C.J.: Remembering Whitney

  • Article by: C.J. , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 16, 2012 - 9:39 AM
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Whitney Houston, singer / Undated handout photo, received November 1998.

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Whitney Houston's death was "anything but surprising; a long train-wreck in the making," Bringmethenews.com's Rick Kupchella wrote on Facebook.com

An e-mailer named Rachel complained about the former KARE11 anchor slamming someone with an addiction: "Seriously? Seems pretty inappropriate and incredibly insensitive. Thoughts?"

My first thought: Sadly, Kupchella is probably correct.

And I loved Whitney Houston, the tortured soul and singer.

Nobody of this generation - not Adele, Jennifer Hudson, Mary J. Blige, Fill N The Blanks -- has the range, vocal clarity or impeccable diction of Houston in her prime.

All singers' voices decline, especially if they don't protect their instruments. They don't have to hasten the process by smoking cigarettes or anything that's whack.

As fans we have to stop losing all sense of perspective about those we behold as stellar.

Idol worship may explain why singer Kelly Price sounded like a dimwit in interviews after Houston's raspy "Jesus Loves Me" duet with Price, as they hugged.

They sang side-by-side, but Price told network news interviewers that Whitney didn't seem to be under the influence of anything; oh, but Houston did smell of cigarettes and had drank champagne. Price apparently doesn't know that champagne is among the alcoholic beverages that give the acronym DUI its "Influence."

As a veteran of rehab, Houston probably shouldn't have been drinking anything alcoholic. That's just a fact as we await toxicology reports that will reveal whether Houston died from drowning, mixing prescription drugs and alcohol, past drug use that weakened organs, or none of the above.

Watching the downward trajectory of Houston's career and life since the arrival of Bobby Brown has not been pleasant.

They divorced after a 15-year train wreck of a marriage that often jumped the tracks. We saw it for ourselves in the ill-conceived reality show "Being Bobby Brown," which Whitney only participated in to boost her then-husband's career.

What is she doing with him? I asked almost every time I saw them together.

Bobby Brown is exactly the guy no thinking parent wants a daughter to bring home. Then, there's Ray J, only a slight step up in the man-canine world, whose off and on relationship with Houston may have been on-again at the time of her death. Rapper Ray J is better known as Brandy's brother and Kim Kardashian's co-star in her infamous sex tape.

After Houston's death on Saturday, Ray J called attention to himself by publicly grieving at Ne-Yo's party. In one photo, Ray J has his arm wrapped around Brandy's shoulder; she looks equally doltish. Ray J was wearing a black hood on his head, but his dark glasses and the rest of his face are there for all party-goers to assay. It was as though these classless siblings don't have homes where they can mourn in private.

Neither Ray J nor Brown deserve to attend Houston's private, invitation-only funeral. TMZ claims Brown is distraught after hearing his presence is not desired at his ex-wife's funeral. ABC News said Brown has been contacted about attending, even though some family members don't want him there, despite the fact that he's the father of Whitney's only child, daughter Bobbi Kristina. (Who's going to be in charge of making sure that Brown doesn't take advantage of his daughter's windfall from her mother's estate? I just don't have a very high opinion of Bobby Brown.)

There are apparently some members of Whitney's family who suspect, as I do, that Brown's the bad influence who introduced Houston to her addiction demons. Nobody should blame Whitney's mother, Cissy Houston, for not wanting to see Brown near her daughter's body again. Mom couldn't keep the bad boys away from Whitney in life, and shouldn't have to see them now.

Fans who are upset that there are no plans for a public service need to get over themselves. Play music from Houston's extensive catalogue and stop delusionally thinking of Whitney as a family member. Fans knew Whitney as a mega star, while her family actually knew the girl who became a star. There's a difference that should be discernible, now that the family has defined the boundaries with this private funeral.

Based on comments ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer said Houston made to her, the stress of disappointing fans may have been the reason Whitney took anti-anxiety meds.

"It was really her talent as her torment," Sawyer said on TV. "She had to come and tear a hole in the sky with her voice, and she wasn't always sure it was going to be there. I think the terror and responsibility to her fans got to her."

I don't think we can underestimate how those emotions might have been heightened by being Los Angeles for the Grammys. The scene of her greatest recognition as an artist surely had become a place of tremendous emotional distress: her symbolic and actual death.

It seems too soon, but some get their work done on this planet quicker than others. Finally, Whitney can rest well.

C.J. is at 612.332.TIPS or cj@startribune.com. E-mailers, please state a subject -- "Hello" doesn't count. Attachments are not opened, so don't even try. More of her attitude can be seen on FOX 9 "Buzz," Thursday mornings.

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