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CELEBRITIES AND TRAGEDY–GENUINE AND SELF-INFLICTED

In Entertainment, History, Medical, Social commentary on May 10, 2018 at 12:18 am

Whtney Houston drowned in her bathtub at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 11, 2012. 

The cause of death: Coronary artery disease—and cocaine use.  She was 48.

Ever since, reporters and commentators have repeatedly used the word “tragedy” to describe her fate. 

But there are tragedies that are brought on by events beyond human control—and tragedies that are self-inflicted.

Consider:

Julie Andrews: Whose four-octave soprano voice has delighted audiences for decades on Broadway (Camelot, My Fair Lady) and movies (Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music). 

In 1964, she won the Academy Award for Best Actress and Golden Globe Award for Best Actress (for Mary Poppins).

Her performance in The Sound of Music made it the highest-grossing film of 1965—and won her a second Golden Globe Award for Best Actress.

Julie Andrews, in her best-loved role as “Mary Poppins”

In 1997, she underwent surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center to remove non-cancerous nodules in her throat. The nodules were removed—but so was her ability to sing.

Her husband, Blake Edwards, was widely quoted as saying that Andrews’ voice hds been all but ruined: ”If you heard it, you’d weep.”

Whitney Houston: Blessed with beauty, charm and a golden, intense singing voice that can turn even the almost-unsingable “Star Spangled Banner” into a rousing anthem.

As a beloved, internationally-recognized vocalist, she enjoyed even greater fame and wealth as a movie star (The Bodyguard, Waiting to Exhale).

Whitney Houston Welcome Home Heroes 1 cropped.jpg

Whitney Houston

Meanwhile, she took on increasingly deadly habits. She chain-smoked cigarettes. And marijuana—“a lot.” She dove into alcohol, pills, cocaine.

During a 2002 interview with Diane Sawyer, she denied using crack. Not because it’s lethal, or because it would destroy The Voice that she believed was God’s gift to her.

No, it was because “I make too much money to ever smoke crack. Let’s get that straight. OK? We don’t do crack. We don’t do that. Crack is whack.”

Image result for Images of crack cocaine crystals

Crack cocaine

In 2006, the National Enquirer ran an interview with her sister-in-law, Tina, who charged that Houston spent her days locked in her bedroom “smoking crack, using sex toys to satisfy herself and ignoring personal hygiene.”

Then, in 2009, appearing on Oprah Winfrey’s season premiere, Houston finally admitted that she used drugs with her ex-husband, Bobby Brown, who “laced marijuana with rock cocaine.” 

In other words, crack. 

So, apparently, crack wasn’t whack.

Over time, the once-magnificent instrument that was your voice started to change noticeably. She could no longer hit high notes, or hold one the way she did in her immortal hit, “I Will Always Love You.”

Her voice now sounded hoarse, raspy.

In 2010, she embarked on a “Nothing But Love World Tour.” It was a disaster. In Brisbane, she paused during singing to take a drink of water.

A critic said her performance in London was marked by a strained voice filled with coughs and wheezes.

Fans felt cheated—especially after paying $165 for a ticket—and reacted with jeers and boos.  Some walked out in mid-concert.

On the night before her death, Houston become belligerent and almost duked it out with singer Stacy Francis at the Tru Hollywood nightclub. Her boyfriend, Ray J, had to step in to prevent a fistfight.

Houston was seen leaving the club drunk, with scratches and blood-stains on her legs.

* * * * *

Whose tragedy was genuine—and which was self-inflicted?

The ugly truth is that Whitney Houston’s singing career ended long before her life did.

When people remember her monumental hits like “I Will Always Love You,” they’re recalling a time more than 20 years ago.

Another ugly truth is that each of us is responsible for our own actions.

Attorney and talk-show host Nancy Grace blamed Houston’s doctors for her death. She argued that they had kept writing prescriptions for “America’s songbird” when they knew she was an addict.

But Houston was the one who requested that they write those prescriptions. And she was the one who administered them.

The same chain of events occurred in the Michael Jackson case.

Jackson wanted his drug-of-choice: propofol, a hypnotic sedative used for general anesthesia.  And he got it.

He paid his private doctor, Conrad Murray, $150,000—a-month. For a salary that large, Jackson clearly expected to get more than the standard: “Take two aspirins and call me in the morning.”

So he got what he wanted—and it killed him.

Houston, for all her charm, was also used to getting her own way.  Once. on an airplane, she tried to light up in the bathroom.  When the pilot warned that she could be fined $2,000, she offered to write out a check that moment if she could have her smoke. The pilot refused.

No matter how famous, talented, beautiful and/or wealthy you might be, in the end, you remain a mere mortal. Even if you are allowed to flout the laws of man, you will be held accountable by your own body for bouts of deadly excess.

That, in the end, is the real legacy of Whitney Houston. And Michael Jackson. And Elvis Presley.  And Marilyn Monroe. And a great many other now-dead celebrities.

Sadly, it is a truth that both celebrities and their worshipers must re-learn—over and over.

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