The Fatal Attractions of Whitney Houston

A voice that soared like an angel crashed to earth dragged down by her demons

For certain celebrities when they pass on and you hear who it was, it’s more of a shrug, than a surprise.

Would anyone really be shocked if Charlie Sheen, Lindsay Lohan or some other professional train wreck were found face down, cold and stiff?  I wouldn’t be.

I’m not surprised Whitney Houston is dead.  I’m a bit sad, but not the least bit shocked.  She had been killing herself for years in a prolonged act of slow-motion suicide.  People that loved her and were close to her tried to help her and tried to save her, but how do you save a woman hell-bent on destroying herself?   You can try, but trying isn’t always enough.

Christopher John Farley, The former music critic for TIME magazine said 12 years ago about interviewing Houston, Now and again you meet people who aren’t as interesting or as nice as you might have thought. For example, Whitney Houston. When I interviewed her some years ago down in Miami, every other word out of her mouth was an “F” word. She cursed more than Snoop Doggy Dog… And then later, as your more untrustworthy stars are apt to do, she denied what she said to me in Entertainment Weekly. Luckily as a journalist — if you’re a good journalist — you tend to tape your interviews, your big ones. So I had the whole interview on tape, and I played it for anyone who wanted to hear it. And that was put to bed. Now and again you’ll run into artists like that who really aren’t like the public image…. That was not as pleasant an experience as one might have thought going in to interview Whitney Houston.

Years later when Houston’s drug problems escalated and her career plateaued, it became obvious that her strange marriage with aging b-boy Bobby Brown wasn’t the case of opposites attracting as it appeared to be.  They were two mutually and equally destructive souls whom together brought out the worst in each other.

I saw Whitney and Bobby as the Black version of Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love.  Bad separately and worse together.  Before the tacky reality show, there was the notorious interview with Diane Sawyer and her defiant rebuttal to rumors Houston was using crack.  She snarled she was making too much money to buy a cheap drug like crack and spat out the three words that would haunt her for the rest of her life, “crack is whack.”

Nobody bought it.  The defiance and the denial poured out of Houston like a cold sweat.

Houston's decline was noticeable and undeniable.

I’m sorry she is dead.  Her last album was a sad affair where her upper range had vanished and where she once soared through songs like “The Greatest Love of All” and “I Will Always Love You,” now she was croaking and wheezing her way through over-produced crap by creeps like R. Kelly.

Once again it is proven as Rick James said, “cocaine is a helluva drug.”   Addiction took James out and I’ll bet it took Whitney the same way it took Amy Winehouse and Michael Jackson.

Like Amy and Michael and Rick, we’ll always have the music after they are gone.  Which is probably for the best.  The music is what matters more than the drugs, the rumors, the scandals, the failed trips to rehab, the cancelled shows and slumping record sales.  Whitney Houston’s star was tarnished by her inability to defeat her demons.  Having it all can leave you with nothing at all.

Tonight and this week, there will be thousands of You Tube videos downloaded of Whitney singing the national anthem and her other hit songs, but from my perspective Garbage’s “Breaking Up the Girl” seems equally apt.

In a modern culture
My friend you must be careful
They’ve a million ways to kill you
In this dangerous world
There’s an art to growing old
Taking chances
Magic happens

One mistake’s all it takes
And your life has come undone
Walk away cause you’re breaking up the girl
It’s a drag
I know it’s hard
But you’re tearing her apart
Walk away cause you’re breaking up the girl

I am afraid that there’s much to be afraid of
Here today and gone tomorrow
Don’t end up in the gutter
Just like the one before
You’re just the same
Such a loser

You’ve go to let her go because you’re breaking up
You’re breaking up the girl

Sad, sad, sad.   Cautionary tales and train wrecks always are.  Houston, she had a problem.

Didn't she almost have it all?

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2 thoughts on “The Fatal Attractions of Whitney Houston

  1. I always felt she was a prime example of a person who had supreme talent but was temperamentally unsuited to celebrity. She never looked comfortable in the spotlight nor with the All American good girl next door image that Clive Davis constructed for her. Contrary to what many believe today, I think her demons were well in effect before she hooked with Bobby Brown.

    I hope she’s finally found peace.

  2. Thank you for sharing your experiences and perspective regarding this talented, but deeply flawed, lady. I guess it’s human nature to “sweeten” a person’s image once she is departed; I, for one, don’t have the stomach for it. Remembering the departed with a dose of reality gives us insight and an opportunity to learn from someone else’s struggles. We know that Whitney Houston was an immensely talented person, but it doesn’t do any good to use that to obscure the other aspects of who she was. I’m thankful that you, Mr. Winbush, displayed the courage to share an unvarnished look at this human being.

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