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.