For nine years, Diana Price was one of Soul Train’s most fashionable and effervescent dancers. Whether she was dancing in sync with her then-husband and fellow Soul Train dancer Erwin Bernard Thompson or other dance partners, she always stayed in the groove and the flow of the music. Today, she is a successful businesswoman running her own business. Here, she reflects upon her days dancing on Soul Train and how she is currently her own boss.
SoulTrain.com: What or who inspired you to want to dance?
Diana Price: When I was growing up, I was always outside skipping rope, jumping around and playing. I was like a tomboy. I was climbing trees all the time. In school, I was a cheerleader and I was always dancing along with the cheers. I was always the cheerleader that the guys would throw up in the air and I would be screaming “AHHH!”
SoulTrain.com: I hope they never dropped you!
Diana Price: No, thankfully they never dropped me.
SoulTrain.com: How did all of that parlay into you becoming a Soul Train dancer?
Diana Price: There were a couple of friends I hung out with and they said to me, “Hey, there’s this Soul Train dance show and a couple of people told us we should try to get on there.” I was like, “I don’t know about that.” I was always into my studies. At that age, I was thinking, ‘What do I want to do with my life?’ So I had mixed feelings when I was asked to go on Soul Train. But then I thought that it might be fun. I could always take my books and study at the studio when there was a late break. So I was talked into going to Soul Train.
SoulTrain.com: What do you remember about your first weekend at Soul Train?
Diana Price: I remember being really excited. I was like, “Wow, this is how they really put together a television program.” One of the things I had actually always wanted to do with my life was be behind the scenes in radio and television, so I thought being on Soul Train was kind of cool! I would scope the set out and see who was in charge of doing this and doing that. There was Chuck Johnson and Pam Brown, and they were always looking to see what the dancers were doing and if we were following instructions and stuff like that.
SoulTrain.com: So you were excited more so from seeing Soul Train’s behind-the-scenes operations.
Diana Price: Yeah! I wanted to see how the taping and broadcast of Soul Train was put together. It was really intriguing to me since it was something I always aspired to do.
SoulTrain.com: Who were some of your favorite artists you enjoyed seeing perform on Soul Train, and do you have any memorable stories associated with them?
Diana Price: Yes! I have two favorites: Marvin Gaye and Diana Ross. Those were my two absolute favorite guests. I met both of them. Marvin Gaye was on the show a couple of times and I really enjoyed his music, I enjoyed the way he moved and his energy. To me, he was a spicy entertainer. Some entertainers are really good but everything he did, even if it was just a non-movement, was just so engaging and entertaining. I remember when he was on I didn’t care where I was, I would always go to the front if I was dancing on the floor or I would make sure I was on the risers. I remember at one of the tapings I was right smack in the middle of Marvin Gaye. That was where I wanted to be!
SoulTrain.com: When Marvin Gaye sang “Let’s Get it On” on Soul Train, all of the girls were surrounding him on the dance floor. He gave you a nice big hug! You looked like you were on cloud nine!
Diana Price: Yes! It was a great big hug. It was for a few minutes but I thought it was forever! I thought he would not stop hugging me. I was like, “Oh, this is fabulous!” I was so calm and collected but on the inside I was coming apart!
SoulTrain.com: Did you ever have any opportunities in the entertainment business as a result of dancing on Soul Train?
Diana Price: Diana Ross was performing in Las Vegas a lot and there was an opportunity to audition to be a dancer in her show. I thought about it hard and long, thinking how exciting it would be but then I thought, ‘Is that the kind of career that I want, a showtime dancer?’ I was really analytical when I was younger. I didn’t have a lot of people to talk to me, give me guidance and be a mentor for me, so I just thought long and hard about it. I really wanted to dance in Diana Ross’ show but I ended up not going for it.
SoulTrain.com: You and Erwin Thompson were the only married couple on Soul Train in the program’s history, I think. Did you two meet on Soul Train?
Diana Price: I met Erwin through Wanda Fuller and Eddie Cole (two other Soul Train regulars), but not on the Soul Train set. It was an introduction so to speak.
SoulTrain.com: You and Erwin danced together so well and always in sync. You were one of Soul Train’s best dancing couples ever. Did you two practice a lot of your routines together?
Diana Price: We practiced a lot! Dancing was just fabulous to me. I just love to be free and express myself. I also loved for us to be matching in our outfits and to be fashionable. I was always like, “What should we wear? Should we wear this?” Even after I stopped dancing with Erwin, there was another guy I danced with named Billy who had a big afro. I tell you, Billy and I would spend time going through routines and going shopping for outfits because Billy loved to dress. He would tell me, “You look good in this,” or “No, you can’t wear that!” We hit it off really well. Sadly, he passed away. We were really tight. He was like my brother.
SoulTrain.com: Were you ever caught by Pam Brown during her famous gum ritual?
Diana Price: I think Pam caught everybody chewing gum at some point! So yes, she caught me. She would either have her Dixie cup or put her hand out and say, “Give it to me! Give it to me! Spit it out! Spit it out!”
SoulTrain.com: Do you recall any funny or embarrassing moments that happened on the show involving you or another dancer?
Diana Price: It had to do with the Scramble Board. There was this couple that wanted to do it so bad and they weren’t called upon to do it and they were like, “We can do it! We can do it!” They were conspiring in the background. They were like, “Everyone else did it and we never did it!” They were really upset! So when they actually got called to do it, they were so excitable and were really making fools of themselves.
SoulTrain.com: Did you ever dance on Dick Clark’s Soul Unlimited show that tried to rival Soul Train?
Diana Price: I never went on that show. I know a lot of my friends from Soul Train went on the show but I never did.
SoulTrain.com: Aside from the offer to be in Diana Ross’ Las Vegas act, did you ever get any other offers to dance or perform outside of Soul Train?
Diana Price: Actually, I did not. When I was dancing on Soul Train, I had a part-time job that was helping me get to the point to save some money to go to school.
SoulTrain.com: You wore some dynamite fashions on Soul Train. Did you make a lot of your own clothes, or were there certain shops you would go to?
Diana Price: My mother is my hero. She taught me how to sew. She actually helped me make a lot of my outfits but I would make some of my outfits, too. The clothes I didn’t make, Billy and I would go to this boutique and we would mix different things together. I lived in a little small town called Monrovia and I would drive from there all the way to Los Angeles to shop for different things. Billy lived in Los Angeles. I had a good friend who was like the fashion queen. She didn’t dance on Soul Train, but she was a good friend of mine and her name was Evelyn. I would go with her to go shopping and find a lot of things. I really enjoyed dressing up.
SoulTrain.com: Did you ever frequent the clubs Maverick’s Flat or the Total Experience?
Diana Price: Oh yes! I went to Maverick’s Flat, the Citadel, Total Experience. There was another club on Sunset Boulevard which was really highfalutin and upscale and then there was another one on La Cienega. We were really hanging out at those clubs. We hung out hard! We danced until the wee hours of the morning.
SoulTrain.com: One of the things many of the dancers told me was that, back then in the seventies, there was no violence or fighting in those clubs. You didn’t have to worry about things like that. It was all just fun and everyone had a good time.
Diana Price: We would meet at each other at the clubs and club hop all night long. Sometimes we would stay in one spot but frequently we would club hop. There were so many fun clubs and people would not be getting in trouble. It was a lot of fun—no worries about gangs or getting beat up. I really miss those days.
SoulTrain.com: What dances did you enjoy doing back in the day?
Diana Price: Wow! I don’t even remember the names of a lot of those dances. We would just make up a lot of our steps. Of course we would copy some people, too. There was a jerk-like dance we’d like to do. Billy would be shaking and I would be shaking!
SoulTrain.com: What are you doing in your career currently?
Diana Price: I am having a great time doing the things I want to do. I started off working in corporate America. When I was doing all of that studying and bringing my books to the Soul Train set, I was taking all kinds of classes. I was managing several offices for big corporate companies. But I stopped doing that because I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I always wanted my own business. So I did something about it. I decided I can choose to have a job which is “just over broke”—even though you pay your bills you’re still just over broke, working for somebody else—or be my own boss. Now I am an entrepreneur, and I can’t tell you how happy I am. My business is called Diana Price & Associates and it was one of the most rewarding things I have ever done for myself. I’m the president and CEO of my own company, and I do a lot of speaking engagements talking about customer service management, leadership, personal and professional sales growth, confronting change and social media. So I teach companies and leaders how to communicate and really be successful in living out their dreams.
SoulTrain.com: That is wonderful!
Diana Price: I also have a radio show called Spicy Business Talk. It’s like a TV/radio show because it streams live on the Internet every Tuesday from 12:30 to 1:30 PST on www.rmconlive.com. We have guests on who talk about anything that has to do with business and business opportunities. I’ve interview some really high profile guests such Keith Bentley, Vice President of Nestle, Steadman Graham and Marianne Williamson. They help audiences to really know themselves. I’m also involved in Internet marketing as well, so I teach people how to make money blogging. I’m helping entrepreneurs find a new way to make some money in this economy. I decided if I can do it, anybody can do it. You really have to take inventory of yourself and keep reinventing yourself. I really love what I do. I would love to offer free consultation to all the Soul Train dancers who are really trying to do something different in their lives.
SoulTrain.com: Congratulations to you. These are wonderful services you are offering.
Diana Price: We can choose our destiny, choose to be courageous and choose to do something about it. That’s how I’ve always been in my life, and I credit my wonderful mother who always instilled in me that you can do anything you want to do. You just go do it.
SoulTrain: What was your overall experience with Soul Train?
Diana Price: Soul Train was a really valuable part of my life, the thread that makes up the person I am. I remember talking with Don Cornelius and Pam, and being so impressed that Don built this really cool business for himself. I took my experience in corporate America and putting it into what I am doing now, which Soul Train influenced. Soul Train influenced the broadcast show I am doing today. It really had a positive impact on my life. Years later, when I began advancing in the corporate ranks, people would come up to me asking, “Didn’t you used to dance on Soul Train?”
SoulTrain.com: What would you like to say in memory of Don Cornelius?
Diana Price: Don was such an icon in the entertainment business. When he died, we lost an American icon. To Don’s credit, he started a culture that no one ever thought about or did. Dick Clark did what he did, but what Don did was so huge. Don opted to do the things in his life that he wanted to do. Don knew what he wanted. Don had the mentality that said “I can do anything I want to do.” I so respect him for that. We all need to have that kind of mindset in our lives and help others to have that frame of mind and teach them how to really live out their dreams.
SoulTrain.com: What words of wisdom do you want to share with the readers of SoulTrain.com?
Diana Price: You’ve got to be a leader in your life. You have to lead and choose what you want to do in your lives. At Soul Train, we all chose to have that wonderful part of our being to be genuine, to dance, to have our culture and value really show up in that show for all those years. As we continue, it doesn’t matter how old you are, you have to confront your status quo and comfort zone. You have to choose the lifestyle that you want. We have to refuse to quit and be committed to other things as well as help and support each other in getting that done.
Diana also has an audio program on www.KLEDLIVE.com, an English and Spanish station, at 1PM and 6PM PST Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays where business related topics are discussed.
Stephen McMillian is a journalist, writer, actor, filmmaker, dancer/performer, Soul Train historian and soul music and movie historian. He is also a former Soul Train dancer. He is featured in the new Soul Train documentary Show Me Your Soul and is also featured in the new book Love, Peace and Soul: Behind theScenes of America’s Favorite Dance Show Soul Train by Ericka Blount Danois which is available on Amazon and in bookstores.