Before I heard the devastating news this past weekend, I was already pissed off about Whitney Houston. Pissed off that every time I thought she had turned the corner, whipped her demons, beat the odds, all I had to do was tune in to an episode of Bravo’s bottom-feeding Broadcast: Being Bobby Brown. [LIKE anyone would want to do that, right?!?] A horrendous Video Clip or vulgar voice soundbite of the once-untouchable, glorious DIVA was just a click away on your remote! B-r-a-v-o guys.[sarcasm very much intended].
Once I worked through that rant, I came to realize that, with the death of Whitney Houston, we — the collective world society influenced by Western music — don’t quite know how to feel yet. A lot hangs on how she died. She was discovered in her hotel room bathroom, presumably drowned in her tub. The Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office released a report Sunday evening that an autopsy revealed Houston was not a victim of foul play. As for everything else, only those people directly involved have an informed guess. Deputy Coroner Ed Winter said that the results of Houston’s toxicology tests wouldn’t be ready for six-to-eight weeks.
TMZ seems to think Houston’s partying and the Xanax found in her room could have been to blame: “We’re told Whitney had been drinking the night before and authorities believe a combination of Xanax and alcohol could have fatally sedated her — although our sources say it is simply too early to draw any firm conclusions.”
Maybe it was something worse. Coming off the pinnacle of her career, with a voice and talent universally lauded, she naturally had trouble dealing with a fame and notoriety that human beings simply aren’t built to endure. Some do it better than others. Many turn to drugs, alcohol, or both. In an attempt to rehab her image with an interview with Diane Sawyer, any recovering addict can tell Houston was still using and in denial — with others, if not herself as well.Painful as it is to watch, it’s pivotal in any analysis of this complicated Star-Spangled Story.
The British papers are all over a story that says Houston was still in the grips of substance abuse issues shortly before she passed. Alison Boshoff writes in the Daily Mail, “Leaving a Hollywood nightclub two days before her death, she was drenched in sweat and disoriented, a wad of mint chewing gum visible in her gaping mouth. Blood from a cut trickled down her leg. But the lady herself, surrounded by party-loving hangers-on, didn’t seem to notice. Alternately waving and cursing, this was not the Whitney who conquered the world – a church-going supermodel with a once-in-a-generation voice of exceptional power and sweetness.”
The Sun‘s sensationalist headline says it all: “£100million diva Whitney Houston blew fortune on crack.”I think I’ll PASS on this viewpoint. In fact, I think the editor watched one-too-many episodes of Being Bobby Brown!
A lot of us would like to remember Houston as she was when she was at her best. Beyoncé met her in 1997, and it made a lasting impact.
“The loss of Whitney Houston is painful,” she said to MTV. “I remember meeting Whitney for the first time when I was 15. She was the ultimate legend. The ultimate woman. Not only was she confident, poised, stunningly beautiful and intelligent, but she was sincere and kind. She took the time to make everyone feel like they were very important to her.
“I, like every singer, always wanted to be just like her. Her voice was perfect. Strong but soothing. Soulful and classic. Her vibrato, her cadence, her control. So many of my life’s memories are attached to a Whitney Houston song. She is our queen and she opened doors and provided a blueprint for all of us. God bless her.” I say God bless YOU Beyonce’ Knowles for saying that.
Back home in New Jersey, those who knew Lil’ ” Nippie” Houston as a teen filled with potential recalled who she was before the life-changing touch of fame.
“Outside the Whitney E. Houston Academy of Creative and Performing Arts, the flag flew at half-staff in the icy wind as Principal Henry W. Hamilton remembered the gangly 15-year-old who lived up the road, and who excitedly showed off her modeling portfolio one afternoon in 1978.
“Back then, before the red brick school had been renamed for the future pop queen, Hamilton didn’t expect Whitney Houston to become a star.
“Houston died Saturday in Beverly Hills of undetermined causes.
“‘She was in the choir and the chorus. She used to sing at church. But I didn’t expect she’d become a great singer –- the greatest singer in the world,’ said Hamilton, who acknowledges he missed the explosive talent that developed in the young girl as she made her way through the halls of this school in suburban New Jersey, where her first classroom, No. 6, is just to the right of the main entrance.” Such humble roots for the woman who, once she appeared in a little music video titled “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” in 1985, single-handedly created a new ICON in Modern Culture: The Pop Diva!
Sunday evening at the Grammys, there were many tributes to the deceased Diva. But even Whitney’s tragedy couldn’t overshadow the “Belle of this Ball.” Did anyone watch this show?!? There was an unprecedented and protracted emotional standing ovation for Adele after performing her single of the year, “Rollin in the Deep.”
Until I moved off to College, I was a classical pianist. I am still a vocalist when given the opportunity, and in my humble opinion, Adele had a voice and a power that America has not seen since the likes Of Whitney Houston. Her haunting, pitch-perfect voice is amazing. If Whitney had a torch to pass from her prime years, the clear recipient of it this night was Adele. And with her age and vocal promise after surgery this year, we have just seen the tip of the iceberg with this talent juggernaut! The audience was so completely overwhelmed they would not sit down after her performance. The network had to cut to commercial just to gather themselves. Unreal. So sad as we are, there is life after Whitney folks!
In the end, it’s my hope that we’ll all remember Whitney Houston not for her tragic battles with drugs, but rather in the individual way she made an impact on our lives. Please feel free to comment about what YOU think about when you hear the name Whitney Houston. As always, thanks for your time.
by J.L. Mann Cromer, Jr., who served as the only true independent member of the South Carolina General Assembly from 1990-1998. Currently, he is a general practice attorney in Columbia, S.C., concentrating in probate and estate planning, criminal defense and personal injury law.