Let’s get something straight right off the top; the death of Whitney Houston deserves respect and condolences to her family and friends. I want to comment on the media frenzy surrounding yet another star dying directly because of addiction and the public’s fascination with it.
When Whitney Houston first became known, just like most people, I was astounded at her talent. Her voice was exraordinary and her stage presence was made for the new video-enhanced world of music. Personally, being a classic rock fan, her tunes were a bit schmultzy for my taste but hearing the power of her pipes was inspiring. That was then. Why is everyone so surprised and saddned by her death? She was a junkie…period! She had the world given to her and she you-know-whatted it away. That doesn’t deserve any respect. It actually should be a cautionary tale that the public’s obsession with celebrity needs a reboot. I know it will never happen but I still want to rant about it.
Darlene and I just spent the weekend where I have the honour and priviledge of being one of several hosts and pitchers for the Variety Show of Hearts telethon in Vacouver. Broadcast across British Columbia, the show has raised over 170 million dollars for children with special needs and it’s 46th edition this year raised 6.7 million during a recession. It really is a special thing to be part of. I did the show for the first time in the 1980’s. I was only on for a few minutes while I played the drums with the most excellent Bill Sample Band to showcase both my talent and ability to overcome having no arms. Clearly, telethons can be controversial as they are often seen as taking advantage of the disabled to raise guilt money from a gullible public. Jerry Lewis’s MD Telethon skirted the line for a long time as he was brilliant at “milking” emotion for a cause which ironically, really needed the help but suffered from their connection to Jerry. It’s probably obvious but I like to think I choose the shows I do very carefully and use my broadcasting background and thirty-plus years of experience in “live” television to help my dignified approach to asking for money on behalf of charity. To get people watching, telethons are known for recruiting celebrities to “pitch” for the cause so since 1977, I have met my share of big names.
Obviously, as a teen and young adult, I was very starstruck by truly famous people like Arte Johnson, Ray Charles and David Foster. The clear bulk of these people were awesome and I felt very priviledged to meet them. But I also met some very questionable individuals (no names here) who acted arrogant, were mean to people around them and expected everyone to kiss their you-know-what. Why? What made these people think they deserve special treatment? We have! Or better put, others have because I learned very quickly that as the cliche goes, they still stink when they poop and nobody gets a license to behave as they want just because they are famous.
In fact, and I am very small “c” celebrity, my fame has made me very aware of how I treat people and I work very hard at honouring those who want to meet me, have a photo taken or even ask for an autograph. What a treat that people want to meet me and I have learned the valuabe lesson that with great power comes great responsibility. I must admit to have embarassing myself in public a few times and never enjoy reliving those moments but they were teaching moments.
My problem with Ms. Houston is she never seemed to cope well and clearly didn’t learn about what a celebrity should act like when she was surrounded by people who must have pointed it out a million times. She should be remembered for her gifts and talents but instead, she makes the illustreous list of celebrity flame-outs who died by direct linkage to some sort of substance abuse and this should be a sign for the public to learn that celebrities are nobody special and all the attention they get needs to be re-evaluated.
Again, the death of Whitney Houston should be mourned and I am painfully clear that this blog may seem disrespectful but my point is Ms. Houston didn’t die on Saturday, she died the moment she chose to disrespect the celebrity she was given by an adoring public. She died with her first hit of crack. She died when she fell for Bobby Brown and his arrogant and decadent lifestyle that extinguished Whitney’s flame in favour of the fire of self-indulgence and disrespect.
I am not perfect but have never claimed to be and I am also not suggesting that fame might not have a negative effect on me if cast onto such a bright light but as we observe all of the tears in the wake of yet another fallen star, perhaps we shuld ask what the tears are really for?
Like ir or not, when regular people become famous, its usually not a surprise. Actors, musicians, athletes comprise a group whose ultimate objective is always…always to make it big. The majority don’t so you’d think that statistic alone would make the ones who do that much more appreciative, and many do. They deserve our adulation. But those who choose poor behaviour (Lindsey Lohan, Brittney Spears, Snooky) don’t deserve a single thing. In fact, the public should make a point of sending a message to these fakes that there is absoulutely no excuse for bad behaviour…ever! Isn’t that a principle that we should all follow?