How We're Responsible for the Death of Whitney Houston

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If you've ever had a close friend or relative who's a lifelong addict, you know there's a time when you have to cut them off. There's usually a tragedy that leads to it, and afterward, you don't talk about the wild sister anymore. You don't tell friends whether she called at Christmas. She's a sore subject that's not discussed, because maybe that's what she wanted all along, the attention that comes with being the wild one.

But that never happens with celebrities. It never happened with Lindsey Lohan or Charlie Sheen or especially Whitney Houston, who died at 48 years old because we could never cut her off.

By we I mean us in the media especially. But also all of us, who may be mourning 

Houston in Facebook messages but still took part in the roller coaster of disaster that was much of her professional life.


should have cut off Whitney Houston many times. We should've,

especially, after she sat down with Diane Sawyer. At that moment in

2002, she looked poised for a comeback. She had just

released a soaring and beautiful version of the "Star Spangled Banner."

We needed that song after 9/11, so much so that it hit No. 6 on the

Billboard charts.

Then she gave Sawyer a sad, pitiful answer for why she didn't do crack. "First

of all, let's get one thing straight. Crack is cheap. I make too much

money to ever smoke crack. Let's get that straight. Okay? We don't do

crack. We don't do that. Crack is whack." She seemed wild, a bit crazy,

and in total need of us to make her estranged.

She hit rock bottom, no doubt, in 1995 2005 when she went on

national TV looking like a coked-up addict on the truly shameful "Being

Bobby Brown." She was smart enough to realize she shouldn't sign up

for a second season of that reality TV drivel, and she refused to allow

it to be released on DVD. She knew she was imploding.

But we didn't, and it's shameful. It's shameful because we enjoy it.


the past decade, she released a series of singles, box sets, a

Christmas album, all of it forgettable. The movie career she cultivated

with The Body Guard and The Preacher's Wife

fizzled. That could've been her in the Super Bowl halftime show. She

should've been singing "God Bless America" for the World Series. But

booking the post-implosion Whitney Houston to such an event would surely

have meant missed rehearsals, embarrassing interviews, and probably a

disastrous performance.

If we had cut her off, like that relative

who swears she's calling from Western Union for the last time, maybe we

would've gotten more of Whitney Houston. We could've seen her clean up

and revive her movie career, and maybe return to putting out those

father-and-daughter-dance songs that made her famous. Instead, we

watched her slowly end it all through a series of headlines, and for

that, we're all responsible.

Eric Barton is editor of

New Times Broward-Palm Beach


Email him here

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