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Lady Sings the Blues

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In a 20/20 interview with Barbara Walters on May 10, Diana Ross’s five kids staged a lovefest in her honor, painting the Motown legend as a mom supreme. By the time her eldest child, singer-actress Rhonda, 30, began serenading her, Ross was bawling—and the diva facade had all but crumbled.

No doubt Ross, 58, would rely on their support two weeks later when she checked into Promises, the Malibu rehab clinic where stars such as Ben Affleck, Robert Downey Jr., and Charlie Sheen have gone to detox. Ross’s spokesman Paul Bloch would neither confirm nor deny reports that her children intervened when they became worried about her use of alcohol and prescription drugs. She entered Promises, he said, “to clear up some personal issues.”

Some of those issues have played out in public. In 1999 Ross split from her husband of 13 years, Norwegian shipping magnate Arne Naess, the father of sons Ross, 14, and Evan, 13. (Ross also has two other daughters, actress Tracee, 29, and aspiring filmmaker Chudney, 26, from her first marriage, to public relations exec Robert Silberstein.) In September of that year Ross groped a female security guard at Heathrow airport in retaliation for what she believed was an egregiously intimate body search. When her much ballyhooed 2000 Supremes reunion tour was scuttled due to poor ticket sales, the cancellation, coming on the heels of her divorce, “hit her hard,” says J. Randy Taraborrelli, who wrote the unauthorized 1989 bio Call Her Miss Ross.

Still, the latest news came as a shock. “I never saw her drunk,” says ex-Supreme Lynda Laurence, who suspects the Promises stay is more retreat than rehab. Ross’s former manager Shelly Berger agrees. “She is the total opposite of flaky.” Struggling or no, Ross intends to go ahead with her 20-date summer tour. Says her sister Barbara Ross-Lee, a Long Island, N.Y., osteopath: “She’s doing well and so is the family.”