Saturday, February 11, 2012

Whitney - diva, girl next door, junkie


The 1992 movie The Bodyguard starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner wasn't a particularly clever or good movie. The plot was predictable and the blockbuster hit a little too mawkish.

But it was a powerful movie in that it showcased two stars at the top of their ascendancy. Houston could do little wrong and Costner was one of the biggest names on silver screen. The film moved effortlessly from Miami beachfront to a Hollywood mansion. It showed the America we saw a lot of in the movies back in Britain, the America that you don't see much of in America.

Still reality bites and it bit today.

Although its politics and barely concealed sexism can be nauseating, I can usually rely on the Daily Mail to capture America stories often better than the U.S. media and so it proved with the tragic death of Houston at the age of 48.

There seems to have been a lot of high profile deaths lately, but this one still hit me in the solar plexus, because Whitney was just a bit older than my generation and she was a mega star in the early 90s, a time when I was comparatively young. I still have memories of the dance floor clearing to the strains of "I Will Always Love You."

I'm told Houston was even bigger in America than in Britain. She had the voice of an angel and the clean cut looks of the girl next door. She had appeal in those cookie cutter subdivisions where Madonna was seen as a deviant.

The trouble was Houston was always something of a marketing creation. When she took up with Bobby Brown, an unreconstructed badass, the people in the cul-de-sacs were shocked and reacted as if she had been kidnapped. Yet, according to a documentary I saw while ago, Houston was a lot more like Brown than polite society would like to believe.

Not that we liked to believe it just as we don't like to believe diet Coke will kill us. When someone looks and sounds as good as Houston does, we find it hard to believe she could be the biggest junkie since Major Tom. At least until she started to look like a junkie.

Still, in the words of REM the fame thing - I don't get it. You'd think having the looks and the voice and the wealth and the rest would be a recipe for happiness but it seldom is. Does anyone really believe Brad and Angelina spend all their days floating round on a happy cloud any more than anyone seriously believed Ashton and Demi were the perfect couple?

There are many manifestations of the hollowness of mega stardom but the most powerful image that sticks in my mind is from Martin Bashir's seminal documentary on Michael Jackson. At the Venetian Hotel in Vegas, Jacko took a break from dangling kids from balconies, to go shopping. He whined like a child about the things he didn't have and went away armed with the most gaudy vases and other artifacts $200,000 can buy from an overpriced retail boutique.

It made me think consumerism is not all it's cracked up to be because Jacko didn't look like a much happier bunny once his vase craving was met. I imagine it would be cool to have a swimming pool in the back garden but probably only because I don't have one.

The whole Whitney Houston thing says much about the nature of the American dream. I'm not sure exactly what but nor am I convinced it's a dream worth aspiring to.

12 comments:

  1. Well done, David. You wrote this quickly and when there's little else out there about Houston that's worth reading - it's fair, a nice tribute, yet honest. I feel sadder about her death than I did about Michael Jackson's, probably because she didn't hurt anyone but herself. She didn't, for example, dangle babies from balconies.
    xoRobyn

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  2. Sad that the drugs got her in the end.

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  3. You say a lot I agree with in this post, but here's the one I like best: "It showed the America we saw a lot of in the movies back in Britain, the America that you don't see much of in America."

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  4. Sad news. She led a life I want no part of.

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  5. Great tribute! I feel sad and a little angry at her death, I must admit. I really loved her music since her first album came out and I sort of feel a loss, as much as you can when someone you've never met before and didn't really know dies. It is sad that drugs tore apart her life.

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  6. 'I imagine it would be cool to have a swimming pool in the back garden but probably only because I don't have one.' How odd, I was thinking exactly that today. I think money and fame can make some people very happy but a lot of people very unhappy. I'm quite happy as I am and I'm sorry that another famous person has met a terrible end.

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  7. Yet another casualty of fame. I was surprised, and then I wasn't. So sad, though, because she was, at one time, such a talent.

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  8. My belief is we somehow expect these people we iconize to be a bit different. A bit better. A bit smarter.

    The truth is they are just schmucks like the rest of us. Some better, some not. Some smarter, some dumb as a box of crack.

    It's especially sad to me when the fallen have gifts like Whitney Houston did. But your comment about the public being shocked that she was like Bobby Brown is spot on. We slam them up high and then are appalled when they fall off.

    ramble ramble

    I liked this post very much!

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  9. I'm not sure it's a dream worth aspiring to either - the price seems too high (pardon the pun) x

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  10. Thanks Robyn - I'm sure you found some better stuff re her tho; yup I guess they get you in the end Scots Lass.

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  11. Thanks JoLynne - I'm still looking for that America. not too appealing, Daisy

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  12. for sure Emm - she was mega big for a while. I know Abi - I still think a swimming pool wouldn't be tooo bad, tho. Agree as usual, Jayne. Aw thanks Deborah - I think we like to build celebs into perfect folks and then knock them down etc.

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