Childhood Memories, Whitney Houston, and Respect
When I was around ten years old, my best friend Mandy and I had a handful of games we used to play. One of them was Jem and the Holograms (I STILL want sparkly, pink star earrings, btw). We’d put on some cassette tape (yes, tape) and either sing to the song of lip-sync. One of the tapes we used the most was a Whitney Houston tape that I’m 99% sure belonged to Mandy’s sister.
“I Will Always Love You” was the song we used most often. I was too little to know that Dolly Parton had written it. I was too young to be allowed to see the Bodyguard, but I was not too young to be astounded by her voice. To watch her sing, she made it look effortless. She sang with everything she had. This was back in the day when MTV actually PLAYED music videos, TRL was still a thing (Carson, I miss you!), and CDs seemed like a faraway, Jetsons’s future.
Houston’s talent was astounding. Like Amy Winehouse, I was always pulling for her to overcome her struggles, to leave addiction behind. She was always a superstar. Sometimes, her light shined a little dimmer than it should have. But that didn’t mean I wasn’t hoping she was going to be okay. Just like, say, I hoped that Britney Spears would be alright, when she went off the rails, shaved her head, and threw umbrellas around.
Celebrity is a funny thing. We’re never so connected, and yet disconnected from a person. What we glimpse of a celebrity is just that: a glimpse. It’s never the whole picture, not even close. The danger, I suppose, is assuming that what we see is all there is. We forget, perhaps too easily, that there’s a person behind the makeup, the pose, the smile. We forget the Norma Jean behind the Marilyn Monroe. We fail to realize that Rita Hayworth’s real name was Margarita. Or that Harry Houdini was actually Ehrich Weiss. The spotlight, for better or worse and to varying degrees, casts a person in a different light. I suspect that it’s a tough thing to navigate, to decide not who to be, but how to be. When people are chasing you around, constantly commenting on SOME aspect of your life (whether you will get married, get divorced, by a house, retire, go to rehab, relapse, have children etc etc), it makes BEING yourself kind of difficult. Because, I think, people stop treating you like YOU, and start treating you like less of a person.
And yes, I know: that is the “price” of fame. But that doesn’t mean that I think it’s right. I love the age we live it, where I can go on Twitter and talk to people I wouldn’t normally bump into on the street. We’re no longer limited by geography. But it also has devolved into a world where the media is constantly rabid, salivating for a story. The media isn’t discreet anymore; as a whole, the heart has gone out of it. There’s an almost gleeful attitude when reporting a comeback gone wrong or the latest SNL snafu. Yes, stories are meant to be reported, but unless someone’s been found a crack den slaughtering babies, perhaps a measure of common decency should be exercised.
This brings us back to Whitney Houston. She passed away. It doesn’t matter why. What matters is that she’s gone. Her talent is lost. Her family is grieving. My heart goes out to her daughter, who deserved better than to lose her mother so young. A light just went out in the world. What will YOU focus on: it’s absence, or how many times the match was struck before it was set aflame?
Go listen to this. Houston’s vocals on “How Will I Know?” isolated. It’s stunning.