The Lost Supreme

SOON TO BE A MOTION PICTURE starring Terry Dexter as The Lost Supreme and Jon Heder as Author Peter Benjaminson. Based on extensive interviews with Florence Ballard. Published by Chicago Review Press Lawrence Hill Books. NOW IN PAPERBACK!
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A Touch of Classic Soul Newspaper "Highly Recommends" The Lost Supreme to fans of popular music, Motown and the Supremes, and Interviews Author Peter Benjaminson


...The Lost Supreme can hardly be considered a Florence Ballard autobiography, as much of the book is told from Benjaminson's viewpoint.  However, this effort is hardly "a rehash of what has already been written."  Florence's post-Supremes recording and performing career never got off the ground, in part because her husband, Tommy Chapman --- who had virtually no experience in the music industry --- was entrusted as her manager.  Benjaminson greatly details how Chapman was out of his depth in holding such an important position, and how Florence's career was undermined by a series of poor decisions on his part, such as booking her into seedy dives and bringing a lawsuit against the Detroit Free Press at a time when she badly needed the media on her side.


In addition, Benjaminson takes the reader through an exhaustive step-by-step account of how Florence's attorney stole and/or misappropriated most of the severance money she received from Motown and her attempts at trying to recoup her losses.


Overall, it's good to read more of what Florence had to say, as opposed to second-hand information or little snippets that appeared in other books.  The Lost Supreme is highly recommended to popular music fans in general and to fans of the Supremes and Motown in particular.


A Touch of Classic Soul recently caught up with Peter Benjaminson to discuss The Lost Supreme: The Life of Dreamgirl Florence Ballard:


Do you think the success of Dreamgirls --- particularly Jennifer Hudson's portrayal of the "Florence" character --- generated a renewed interest in Florence Ballard?


PB - "Absolutely.  However, the movie was far from a realistic portrayal of Flo's career.  In the movie, the Flo character becomes pregnant with Curtis' (Gordy's) child, while in reality, Diana Ross became preganant with Gordy's child.  In the movie, Deena (Diana Ross) resists Curtis' offer to be group lead, saying she can't sing as well as Effie (Flo).  In real life, Diana Ross worked for and eventually demanded the lead on every Supremes song.  In the movie, Flo's post-Motown career eventually took off.  In reality, it did not."


Did you attempt to bring The Lost Supreme to publication before now?


PB - "I've been trying to find a publisher for this book ever since 1976, the year of Flo's death.  The fact that she was dead, and therefore unable to help me publicize the book, probably killed it at that time.  From then on, as the years passed, her life and career faded further and further into the past.  The Dreamgirls musical revived interest in Flo, but Mary Wilson sopped that up with her book Dreamgirl: My Life as a Supreme.  The release of the Dreamgirls movie 25 years later finally encouraged one publisher to take a chance on the book."


What are some of the benefits in publishing the book in 2008 as opposed to 1975-76?


PB - "Randalls Wilson's book Forever Faithful and Mary Wilson's book Dreamgirl revealed in more detail some of the events in Flo's life that she only hinted at during her interviews with me.  This enabled me to build on the work of these two fine writers in finally telling the complete Flo Ballard story.  Also, technology has now advanced to the point where I can publicze and eventually distribute my eight-hour interview with Flo.  [The web site you're now on]offers a few audio excerpts from that interview."


Why did you choose to disclose the identify of Ms. Ballard's rapist?


PB - "Mary Wilson's book already had revealed that Flo had been raped.  As an author, I might or might not have revealed that incident in detail to the world.  But since Ms. Wilson already had done so, I thought the time had come to name the person the family believes was the rapist.  After all, in the absence of an arrest, trial, or conviction, Flo's relatives were the most likely to know."


In a nutshell, what was Ms. Ballard like?


PB - "Charming, full of life, full of humor and a terrific and talented singer and entertainer."


Do you think she brought most of the problems she had at Motown on herself?


PB - "In retrospect, years later, I can see that she made some questionable decisions about how to react to the attempt by Gordy and Ross to push her aside in favor of Ross.  However, Flo's Motown career ended when she was 24 years old.  Nobody should be held to account for any career decisions they made before 24.  In fact, millions of people change their minds about what they're going to do and how they're going to do it years after reaching that age."


The book greatly details how Ms. Ballard got "jerked around" by her attorneys.  What were your thoughts on this matter as you discovered this during your research?


PB - "Her main attorneys, Patmon, Young and Kirk, did good work on her behalf. The first attorney from that firm who represented her, Gerald Dent, was in fact doing well on her behalf until he was shot dead under mysterious circumstances in a courtroom where he was arguing a case not connected with Flo's.  Leonard Baun, the attorney who did not do well by her, was a solid attorney until he took her case.  Then, something happened.  His supporters argued he suffered from a brain tumor that caused him to commit various acts for which he was eventually disbarred."


Had she lived, what do you think Ms. Ballard's life would be like today?


PB - "She was on the way up when she died.  I think she might have re-entered the work world witn non-entertainment industry jobs, then made another attempt to revive her career, all the while being a good mother to her three daughters.  Death denied her these options."