in the morning, on Friday, June 29, from Paris to Nice, were I had made reservations for a hotel.

   Like Joey, it was my first time at the French Riviera – and, believe me, it deserves its reputation: it’s beautiful! – We arrived in Nice in the afternoon, just soon enough to rent a car, get a bit lost in the city while looking for the hotel and get dressed for the concerts. We had to wear a jacket and a tie for the dinner-concerts. And the weather was terribly hot! 

   The Sporting Club where those concerts would be held is rather small: when I took the reservations for the tickets, I was told it could only hold 950 people, so it promised to be rather intimate concerts. Diana Ross already performed here, at least once for the World Music Awards in 1996, where she surprised everyone by wearing an amazing blond wig.
   From the moment I bought the tickets for those concerts, I dreamed of what could happen during those three days. I had read so many stories of fans being invited on stage to dance with Diana Ross, and others discussing with her after some shows! I already had been to several of her concerts and I knew that she almost always asked someone to come on stage to dance with her during “Upside Down”. If only that could happen to me! No, that’s impossible! Wake up Laurent! You are dreaming! If only she could shake my hand, I would be happy… but I brought her autobiography in my luggage, just in case one of those crazy dreams would come to reality. 
   I knew we would meet my longtime Parisian friend Thierry there.

  After being first in correspondence through the fan club magazine, Thierry and I met for the first time during Diana Ross’s previous European tour in June 1997 in Brussels, but that’s another story.

   Around 6:30, while Joey and I were still at the hotel, Thierry suddenly phoned me and just told me: “Listen!” Diana’s band was playing in the background, rehearsing and doing the sound check. Thierry was already there behind the band!

   There was no security at all (maybe because there is security men everywhere in Monaco!) and he could almost go everywhere he wanted to. He told me they rehearsed a few songs, including “It’s My Turn”, “I Will Survive” and “The Best Years Of My Life”.

   I immediately thought of Betsy, coming especially from the USA, who desperately wanted to hear “It’s My Turn” live. I knew she would be happy. I personally already had the chance to listen to this terrific song live once, in Brussels in 1997, where Diana performed a wonderful rendition, almost a capella, as a special unplanned encore at the very end of the show, in a cool white offstage cloth, and barefoot. What a wonderful memory!
Diana Ross in Bruxelles in 1997
performing "It's My Turn"

  Joey and I arrived very early, around 7:30, but unfortunately the band was leaving, so we waited patiently until 8:30 to be placed (well, we were actually very excited and couldn’t wait to see our Diva after four years of a long wait, but we stood very still not to draw any attention!).

   Thierry, Joey and I were seated together for the three shows. Then, when the waiter showed us our table, we were not satisfied at all: we were almost as far as possible from the stage!

  Comparing to the places Diana Ross usually performs, we were probably already closer than we could have hoped in bigger concert places, but for the Sporting Club, we were rather unlucky.

    We just hoped that it would be different for the next two shows.

   The show began after the dinner, around 10:45, with
a great new introduction to “I’m Coming Out”.

    It was the kind of introduction that really put some thrill, tension and excitement until “I’m Coming Out” began. At first, Thierry thought it was the introduction of “He Lives In You”. It truly could have been and it would have been great to hear songs from her last album “Every Day Is A New Day”, but unfortunately she didn’t perform any.

   During the introduction, the large place left empty between the tables, elevated to become the stage, and the band was on a flat board that moved forward from the very back of the stage surrounded by smoke.

   After a few words sung from backstage, Diana finally appeared in the middle of her band in a beautiful yellow gown she already wore in the USA during the “Return To Love” tour.

    The show was on!
   The audience for this first concert was rather cold at the beginning. But Diana, without any doubt, can work a difficult audience and many people felt the need to offer her flowers during the show.

  For whatever reason, it seemed that no one thought of bringing flowers (it’s probably not the kind of place where this is done or the kind of audience not to be prepared to be entertained that much… uh!) so some of them began to pick flowers that were decorating the tables to offer them to the Diva and even to throw them!

   Joey, Thierry and I looked at each other thinking it was really pitiful. Diana Ross herself might have think the same because at one moment, after telling the audience that it was enough, she even threw one flower back to its sender. It was so funny to see her react like that!
   Apparently, the only other fans in the audience were concentrated at a table situated at the right side of the stage. They rocked the house during “Upside Down” and the Supremes’ medley.
A group a fans on stage during "Upside Down"
   Diana seemed then to spend a lot more time at this side of the stage, which was exactly at the opposite side from us!

   That could not be! No, no, no!

  During “If We Hold On Together”, we all decided to move there. We didn’t care if we were allowed or not, but we definitely didn’t want to spend the rest of the show at that place. So we waited until the end of the song and moved during “Why Do Fools Fall In Love”.

  We spent the rest of the show crouched on the right edge of the stage, in front of the other fans! I took a lot of photos during this concert but none of with a flash because I didn’t want to disturb the Diva (well, yes… I didn’t want to be kicked out either). Needless to say that none of them worked properly. I understood later why her bodyguard (I didn’t know who he was at that time) let me take so many pictures without saying anything! I was actually beside him during a long time at the end of the concert and he could watch the result of my photos on the screen of my camera! I have to laugh now when I think about this!
Diana's entrance after a change  
a sample of my blurry photos...
   The place we moved to during the concert was also the side where she left every time she went backstage to change outfits between songs.
   While we were waving and screaming her name at the end of “Endless Love”, before exiting the stage, she suddenly bent herself to give us her hand!
   Wow! We couldn’t believe it! And we still had two more nights!
Saturday, June 30, 2001  
   The next day, Joey and I spent the end of the morning and the afternoon walking in Nice trying to find flowers for our Lady.

   The weather was incredibly hot and we walked for several hours under the sun. It was Saturday and florists were surprisingly all closed. The only one we found open hadn’t anything satisfying.


   But we wouldn’t give up! We were decided not to let the same pitiful table-flower episode happen again (Joey also decided that a new law should be voted obliging every florists in the area the Diva is performing to stay open…hmmm).

   We finally found one with very nice bunches of flowers. On our way back to the hotel, exhausted by the heat, we found out to our great despair that there was another great florist just two blocks from the hotel that we would have found right away, had we just turned the other way downtown!

   Now we just had enough time to write our cards, take a shower and get dressed to arrive a bit late for the meeting of fans from different Internet mailing lists that was planned in front of the Sporting Club before the concert.
   Joey and I met Thierry again and then we waited outside to try to find the other fans. We noticed a group that was obviously a lot younger than the average audience at those concerts and that, like us, didn’t have the same attitude than the rich people that were still arriving.

   After a few minutes of hesitations, I asked one of them if they were the group of fans. They were! The funny thing is that I asked that, in English of course, to the only other French fan from the group, Stephan, whose English accent was so good that I thought at first he was American! There, was also his boyfriend, Betsy and her sister from the USA, and Francesco and his boyfriend from Italy.

   After a few minutes spent in introducing ourselves and talking about our Ross stories, a silver Mercedes stopped rather close to us.

  As Miss Ross got out of the car, all the discussions suddenly stopped to look at the Lady walking to the backstage entrance. I even had no idea that we were so close to it!

   Wow, another Ross moment. She looked so beautiful! (I then realized that the tall and handsome black guy I was taking photos next to the day before was her bodyguard!)
   It was then time to go to our tables. While we waited to be placed, we saw Shirley Bassey arriving. Another great star that looks stunning. Little suspense: where are we going to be seated tonight? And what are we going to eat?

   When the waiter saw the three of us with flowers, he scolded us as if we were children: “Why are you bringing this? It’s dangerous.” We all looked at each other, stunned by this stupid remark (and besides, the tables were decorated with flowers… we didn’t know we were in danger during the dinner!)

   Fortunately a very good surprise was waiting for us: Joey, Thierry and I were seated at the same table occupied by the group of fans the day before and it was very close to the stage. Fantastic! But the menu was the same and then I knew that we will also have the same one for the third evening. Well… even if it was very good, I thought it way too expensive for what it was, and I wasn’t here for the menu anyway!

   The long awaited show began like the day before. Was it because of us, or was it because Diana remembered the group of fans that was seated here the previous evening, it seemed to me that she still spent most of her time directed to us. It was definitely a good place to be!

   And then came “Upside Down”.

  After she told the audience “I can see you chair dancing!” the music got louder. I think we were all standing  and dancing at our table,  enjoying the show 
and the music, when she suddenly pointed her finger toward Joey asking him on stage.

   Wow, I couldn’t believe it, and neither did he. He asked, pointing a finger to himself: “Me?” “Yes, you” commended the Diva. A few seconds later, he was dancing with her, rocking the house. And then, she outstretched her arms and he hugged her.
Joey on stage with Diana Ross
   She probably had no idea how important it was to him. It was really a dream come true. I don’t know where he found the force to go on stage. He had told me several times that he would probably collapse or faint if one day this would happen, or that he would probably have to be brought to hospital!

   He also told me once that, when he was a teenager already obsessed by Diana Ross, his mother told him that he would have a better chance to meet Jesus than Diana Ross! She didn’t know she was wrong!
   After “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” I knew that, according to the previous night, there would be only two more songs: “Endless Love” and “I Will Survive” as an encore.

   To offer her the flowers during a dance song was unthinkable, so I had no choice: it had to be done during “Endless Love”. “Gee, it’s now or never!” I thought. I asked Joey some advice about the appropriate moment, still wondering if I should wait the end of the song or not. “Two hearts… two hearts that beat as one…” was his suggestion.

   “Great idea!” I thought, even if that was a bit pretentious, and I began to move closer to the stage. At that moment I was so stressed that I had no idea where the song was, when she would sing those words, and I couldn’t remember any words of the song. “Never mind, I go”. 
   As I went alongside the stage closer to its corner, Diana saw me approaching with the bunch of flowers and then she made a very little sign to her bodyguard. I knew then that I could go further.

   I moved slowly to the front of the middle of the stage. There were stairs...

   What should I do? Should I wait that she comes to take the flowers or go on stage? Before I even found an answer, my feet were already almost at the top of the stairs!

- “You shouldn’t have done this during a song” she said between two lines of the song.

   Of course she was right. I was completely out of my mind, and like an automaton incapable of thinking reasonably. I felt so embarrassed that I was totally  petrified but she quickly reassessed which made me feel a bit more comfortable. 

- “Two hearts.” 

   I offered her the flowers. 

- “Thank you! - Two hearts that beat as one.”  

   I was surprisingly perfect on time. She outstretched her arms so that I could hug her. Twice. I told her a few words and then it was time to leave the stage.

   I wanted this moment so badly and for so long that I couldn’t make up my mind to turn her my back and go off stage. So I began to do two or three steps backward not knowing how far were the stairs behind me. My face suddenly showed that I was a bit scared of falling down. Only Diana noticed it and her expression also changed, seeing the disaster that would happen.

   Then she graciously held out her right hand which I took and kissed and held until I reached the first step. I was surprised by the very favorable audience’s response. 

    I was in Heaven. 

   I didn’t know then that it wouldn’t be my last “Diana” moments. After “Endless Love”, Diana came back for two encores: “I Will Survive” and “The Best Years Of My Life” that she didn’t perform the previous night. She did a very moving rendition, seated in front of the stage. 
Diana Ross going  backstage with the bunch of flower I offered her, and before coming back for the encores
Diana Ross during the last encore "The Best Years Of My Life"       
   After the concert, another orchestra took place with a group singing pop hits.

   We discussed with the other fans during the rest of the evening until they began to turn off the lights, so we walked in the hallway and decided that we could go and have a drink outside near a casino. None of us was ready to end the evening now, we were still too excited!

   Suddenly, while we were still in the hallway, our Lady appeared in a sophisticate jeans outfit (pants and jacket) with the top of her well known orange suit that she often wear at the end of her concerts.
   Then we all went to the café and after a long moment spent on drinking, chatting and enjoying this friendly atmosphere, one of our group suddenly said, all excited:

“she’s getting out of a car!”

   We all watched on that direction and we saw her going straight into the casino right beside us. She had changed clothes again and now wore a beautiful black outfit with transparencies. Fortunately, we already have paid the bill, so we all stood up and followed her.

   Even if we almost didn’t say a word, we were not discrete  at  all.  A group of  ten people  following  the
Diva 4 or 6 meters behind her is not discrete at all…and then we watched her playing blackjack at a good distance. 

   Apparently we didn’t bring her luck and she left the table after around twenty minutes (or was it because she had had enough of being scrutinized? – I would!).

   It was so wonderful to see her so close, not during a concert. She surprised me by stopping and signing autographs for some of our group. She was really nice and friendly, and then it was time to let her get some more privacy… 

   It was truly a magical night! 
Sunday, July 1st 2001   
   Most of the group also came to the third and last concert, so we decided to meet again before the show. Again, Joey and I were a bit late for the meeting. We brought flowers again, but this time I didn’t want to offer them during the concert.

   I decided to try my luck and have another intimate moment with our Lady. So, after being placed at our table, I rushed outside with Thierry to try to meet her at the backstage entrance, hoping that she will arrive at the same time than the day before.

   We were living an amazing dream, so why not try our luck again?

   We waited there only five minutes before her arrival, and she arrived at the exact same time than the day before! (who said Divas were always late?) 

   As she got off the car, she saw Thierry and me approaching. She recognized me, with the flowers in my hands: “Ooh you’re so wonderful!” to which I replied: “No, YOU are wonderful, actually.” I offered her the flowers and hugged her again.

   Then I began to be really moved and asked her mumbling and losing my English if she would mind to sign her autobiography I had brought with me. She replied: “Yes, but I don’t have much time.” To which I replied: “Sure, I understand”, trying to show that we didn’t want to bother her for too long.
   I gave her my book and tried to root my black pen out of my pocket, which wanted stubbornly to stay there. Her assistant (or friend?) then rushed a red felt out of her bag. Fortunately I knew how to spell my name in English!

  Thierry had also brought the CD sleeve of the latest compilation “Diana Ross – The Motown Anthology” with him. She dedicated it to him and commented that it was a great compilation to what we agreed with enthusiasm. She talked a bit of the song “Doobedoodn’t doobe…” and even sang a few words for us. Thierry and I were in awe and he suggested that the track listing of this CD would be great for a concert. “Oh, yes?!” she said, smiling. 

From left to right: the bodyguard, Diana's assistant (?), the chauffeur, Thierry, Diana Ross signing my book, me.
Diana holding Thierry's CD in her hands and starring at me.
The two above pictures were taken by Betsy Schroeder. I'll be forever grateful to her to have captured this moment. I hope that where she is, she can still hear Diana's music she loved so much. May she rest in peace.
On the lower right corner, the only picture of me on stage I have. Thierry had the forsight to take a picture with my camera!
(right-click on the picture to oversize them)
    During that last concert, Diana made another incredible gift to me: while she was rocking the house with “Upside Down”, she saw me dancing in the audience and called me on stage to dance with her.

   No doubt she recognized me in the room. This moment was totally raving! I really had a lot of fun. Out of the mike because she outstretched her arms, she told me: “Give me a hug.” Again, I was in heaven.

   A funny thing happened on stage that, again, nobody else than Diana Ross might have spotted. Of course, I was recording the show on cassettes (yes, it was cassettes at that time!) and the tape recorder, attached to my belt, was hidden by my jacket to which the lavalier microphone was fixed. That gear was perfectly discrete as long I was at the table, but not on stage!

   While I was dancing, the flaps of my jacket of course revealed the infringing material and the microphone black cord on my white shirt to Diana Ross’s eyes. She was, the least I can say, surprised. But she might have thought: “Oh well…” before asking me to hug her.

   Before Diana called me on stage, Joey stood surprisingly still. I suspect that he did it intentionally, so that Diana couldn’t pick the wrong person! He’s really a dear friend.

     I spent the rest of the show on cloud nine. 
Thank you so much, Diana, for letting my wildest dream come true. Whenever I think of these moments, it’s like I’m in a time capsule, reliving them and feeling again the great positive energy you share.