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Posts Tagged ‘ALCOHOL’

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.

PRESENTING—SENATOR HYPOCRITE

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on January 4, 2018 at 12:10 am

At the end of the 1987 movie, “The Untouchables,” a reporter accosts Elliot Ness (Kevin Costner): “Mr. Ness, they’re saying that Congress will repeal Prohibition. If that happens, what will you do?”

And Ness—who has just spent the entire movie trying to put arch-bootlegger Al Capone out of business—replies: “I think I’ll have a drink.”

“The Untouchables” (1987)

In 1920, America went “dry”—officially.

The reason: Congressional passage of the Volstead Act—named after Andrew Volstead, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee who managed the legislation.

For Americans generally, the law had a shorter name: Prohibition.

For 12 years—from 1920 to 1932—the United States Treasury Department declared war on the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages throughout the country.

It was a losing war. Untold numbers of local police officers gladly turned a blind eye—for a price—to the bootleggers operating in their midst. So did legions of agents of the Treasury Department’s Prohibition Bureau.

And police weren’t the only ones willing to ignore the law. So were politicians at all levels. At the highest level: Warren G. Harding, 29th President of the United States.

Warren G. Harding

Harding allowed bootleg whiskey to be served to his guests during after-dinner parties.  His wife, Florence, known as “The Duchess,” mixed drinks for the visitors.

Many of those public officials (and private citizens) who regularly indulged felt the law was needed to enforce “morality” onto others—especially the poor and immigrants.

Prohibition ended in 1932—to the sorrow of two major organizations. The first was anti-alcohol groups such as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. The second was the Mafia—which had raised millions of dollars via the sale of forbidden spirits.

Today Americans (except those living in officially “dry” states like Florida, Georgia and Alabama) can easily and legally obtain all the booze they can afford to buy.

But even in “wet” states, it’s illegal to drink and drive—as third-term United States Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) found out in 2012.

Mike Crapo

Crapo had been elected to the House of Representatives in 1992. After three terms in the House he successfully ran for the Senate in 1998.

On December 23, 2012, Crapo was arrested in Alexandria, Virginia, for driving under the influence. Crapo was pulled over after an officer saw him run a red light.

According to CBS News, Crapo failed several field sobriety tests and was taken into custody without incident. He was later released on an unsecured $1,000 bond.

On January 4, 2013, Crapo pleaded guilty to a drunk driving charge and was sentenced to a  $250 fine and court costs, one-year suspension of his driver’s license, and court-ordered alcohol education and awareness classes.

But there’s more to this tale than mere political embarrassment. There’s also a story of religious hypocrisy to be told.

Crapo is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—the Mormons. He graduated from the church’s Brigham Young University in 1973  with a B.A. in political science.

Among those acts that Mormons are forbidden to partake in is the drinking of alcohol. It’s part of the “Word of Wisdom” embraced by staunch church members: A ban on any use of alcohol, tobacco, coffee and tea.

Indulging in any of these won’t get you excommunicated (as will, say, adultery or murder, which the church puts on the same level of evil). But it can get you banned from entering a Mormon temple, reserved for only the most devout members.

It is in their temples that Mormons perform such rituals as wedding ceremonies and proxy “baptisms for the dead.”

This inevitably came as a huge embarrassment for a man who represents Idaho, a state:

  • Where government maintains a monopoly over sales of beverages with greater than 16% ABV;
  • Where beer can be sold in grocery stores but not wine;
  • Where the sale of distilled spirits is allowed only in certified Liquor Dispensary stores;
  • Where 414,182 Mormons comprise the largest single religious group—at 26% of the population.

Thus, Crapo quickly released the following statement:

“I am deeply sorry for the actions that resulted in this circumstance.  I made a mistake for which I apologize to my family, my Idaho constituents and any others who have put their trust in me.

“I accept total responsibility and will deal with whatever penalty comes my way in this matter.  I will also undertake measures to ensure that this circumstance is never repeated.”

In November, 2016, Crapo was re-elected to a fourth Senate  term. 

Among his legislative accomplishments: 

  • Opposing President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which makes access to health care available to all Americans.  He did so after being diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1999 and undergoing surgery to remove all or part of the prostate gland in January 2000.
  • Opposing expanded background checks for all gun buyers.  
  • Chairing the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, where he attacked the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
  • Urging President Donald Trump to withdraw the United States from the climate-change Paris Agreement.
  • Chairing the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, where he sought repeal of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Created by the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, its purpose is to prevent a repeat of the 2008 Wall Street “meltdown” caused by the unchecked greed of speculators.

GUNS + ALCOHOL = DEAD BODIES

In History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 25, 2013 at 11:58 am

On July 23, North Carolina lawmakers approved a bill that allows those with concealed-carry weapons permits:

  • To bring firearms into bars and restaurants serving alcohol–so long as the owner doesn’t object.
  • To store weapons in locked cars on the campus of any public school or university.
  • To bring guns onto greenways, playgrounds and other public recreation areas.

The Republican-supported bill was approved by both the House and Senate.  It now heads to Republican Governor Pat McCrory, who is expected to sign it into law.

Now think:

  • You’re mixing high-octane alcohol with high-powered firearms.
  • You’re allowing weapons to be legally stored in parked cars–which can easily be broken into.
  • You’re allowing firearms to be brought onto playgrounds filled with children.

What could possibly go wrong?

The National Rifle Association (NRA)–which backed the measure–will celebrate a return to an era “when men were men” and every argument threatened to become a shootout.

But not everyone in the Old West welcomed the indiscriminate right to carry and use firearms within town.  One of those was the legendary lawman, James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok.

Contrary to popular belief, Hickok actualy didn’t spend most of his life as a town marshal.  His gunslinging days as a lawman lasted just two years–1869 to 1871.

His first stint as a lawman came at Hays City, Kansas.  As sheriff, he shot and killed at least two men. One of these shootings occurred when Hickok, looking in a bar mirror, saw a ruffian named Strawhan pull a pistol to shoot him in the back.

Hickok, looking into the mirror, threw a “trick shot” over his shoulder–and nailed Strawhan dead.

Then Hickok’s luck ran out.  On July 17, 1870, several members of the 7th U.S. Cavalry attacked him in Drum’s Saloon. Drawing his pistols, he killed one private and wounded another.

Although he had acted in self-defense and the shootings were entirely justifiable, Hickok now faced danger from other, enraged members of the same regiment.  He decided to leave Hays before they could take their revenge.

His next posting as town marshal came in Abilene, Kansas.  This stint lasted from April to December, 1871.  And, like his last one as a “town-tamer,” it ended with a deadly shootout.

A major portion of his duties lay in enforcing the “no firearms worn or used in town” edict.

Abilene was a cattle town, the end of the line for many outfits seeking a major railhead where their hundreds of beeves could be dropped off and shipped eastward.

When cowboys–most of them in their teens or early 20s–reached Abilene, they wanted to celebrate.  Their long drive was over, and now they could finally get paid.  And there were plenty of bars and whores waiting to pick up their newly-issued monies.

This combination of randy men and ready supplies of alcohol and women often led to trouble.  One cowboy might make a pass at another’s “lady” for the night.  Or an argument might erupt over a card game.

It was Hickok’s duty to make sure that such arguments were settled only with fists.  And that meant demanding that all cowboys’ guns be checked at the marshal’s office until the “boys” were ready to leave Abilene.

This, of course, contradicts the “open carry” demands of the NRA.  And most of its members–if transported to the Old West–would find themselves on the wrong side of Hickok.

And that wasn’t a good place to be–as Texas gambler Phil Coe learned to his dismay.

Coe and Hickok had clashed before.  As co-owner of the Bull’s head Saloon, Coe had advertised its wares with a sign depicting a bull with oversized sexual organs.   A number of citizens raged that this was obscene and demanded that the animal’s sexuality be greatly reduced.  The city fathers agreed.

Hickok stood nearby with a shotgun while a painter made the necessary deletions.

On October 5, 1871, cowboys were flooding into Abilene, looking for a good time.  Coe, feeling in high spirits, decided to celebrate by firing his pistol into the air several times.

The shots quickly brought Hickok to the scene.

“Did you fire that shot?” Hickok demanded.

Coe supposedly replied: “I shot at a dog–and I’ll shoot at another.”

Coe threw a shot at Hickok, which missed.

Hickok whipped out his two revolvers and put two bullets into Coe’s stomach, mortally wounding the Texan, who died three days later.

James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok

With Coe’s Texas buddies surrounding him, Hickok suddenly heard someone rushing at him from behind.

Hickok whirled and fired twice more–into the chest of his own deputy, Mike Williams, who had been running to his aid.

Hickok, aghast at his mistake, gently carried Williams into a saloon and placed his body onto a billiard table.  Then he raged through Abilene, ordering an end to the festivities and knocking down any cowboys foolish enough to resist.

Owing to this latest explosion in violence, the city fathers quickly reached two decision:

First, they put an end to Abilene’s years as a major cattle shipping point.  From now on, cattlemen were no longer welcome there.

And then they fired Hickok as city marshal in December, 1871.

OH, CRAP(O)!

In Law, Politics, Social commentary on December 31, 2012 at 3:08 pm

At the end of the 1987 movie, “The Untouchables,” a reporter accosts Elliot Ness (Kevin Costner): “Mr. Ness, they’re saying that Congress will repeal Prohibition.  If that happens, what will you do?”

And Ness–who has just spent the entire movie trying to put arch-bootlegger Al Capone out of business–replies: “I think I’ll have a drink.”

“The Untouchables” (1987)

In 1920, America went “dry”–officially.

The reason: Congressional passage of the Volstead Act–named after Andrew Volstead, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee who managed the legislation.

For Americans generally, the law had a shorter name: Prohibition.

For 12 years–from 1920 to 1932–the United States Treasury Department declared war on the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages throughout the country.

It was a losing war.  Untold numbers of local police officers gladly turned a blind eye–for a price–to the bootleggers operating in their midst.  So did legions of agents of the Treasury Department’s Prohibition Bureau.

And police weren’t the only ones willing to ignore the law.  So were politicians at all levels.  At the highest level: Warren G. Harding, 29th President of the United States.

Warren G. Harding

Harding allowed bootleg whiskey to be served to his guests during after-dinner parties.  Some of this alcohol had been confiscated from the Prohibition department.  His wife, Florence, known as “The Duchess,” mixed drinks for the visitors.

There was definitely a “do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do” morality at work during the 12 years that Prohibition was the law of the land.

Many of those public officials (and private citizens) who regularly indulged felt the law was needed to enforce “morality” onto others–especially the poor and immirgants.

Prohibition ended in 1932–to the sorrow of two major organizations.  The first was anti-alcohol groups such as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.  The second was the Mafia–which had raised millions of dollars via the sale of forbidden spirits.

Today Americans (except those living in officially “dry” states like Florida, Georgia and Alabama) can easily and legally obtain all the booze they can afford to buy.

But even in “wet” states, it’s illegal to drink and drive–as third-term United States Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) recently found out.

Mike Crapo

On December 23, Crapo was arrested in Alexandria, Virginia, for driving under the influence.

Crapo was pulled over after an officer saw him run a red light.

According to CBS News, Crapo failed several field sobriety tests and was taken into custody without incident.  He was later released on an unsecured $1,000 bond.

He must appear in court on January 4th.

At a time when America stands poised to go over “the fiscal cliff” courtesy of Republican extortion demands, it’s hardly reassuring hat Crapo is slated to take the top GOP spot on the Senate Banking Committee.

But there’s more to this tale than mere political embarrassment.  There’s also a story of religious hypocrisy to be told.

Crapo is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–the Mormons.  He graduated from the church’s Brigham Young University in 1973  with a B.A. in political science.

Among those acts that Mormons are forbidden to partake in is the drinking of alcohol.  It’s part of the “Word of Wisdom” embraced by staunch church members: A ban on any use of alcohol, tobacco, coffee and tea.

Indulging in any of these won’t get you excommunicated (as will, say, adultery or murder, which the church puts on the same level of evil).  But it can get you banned from entering a Mormon temple, reserved for only the most devout members.

It is in their temples that Mormons perform such rituals as wedding ceremonies and proxy “baptisms for the dead.”

This must inevitably come as a huge embarrassment for a man who represents Idaho, a state:

  • Where government maintains a monopoly over sales of beverages with greater than 16% ABV;
  • Where beer can be sold in grocery stores but not wine;
  • Where the sale of distilled spirits is allowed only in certified Liquor Dispensary stores;
  • Where  311,425  Mormons comprise the largest single religious group–at 23% of the population.

Thus, no one should be surprised that Crapo quickly released the following statement:

“I am deeply sorry for the actions that resulted in this circumstance.  I made a mistake for which I apologize to my family, my Idaho constituents and any others who have put their trust in me.

“I accept total responsibility and will deal with whatever penalty comes my way in this matter.  I will also undertake measures to ensure that this circumstance is never repeated.”

If Crapo becomes the top Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, a major target for him will be the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which Republicans believe is too powerful and needs to be weakened.

Democrats believe the Bureau is a major achievement of the Dodd-Frank financial law–passed by Congress to prevent a repeat of the 2008 Wall Street “meltdown” caused by the unchecked greed of speculators.

So if Crapo’s status is undermined by his recent bout with DUI, American consumers may well be the beneficiaries.

TWO LOSSES

In Social commentary, Uncategorized on February 16, 2012 at 12:30 am

Ever since Whtney Houston died on February 11 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, 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:

You’re 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 1997, you undergo surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center to remove non-cancerous nodules in your throat. The nodules are removed–but so is your ability to sing.

Your husband, Blake Edwards, is widely quoted as saying that your voice has been all but ruined: ”If you heard it, you’d weep.”

You’re 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.

You become a beloved, internationally-recognized vocalist. This brings  you even greater fame and wealth as a movie star (The Bodyguard, Waiting to Exhale).

Meanwhile, you take on increasingly deadly habits. You chain-smoke cigarettes. You smoke marijuana–“a lot.” You dive into alcohol, pills, cocaine. You admit as much during a 2002 interview with Diane Sawyer.

You deny using crack–not because it’s lethal, or because it will destroy The Voice that you believe is God’s gift to you. No, the reason you give pulses with ego:

“Crack is cheap. 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.”

Nevertheless, reports continue to emerge that you’re a hard-core crackhead.

In 2006, the National Enquirer runs an interview with your sister-in-law, Tina, who charges that you spend your days locked in your bedroom “smoking crack, using sex toys to satisfy herself and ignoring personal hygiene.”

Then, in 2009, appearing on Oprah Winfrey’s season premiere, you finally admit that you used drugs with your ex-husband, Bobby Brown, who “laced marijuana with rock cocaine.”  In other words, crack.

Over time, the once-magnificent instrument that is your voice starts to change noticeably. You can no longer hit those high notes, or hold one the way you did in your immortal hit, “I Will Always Love You.”

Your voice now sounds hoarse, raspy.

In 2010, you embark on a “Nothing But Love World Tour.” It’s a disaster. In Brisbane, you pause during singing to take a drink of water.

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

Fans feel cheated–especially after paying $165 for a ticket–and react with jeers and boos.  Some walk out in mid-concert.

On the night before your death, you become belligerent and almost duke it out with singer Stacy Francis at the Tru Hollywood nightclub. Your boyfriend, Ray J, has to step in to prevent a fistfight.

You’re seen leaving the club drunk, with scratches and blood-stains on your legs.

* * * * *

Whose tragedy was the predictable–and preventable–one?

The ugly truth is that 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 recently 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 worshippers must re-learn–over and over.

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