Troubled Child

Behind the smiles, so much pain.  (Photo: UPI/Jim Ruymen)

Behind the smiles, so much pain. (Photo: UPI/Jim Ruymen)

Though chronically an adult, the way Bobbi Kristina Brown grew up in public makes it difficult not to think of her as a child.   She’s a not a child, but barring a medical miracle,  she will be frozen in memory as an young woman who struggled  and largely failed to blaze her own career path while trying to deal with the heartbreak of her mother’s premature death.   This is the story of a child who never had a fair chance to grow up to be an adult.

Last Saturday, while the nation lost in the fog of the Super Bowl hype machine, the only child of Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown was found face down in the bathtub of the Atlanta home she shared with husband Nick Gordon, (or perhaps not her husband depending on who’s telling the story).  As soon as the news broke the speculation began Bobbi had been using drugs and attempted suicide in a grisly attempt to echo her mother’s death three years ago.

If the grim decision is made to remove Brown off the ventilator keeping her alive, there will an assessment of what the world loses by her passing so young.  She was not an iconic singer nor an accomplished actress.  Whether she had the potential to become a star is subject to debate.

What we don’t know about the circumstances that put Bobbi Kristina in that bathtub.   What we do know is she was a sad, tragic young woman suffering  a loss she could not continue to face.  What we will lose when Bobbi Kristina passes is a troubled child, a show biz kid who tried to follow in her the footsteps of her famous parents, missed out on inheriting much of their talent, but seemingly all of their self-destructive habits. Did Bobbi Kristina have what it took to step out of the long shadow cast by Whitney?  She never had a fair chance to find out.

Jezebel documented the harrowing downward spiral of the daughter of a diva into a perfect storm of misery.   There are lots of kids who see mommy and daddy fighting, but not many see mommy telling Oprah about daddy as Houston did in a 2007 interview.

“When we got back to the house,” Houston said, “he spit on me. He spit on me. He actually spit on me. And my daughter was coming down the stairs and she saw it. That was pretty intense. I didn’t grow up with that and I didn’t understand why that occurred – [why] he had such a hate for me because I loved him so much.”

Only the sickest of ghouls would take a swipe at a dying young woman for not approaching the achievements of her celebrity parents in her last, tragic hours and I am not sick or ghoulish. I feel nothing but sympathy for everyone involved and dumping on Bobbi because she set her sights high is for someone a bigger bastard than I am.

I feel both sorry and more than a little sickened.

It’s hard enough for any singer to come close to the pinnacles scaled by a superstar like Whitney and avoid the lows of Bobby, but Bobbi Kristina seemed to plunge headfirst into the trouble without enjoying any of the success.   The burden of expectations for the child who wants to follow in the footsteps of one parent is a high enough hurdle, but Bobbi Kristina hadn’t even cleared the New Edition/”My Prerogative” bar.

English: American singer Whitney Houston perfo...

English: American singer Whitney Houston performing “My Love Is Your Love” with her daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown on Good Morning America (Central Park, New York City) on September 1, 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Standing on  the outside, the terrible wasting of an unhappy young woman’s life seems a  sad waste which could have been avoided if only someone had said to her, “You don’t need to be the next Whitney Houston.  You do need to be the Bobbi Kristina you can be.”

On the inside, there’s a daughter mourning and missing a mother gone too soon who found herself lost in the same darkness which dragged Whitney down.   Bobbi Kristina couldn’t find her way out and  may have chosen her own exit strategy.

Everybody loses when the young do not grow old.

Is Michael Sam a Hero or a Hustler?

Michael Sam is in a spotlight he put on himself.

In the entire history of the NFL, there has never been a seventh round draft pick quite like Michael Sam.  His story is unique.  He inspires and he polarizes.   On his chiseled physique rests the hopes, dreams and aspirations of an untold number of LGBT Americans who may care nothing about pro football, but are pulling for the first openly gay player to make a team’s roster.

But the feel-good aspect of Sam’s story was sidetracked by the revelation that a reality TV program for the Oprah Winfrey Network was in the works.   NFL officials were aware of this before Sam was drafted in the last round by the St. Louis Rams, but none of the teams were told.   Would it have lessened Sam’s chances of being selected?   Without a doubt.

As a rookie, Sam stands to make a minimum salary of $420,000.  Excluded is a signing bonus and other contract bonuses negotiated between the player and club.   Sam’s contract can’t be renegotiated until after three years and he would not receive any salary until the regular season starts.  If Sam doesn’t make the Rams roster, he gets nothing but the bonus money.

If Sam were to play for the three years of the contract, his minimum salary would to $495,000 in the second year and $570,000 in the third.

Michael Sam (and friend) get the good news.

“Michael is focused on football and making the St. Louis Rams team,” said Howard Bragman, Sam’s publicist and one of the show’s producers. “We’re going to work with the Rams organization to make sure the show doesn’t interfere with his primary goal.”

Bragman didn’t say how much Sam stands to make from the show, but you can bet it’s more than his rookie salary.

The pay range from the No. 1 pick to the last at No. 256 is more than $22 million.   Compared to Sam,  Jadeveon Clowney, the top overall selection of the Houston Texans will sign a $22 million contract, including a guaranteed $14 million signing bonus.   That last part is crucial because unlike the NBA or MLB, contracts are not guaranteed in the NFL.  If Sam bombs out at the first practice, that’s it.

Certainly Oprah Winfrey, the NFL and to a lesser extent, the Rams, are hopeful that isn’t the case and the Michael Sam shows ends before it barely gets started.   But there are no guarantees Sam will be on the team’s opening day roster.   As a borderline player who was not highly coveted despite his SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors, Sam is unlikely to find many other teams to latch on if the Rams cut him loose.

It is understandable why Sam would agree to the making of a reality show on his journey to the NFL.   Unless he make it in the league, his star will never shine brighter and burn hotter than it does now.   The time to maximize the Michael Sam Brand is now when the interest is there as well as the cameras and commercial endorsements.

What this does is shoot a hole in Sam’s assertions he wants to be known as just a football player and not any sort of celebrity.   Let’s be honest here.  If Sam wasn’t a gay man, there would be no story here.  He’d be just another guy taken in the last round of the NFL Draft trying to impress his coaches by winning a roster spot.

Making money while you’re trying to make a football team isn’t a bad thing, but there’s no way Sam can honestly claim he only wants to be regarded as just another guy.  He’s not.  He’s a celebrity and whether he makes the team there will be books, talk shows, and a ton more deals coming his way.

Sam’s representatives are making all the typical sounds of how this won’t become a distraction, but it already is.   Nothing about Sam leads me to believe he is stupid or naive and he’d have to be both not to know how this would look to the casual football fan who doesn’t care if Sam is gay, doesn’t mind if he kisses his boyfriend on camera, and only expects him to make plays and be about the team, not himself.

There is a strong conservative streak in the NFL.   When a straight player like Chris Kluwe made too much noise about gay rights, it was suggested by the front office that he should pipe down and when he didn’t, Kluwe was out of a job and out of the league.   If Sam becomes the go-to guy for what the gay athletes position is, it’s not going to be well-received in the locker room in St. Louis or NFL headquarters in New York.

While Sam deserved a shot and thought he should have been drafted higher, he pretty much went where he was supposed to go. Sam is a classic “tweener.” Not big enough to play on the line and not fast or intuitive enough to play linebacker. Even if he hadn’t been drafted there are reports he would have received invitations as an undrafted free agent from no less than four teams.

What Sam has said he wanted most was exactly what he got. He wanted to be treated like just another football player and nothing special.   It seems that wasn’t true now and while he’s still worth pulling for, his status as an underdog has given way to that of a savvy hustler, and that’s a little disappointing.   The burden is on him to prove he’s not just hype, but a change agent on the football field, not reality TV.

Michael Sam could be another Jackie Robinson, but if he doesn’t watch it he could end up as the next Tim Tebow.

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Whitney and Mackenzie play the Victim Card with Oprah.

Whitney and Oprah agree Black men are wack.

"So we're in agreement. Black men suck."

We’re living in a time when nothing is anybody’s fault.  Whatever it is about your life that’s not right, somebody can be blamed for it.

Are you overweight?  Blame McDonald’s for making their food so appealing.  Got lung cancer?  Sue the tobacco makers for getting you hooked on four packs a day.  Lose your job?   It must be because the boss didn’t like you because you are a gay, Black female who is overweight and suffers from lung cancer from smoking four packs a day.

But when it’s time for a real pity party, you can’t beat Oprah Winfrey.  Not only can you cry her a river about how much your life sucks and she’ll provide more than just a comforting hand and a box of Kleenex.   Oprah will give you a national forum for your blubbering, moaning and bitching.

Seems that Oprah’s ratings have slipped a bit lately.  Maybe it’s a small backlash due to her public endorsement of Barack Obama during the presidential campaign or maybe it’s just a natural erosion of a talk show that’s been on over 22 years.

Either way, the “O” has found a way to juice up her sluggish ratings; provide a stage for drugged out divas and washed up TV actresses who have hung on past their sell-by date.   Whitney Houston, trying for yet another comeback, told the “O” how Bobby Brown abused and confused her and turned her life into a living hell.   Former child star Mackenzie Phillips stopped by the show to tell the world how her daddy liked to stick his penis in her.   Did I really need to know this?

It doesn’t take much to believe Bobby Brown is no fun-filled fiesta to live with, but then so it could be said about Whitney Houston.  Miss Whitney’s image was one of the sweet good girl blessed with superior vocal pipes and unlimited talent.  At her peak Whitney could sing the phone book and sound good.  But Whitney had her rough edges to and Clive Davis, producer to the stars and musical Svengali, spray-painted and constructed a clean-scrubbed, healthy and well-adjusted image around Houston that only every now and then fell apart and the real Whitney showed her face to the world.

Whitney and Bobby just humpin around.

Whitney and Bobby just humpin' around.

And a pretty face it was not.  Christopher John Farley, the former pop music critic for TIME said in an interview, “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.”

I don’t believe Whitney Houston.  I don’t believe Mackenzie Phillips either.   Not automatically.   Not without something besides “she said/he said” or “she said/he’s dead.”

It’s not that I don’t think Bobby made Whitney’s life hell.  Their relationship was like watching a train wreck in slow motion:  horrifying, yet fascinating at the same time.   But how much of it was her own damn fault?  Did he hold her at gunpoint to record Something In Common?   I know it’s always cool to bash Black men for being emotionally and physically abusive and generally not worth a damn, but who made Whitney stay with Bobby?   Doesn’t her own sorry ass bear any responsibility for the crack and grass she smoked?   When she was sucking on that glass dick did Bobby make her do it or was she doing it by her own choice?

Mackenzie Philips: Daddy Dearest?

Mackenzie Philips: Daddy Dearest?

One Day At a Time went off the air 25 years ago and it’s been 25 years since anyone gave a shit what Mackenzie Phillips had to say about anything.

Now she’s got a book coming out.  Would you plunk down your $25.99 to read about her cocaine addiction?   Ehhh…starting to feel sleepy.

Well, how about if we sex it up a bit?  Daddy used to screw me.  He screwed me right before I got married. That cad!

It is an immense help that John Phillips is dead and can’t defend himself.  It saves him from issuing a press release nobody would believe.

Which isn’t to say I believe Mackenzie Phillips either.   I just find the timing of her revelation very fortuitous.   For selling copies of her shitty book that is.

I understand there are such things as ‘repressed memories” in women about sexual abuse.  As a victim of sexual abuse herself, Oprah has a soft spot for survivor stories.  I try to be skeptical instead of cynical, but I can’t help it when someone drops a bombshell about a evil secret from their path when they’re trying to sell a book or a record.

That’s when it looks a lot less like being a victim and more like just working on a hustle.

The natural inclination to a story like this about some innocent girl being raped by her degenerate father is something along the lines of Oh, you poor thing. I feel so sorry for you. You are so brave.

Because men are dogs, right? The little head does all the thinking, not the big head. If it moves we’ll screw it and if it doesn’t move fast enough we’ll screw it.

Because men are dogs. Dirty, disgusting dogs.

But what if John Phillips wasn’t a dog? At least not the kind of dog that would screw his own daughter.

What if she’s just trying to sell her book? After all, you can’t slander a dead man.

Sometimes when we give people the benefit of the doubt, they don’t really deserve it. I’m not saying with certainty that Mackenzie Phillips doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt, because I’m not certain.

Can anyone say with certainty though that she does?

I guess since a real victim like Jaycee Dugard, who’s really gone through hell and back, isn’t speaking to the media yet, Oprah has to take what she can get.  If that means giving a has been actress and past her prime singer face time to blame someone else for their miseries,  that’s as good as it gets.

I look at these two b.s. artists with their sad stories and I don’t see victims.  I just see crybabies and losers.   But there is some educational value to be found in Whitney and Mackenzie’s “love me, I’m a survivor” stories.   Bashing and blaming men for all your problems is a fallback position that never goes out of style.

Another thing I learned from this soap opera?   There is no synonym for “misogynist.”