Sunday, February 12, 2012

Didn't She Almost Have it All?

I was all set to write a nice, easy, breezy story about my adventures last night at Sitcom Kelly’s party.  No fuss, no controversy, just tales of drunken debauchery and child care.  Then the poster girl for Downward Spiral had to go and kick the bucket.

We were having a wonderful time at the party.  As you may remember from my post in October, Sitcom Kelly is providing foster care for a 3-year old dear of a girl.  It was initially supposed to last a month or so, but conditions change quickly.  I believe the next hearing for the birth parents comes up in March, so Kelly has had her all this time.

The little peanut is bright, playful and just plain adorable.  She enjoyed her time in the spotlight last night, getting all the grownups to play with her toys with her.

At one point, Kelly told her, “Go ask Mr. Bluz if he’ll play ‘Don’t Spill the Beans’ with you.”

She didn’t actually say anything, but she looked up at me and batted her pretty almond eyes and gave me a shy smile. 

I said, “That’s good enough for me, I’ll be right there.”

The funny thing is that I was concerned with not knowing how to play “Don’t Spill the Beans.”  I told everyone, “I’m Italian!  I never spill the beans!  Omerta!

It really didn’t matter, because when you’re 3, you don’t worry about trying to balance the beans on the lid of the swivel-pot.  You just put all the beans in the pot and then flip it over, with great gusto, while squealing.  The harder the flip, the further the beans get thrown around the room.

After “Don’t Spill the Beans,” we moved onto “Candyland,” which I DO remember how to play.  That didn’t matter either.  Three-year old rules say that you pick a character, push him along the entire path until the end.  Then you throw all the cards on the ground and look for the cards that have the treats on them.  Then you put your guy on the picture of the treat on the board, and squeal.  The squealing seemed to be an integral part of the game.

When the games were done, we grownups sat around yakking and it turned out I was a minor celebrity.  (Very minor… like “Oh, that’s you”)  Some of the party guests had heard about the Sitcom in Sitcom Kelly and were surprised to realize that I was the guy that was enabling her delusions writing the Sitcom Idea Document with her and blogging about her virtual adventures.  This turned into a discussion for the benefit of the newcomers in the room, who did not know about their host’s alter ego, or the Pits in the basement.  Judging from the reactions in the room, we would be on the right track if we somehow produced this show.  The ideas killed.

So the party was toodling along when one of the guests had her phone buzz and then exclaimed, “Oh my, Whitney Houston’s dead.”

I said, “You have an alert set up for Whitney Houston news?

Turns out she received a text message from a friend.

It was funny because I had just seen a piece on Whitney Houston on Friday, on one of those entertainment “news” shows.  They showed her looking like hell, with focus on these marks on her legs.  They said it looked like some kind of splatter but I thought they looked like needle marks.  Granted, I was at the computer and not paying full attention.  But I’m pretty sure they said something about her going to rehab.

Anyway, as you know by now, she died Saturday afternoon of a drug overdose and was found in a Beverly Hills hotel bathtub.  To me, that sounds like the 21st Century version of Elvis.

I’ll put this out there… I was never a huge Whitney Houston fan.  It was nothing personal, owing more to my general distaste for pop music than anything she did.  I will certainly admit that she was drop-dead gorgeous and had talent out the wazoo.  And I’m keenly thankful for all the Whitney Houston records, tapes and CDs I got to sell over the years when I managed the record stores, which helped me make my sales projections whenever she had a new album out.

But boy, did she ever take a fall.  Someone with her talent should have been mining gold for the last 15 years. She could have been making records and touring and raking it in hand over fist, rather than stuffing drugs up her nose and slumming it with her ghetto trash husband.  In her more recent attempts at performing, her voice was shot.

Maybe she really is the Elvis of our time.

In the 90s, she was a hit machine, then once she got married, she seemed to lose relevance and along with that, her talent.  Her last genuine hit was “I’m Your Baby Tonight” from 1990. 

Her version of the National Anthem, sung lip-synced at the Super Bowl in 1991during the first Gulf War, was brilliant and set the bar for future renditions.  No one has come close.  I know I sold the single hand over fist.

She didn’t release another record until 1998 and only two more in the 14 years after that.  Her last album, from 2009 reached #1 on the Billboard charts, but only sold 2.5 million copies worldwide.  (Her albums sold in the tens of millions in the 80s.)  (I will also grant that sales of all albums are a shell of what they once were, due to the new music technologies.)

On her last two albums, (plus a Greatest Hits), she hasn’t had a single reach higher than #70 on the Hot 100 chart.  So a #1 album with a #70 single tells me that a lot of people with fond memories of the Whitney that Was, bought the album when it was released.  But the songs didn’t stand up.

We know she tried acting in the 90s but that didn’t really work out.  She was in the hit movies “Waiting to Exhale” and “The Bodyguard,” the latter of which made bank on the strength of her song, “I Will Always Love You.”  But did you ever see the movie?  She couldn’t act.  She had range of basically two faces… narrowing eyes and being pissed off, and narrowing eyes and pretending to be lusty.  Meh…

Next thing you know, the years have rolled by, drugs and booze have taken their toll on her instrument, and she’s doing a low-rent reality show featuring her dysfunctional family.  Shows like that succeed because people like to look at how messed up famous people are and then enjoy how much better off they are themselves.

It shouldn’t have had to come to this.  She had it all… looks, talent and limitless opportunity.  She had name recognition and status that would open any door she chose.
Whitney in her prime, 1988… Dazzling.

WTF?  Whitney after years of drug and alcohol abuse.

Yes, I know that age is a factor, but not the biggest one.  She had the assets to remain stunning well into her later years.  But drugs and alcohol take it right out of you.  It’s like Indiana Jones says, “It’s not the years, it’s the mileage.”

Just goes to show that when all your friends and business partners tell you that someone is no good for you, perhaps you may want to listen. 

Otherwise, you may just be the next lump of wasted potential found in a hotel bathtub.

Rest in peace, Whitney.  I hope you find the peace that you never found while you were here.

Hey, maybe now’s a good time to sell my vintage Whitney Houston standee!
The “Ladies Corner” of a back bedroom from one of my old Cleveland apartments, circa 1990.

23 comments:

  1. You did right by Whitey Houston, Bluz. More like Michael Jackson than Elvis, she never knew who she was. And if you don't know yourself, you can't be yourself or love yourself. Hence the waste.
    SitCom's birthday girl sounds like joy. SHE knows how to PLAY! Squealing is essential.

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    1. Perhaps Whitney should have taken some counsel from Tina Turner. Tina has shown how a dynamite singer should carry herself into the back half of her life.

      FYI, it wasn't a birthday party. The little Peanut won't be 4 for a couple of months. This was a Just Because party. But she was the star, nevertheless.

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  2. I experienced 3-year-old game rules at a friend's house over Christmas break, and it only confirmed to me that I'm way too logical for kids. My friend's kid was ripping apart her collector's edition Candy Land while not following the game rules at all, and all I could think about is how children don't deserve to own things. You're a good sport, though!

    For me, Whitney will always live on in all of the terrible "American Idol" auditions.

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    1. That's what the "cute" buys... a whole lot of cooperation from grownups, in nonsensical behavior. Little kids are the original anarchists!

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  3. Here's the thing--I think women could relate more to Whitney in the 80's and 90's because they wanted to BE Whitney. Well, I didn't, but I would have killed for that body back then. And who knows why she let Brown mess with her head so much? Anyway, what's done is done. 48 is awfully young to look the way she did in those photos, sans make-up. I actually think that in that photo of me in Cancun in 2010, I looked better at my ripe old age than she did at 48.

    Still, it is awfully sad when a gifted artist thinks that drugs are the most important thing in life.

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    1. It most certainly is... a complete waste of such gifts.

      How good might she have been to mentor other young singers? (Should she ever have consented to do television.) So many try to sound like her and sing her songs, it would have been cool to see her lend guidance.

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  4. Celebrate this little Peanut EVERY DAY just because!
    I want to be Tina Turner when I grow up and learn to dance.

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  5. Just at parties where I think nobody knows me...

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  6. It's so easy to take shots at other people isn't it? The waters have been chummed and the media is going to churn this tripe out for weeks.This kind of reporting is another indication of how far our society has fallen. Like Rome, which fell, the people want nothing more than "bread and circus".

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    1. Our culture is insatiable in its pursuit of salacious details about our stars. The only thing better than building them up is tearing them back down.

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  7. I find this extremely sad. There are people out there who just don't get it. They are able to do something that millions only dream about having the talent or opportunity to do and they throw it away.

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    1. It IS very sad. With any luck, her daughter will see this as a lesson in What Not to Do with your fame and/or money. And maybe her daddy will straighten out too, but I'm not holding my breath.

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  8. I'm impressed at your natural ability to adapt to 3-year-old game rules. Good job!

    Also, this whole Whitney Houston thing is so sad. Great post.

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  9. Let my experience serve as a warning... you have 2 years to get used to the idea of 3-yr old anarchy. And squealing.

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  10. I was sad that she died, but it seemed inevitable. She had it all and drug abuse stole every bit of it. The Elvis of this time, along with MJ. Still such a loss.

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    1. I just wonder what was so bad in her life that she had to find escape in drug abuse...

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  11. Two years ago, during a patriotic day at the school where I sub, I brought in a CD of Whitney's singing the SSB from that Giants SB. I could not believe that no one had heard of her. One student said she sounded like she was trying to be a black gospel singer. I told this kid (who happened to be black) that she was, in fact, at one time just that (well, always black, but originally she sang gospel).

    I was trying to teach kindergarten kids the SSB last week, but did not have my Whitney CD with me; that is how my eight-year-old learned to sing it!

    Sad indeed. I will never understand why people who do seem to have it all (or anyone really) are willing to throw it all away for the dangers of drugs. I have seen first-hand what they can do to people.

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  12. Facie,

    It’s kind of funny… the kids don’t realize that all the people that try to make a big production out of the SSB now, are really just trying to channel Whitney. She pretty much started that…

    I don’t envy you trying to teach it to little kids… it’s not exactly in “every-day English.”

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  13. During my year in LA, a friend of mine told me about going to an ATM at 6am on his way to work. Behind him a limo pulled up and a disheveled Whitney Houston got in line behind him. She was NOT on her way to work.

    My brother blames it all on Bobby Brown. I'm starting to think that she had some freaky appetites that would have done her in no matter who she was with. Feel worst for her daughter. I'm hearing there wasn't much money left at the end.

    You know she was talented though because when anyone other than Jennifer Hudson does her songs, you just say, "Don't."

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    1. I blame it all on Bobby Brown too, but in truth, we really don’t know. Who knows what demons she may have been trying to hold at bay?

      Totally agree with your last line. You should have to submit your resume and qualifications before trying to sing a Whitney song in public. Or heaven forbid, at karaoke. Very few can pull it off.

      I’m sure Whitney’s estate is getting some help from this week’s record sales. There’s nothing like a singer’s death to boost their catalog sales. I remember working in the stores following the deaths of Marvin Gaye, Luther Vandross, Stevie Ray… People seem to think that for some reason, once the singer dies, you can’t get their albums any more. (I’m not exaggerating… I’ve been asked about it.)

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  14. Did you ever sell the standee?

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