Whitney Houston and the Curse of Fame

Wednesday, 15 Feb 2012 09:16 AM

By Kathleen Parker

Share:
  Comment  |
   Contact Us  |
  Print  
|  A   A  
  Copy Shortlink
The heartbreak of Whitney Houston's death does not seem to be primarily a story of drug or alcohol abuse, as it is currently unfolding.

The so-called "teachable moment" about combining booze and drugs, it seems to me, misses the point. The more important question is: Why do people medicate themselves to such an extent? And even more compelling, what role does the public (and its drug dealer, the media) play in these unravelings?

We get a glimpse of the answers in one of the many reels that has been replayed the past several days. It shows Houston and her daughter arriving at an event. Perfunctorily, they stop for the usual red-carpet paparazzi fest. Houston looks uncomfortable, but plays her part, smiling into the abyss of flashing lights.

"Hey, Whitney, over here!" "Over here!" "Hey, Whitney!"

It is painful to watch. You can see her struggling to cooperate, but the love they wanted wasn't there. You can only give what you have. Beneath the halfhearted smile, Houston looked empty, exhausted, and drained by the insistence of her audience.

Maybe self-medication played a role, but the scene was a metaphor for what surely has been at least part of her internal struggle: the curse of fame.

I've watched this particular video clip over and over, thinking, no wonder she would numb herself. It isn't human, this experience. "Do not adore me," she must have said to herself. "I'm just a girl from Newark."

Of course, these weren't her true fans. These were the parasites that coagulate on the souls of the talented. Her true audience might have said, "Leave her alone. Can't you see she's only human?"

The incredible voice that came to earth with Whitney Houston ceased to be her own once Clive Davis put her on an album cover. Which is not to pity the wildly successful. Who doesn't want to be discovered, to live the big life, to have a shot at something extraordinary? But the cost is dear, especially for the phenomenally gifted.

This is why the famous congregate. In the company of others similarly blessed and cursed, it's the only place one can be normal.

A good friend told me that Jackie Kennedy would watch people with binoculars because it was the only time she could see them behaving normally. Otherwise, on the street, they were always reacting to her — staring, pointing, gasping. She wanted to see people as they really are. (We could have told her she wasn't missing much.)

Most of us can't imagine what that level of fame is like. And really, who wants it? Apparently, nearly everyone. The popularity of reality shows, and the extent to which some are willing to go in exchange for even fleeting recognition, is something bordering on pathological.

Houston's fame was of a higher order, based not only on real talent, but also on something she gave to her fans. When she sang the word "You," and pointed to the audience, it was easy to feel she was talking to — you. When she wished us joy and happiness, it was easy to believe.

And when above all this she wished us love, well, we fell for it. The love was mutual. That she was also beautiful seems less important. There are lots of beauties out there, but there's not a single one who can do what she could with a song.

Houston honored her pact with her fans, but fame in our time is different than it was when she first hit the scene. Now there are no limits to expressions of admiration or the invasions that fans, critics, and voyeurs permit themselves. Every hand holds a phone, every phone a camera. If you have a power cord, you have a forum. If you are Somebody, you belong to Everybody.

The final verdict on Houston's death is yet to come. Toxicology reports could take several weeks. But we have a pretty good idea of what killed Whitney Houston. The immediate cause of death may have been drugs she took that day or the cumulative effects over time. But the real cause was a deeper one that first struck her soul.

There is sufficient history of the talented who met similar ends to comfortably conclude that fame is a risk factor for substance abuse. Fans may pay the bills, but they also siphon the spirit of the adored.

It isn't just lonely at the top. It can be deadly.




© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Share:
  Comment  |
   Contact Us  |
  Print  
  Copy Shortlink
Around the Web
Join the Newsmax Community
Please review Community Guidelines before posting a comment.
>> Register to share your comments with the community.
>> Login if you are already a member.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
Email:
Country
Zip Code:
Privacy: We never share your email.
 
Hot Topics
Follow Newsmax
Like us
on Facebook
Follow us
on Twitter
Add us
on Google Plus
Around the Web
Top Stories
You May Also Like

Mark Sanford's Ongoing Saga With Himself

Wednesday, 17 Sep 2014 09:32 AM

As a South Carolinian, it befalls me to examine the peculiarities afflicting our former governor and now-Congressman Mar . . .

Solid Ground Game Beat Eric Cantor

Monday, 16 Jun 2014 13:33 PM

About that stunning defeat. Conventional Wisdom, that self-righteous propagandist, has it that Republican House Majority . . .

Gun Sales Need Sensible Scrutiny

Wednesday, 11 Jun 2014 09:30 AM

So much for the argument that having more people armed in public places will result in fewer gun deaths. One of the thre . . .

Most Commented

Newsmax, Moneynews, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, NewsmaxWorld, NewsmaxHealth, are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

 
NEWSMAX.COM
America's News Page
©  Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved