Death for Houston as sad as her life

by | Feb 19, 2012 | Comment, Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

Whitney Houston is finally at peace.

Which is far different than how she was treated for the six days after she died.

During that time, Houston was hailed as an amazing performer. She was also dissected, analyzed, criticized and scrutinized by a steady parade of former addicts, therapists, doctors – even political commentators like Bill O’Reilly, who claimed to have said “a prayer” when he heard about Houston dying, then proceeded to scream to the country, “Whitney Houston killed herself!”

Every news program, talk show, radio station and blog weighed in on Houston, it seemed. And every five seconds, some “expert” opinion was offered.

What most of these people had in common – besides an unhealthy need to jump in front of a microphone – is that they didn’t know Houston personally. Maybe they met her a few times. Maybe they had a conversation. Maybe not even that.

It didn’t stop them from telling national TV audiences what she must have been thinking, or what motivated her alleged early drinks at a hotel, or why she wound up dead in a bathtub at age 48.

I don’t know about you, but when my time comes, I really don’t want anyone I didn’t call family explaining my demise.

Don’t we all deserve that?

A litany of tragic entertainers

Apparently not when you are well-known in this country.

Instead you get actor Daniel Baldwin (one question: Why?) telling CNN: “I don’t think she was applying herself and taking action in order to maintain her sobriety.”

You get former addict and Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx, who admitted he didn’t know Houston, criticizing her doctors.

You get O’Reilly, who told a Fox morning program, “This is ridiculous. Whitney Houston killed herself…. You don’t spend $100 million on (drugs) not wanting to kill yourself. So why aren’t we telling the truth to young people in America?”

Well, first of all, many addicts, despite their troubles, don’t want to kill themselves. Secondly, what truth are we not telling young people in America? For goodness’ sake. We’ve had entertainers dying as a result of substance abuse for as long as anyone in this country can remember.

Consider a brief list of names:

Judy Garland, Billie Holiday, Marilyn Monroe, Dinah Washington, Lenny Bruce, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Elvis Presley, Kurt Cobain, John Belushi, Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse.

What truth are we not telling young people? If you don’t know that alcohol and drugs can lead to death by this point, you are simply choosing not to pay attention.

Never forget the deceased

On the other hand, we might want to check our own addiction – to jumping to conclusions while wringing every last drop out of famous people’s misfortune.

The official coroner’s report on Houston won’t be available for weeks. Do you think anyone in this business would wait for that? Weeks? They’ll be on to something else by then. The time to strike was now!

So talk show bookers frantically dialed self-help authors or performers with drug experience, not because they cared about Whitney Houston, but because she was a hot topic. So was the debate over whether hers was a worthy death. Many argued over New Jersey’s decision to fly flags at half-staff for Houston on Saturday.

Did anyone consider, before spewing all this vitriol, that a woman perished here? Sure, it may have been related to drugs and alcohol. But how many less famous Americans die every day due to what they drank, the foods they ate, what they smoked or the stress they kept piling on their bodies? Substance abuse didn’t begin with the woman who sang “I Will Always Love You.”

Here’s what I think about Whitney Houston – not that it matters. I think a young woman died, and it’s heartbreaking. And I hope those who love her – and truly knew her – can find comfort.

Everything else is beside the point. The truth is, in the media business, it’s amazing how often we claim to be caring about the welfare of others, when we are really just serving our own purpose.

Contact Mitch Albom: 313-223-4581 or


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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