Saturday night, while sitting in a pizza place with a large group of friends, word came around the table that Whitney Houston had been found dead in a hotel room in Los Angeles. Another one of those “do you remember were you were when you heard the news” sort of experiences. I still remember, quite distinctly, sitting on my parents couch watching the old black and white TV when news came across that Elvis was dead.
Now a days of course no one hears a rumor or a report with that sort of public cache without instantly reaching for the smartphone, the electronic tether actually becoming useful for once. And we all did it, looking down at the phones.. as if something important had happened.
Well, my reaction on hearing the news was a decisive; “hmmm”.
Yup, not shock, not surprise, nothing, just a non-committal “hmmm”. Of course me, being me, after thinking about for a minute or two I remembered that Whitney has been in my little Dead Pool with my cousin for years, her lifestyle put here there. I realized that I had finally hit a long shot and with the death of Joe Paterno earlier this year, I’m a lock for the round of beers next January. In a related note, anyone check in on Zsa Zsa lately?
Ok, so obviously my second reaction, after “hmmm” was humor. I gotta be me after all.
Frankly I happen to believe that Whitney Houston “died” about 20 years ago. Right around the time she hooked up with Bobby Brown and made the choice to throw her life away on drugs, smokes, drinking and enter into an unsustainable lifestyle. It was at that point, to be honest, that I stopped caring about Whitney, and since she never made another album, I stopped listening too. “Live or die” as they say, “I get paid either way. “
I’m not one to suffer the deaths of troubled celebrities like Whitney Houston. Sad? Kinda, more of a “hmmmm”.
Now, I wasn’t angry about it like I was when Michael Jackson died. It wasn’t Michael’s death pissed me off, another one of those moments where I remember exactly where I was when I heard. I was sitting down to dinner at home when the news broke, coverage of an ambulance leaving his Brentwood home. I remember the first words out of my mouth on that occasion; “good riddance”. He was a bad guy, I had no sympathy or even the least bit of a moist eye for that one.
What really got my goat about the Jackson’s death however, was the worldwide reaction, like some angel from heaven came down touched our lives and then left us, distraught but fulfilled that we had the opportunity to know him and his art. That scene at the Staples Center with celebs and his “kids” was particularly disturbing, had I been King of the World or Mayor of LA.. odds of either one being about the same, I wouldn’t have let them use the facility for that event. Disgrace to celebrate that guys life.
Disgusting to me was the fact because we liked Michaels beats, the world loved his music, we, and I’m collectively saying all of us, we were willing to overlook Jackson’s predatory behavior toward pre-pubescent boys and choose to only focus on his art. We dismissed his errant behavior because he was “odd”. We even attacked those who were trying to bring this molester to justice.
To this day, I think of him and refer to him as America’s Favorite Child Molester. I find it especially ironic that we were willing to (and rightfully so) throw down righteous condemnation down on Joe Paterno for his failure to protect children from Jerry Sandusky. Joe has never been accused of touching a kid.. I’m not excusing him, I’m just pointing out that in Jackson we have a guy with a history of molestation, a man who build an estate designed to attract victims to his bedroom where he could take advantage of his fame and his wealth victimize kids. Paterno loses everything, Sandusky will go to jail for a long time.. and Michael.. he was preparing for yet another world tour where throngs of people would have paid top dollar to watch him. It’s just not right.
Michael gets a star studded tribute, JoePa gets fired and dies in disgrace.
Lets stop discounting the lives of celebrities just a second ok.. Wait a sec..not before I add Demi Moore to my Dead Pool now that a spot has opened up.. but if news of Demi’s demise came across the wire today, I’d have the same reaction “Hmmmm”.
“Hmmm” is kinda of big deal in my mind.
I don’t want to be remembered with a “hmmmm”. I’m starting to think that there’s no better measurement of a person’s life and the good which may have come from it than the reaction given when people who knew a person hear the news about their death.
A few years ago we had a neighbor pass away. He’d been in pretty good health, wasn’t all that old, about 65 or so, just a heavy smoker. He took ill, literally one day, and within about a month he was gone. He and I had a casual relationship, he would wave when I walked by, occasionally show up at neighbor events, he liked fishing and we’d talk about that.
As I got to know him a bit I started to learn more about him, and he I., I learned that he didn’t like Mexicans, that was pretty apparent about the third time we met. He didn’t like liberals, gun control or the idea that we’d elect Barak Obama president. He wasn’t big on minorities in our schools. He thought our town was going to hell because parents today don’t do anything to control their kids and kids.. well kids today have to sit in school with criminals and gangsters while their liberal school administrators lower the bar on education and discipline to make everyone feel good, even the those pesky “bad” ones.
Bottom line this fellow was a bitter miserable guy. Societal change left him angry and grasping for a world that existed in his mind, a world where white Christian gun owners made policy and everyone else shut up and thanked them being suffered the chance to live. And he assumed, since I’m white that I too must have the same ideas on things that he did. That made me one of the good ones.
I hadn’t seen him in a while, I knew he’d been sick but didn’t realize how dire things had become. When Mrs S told me the neighborhood information hotline had reported that the fellow had passed my reaction; “hmmm”. His impact on others, negligible. His warmth, hidden behind his anger and his life, at least from the perspective of those of us who lived around him and interacted with him every day, he has been forgotten, except for the occasional “hmmmm”
Being remembered with a “hmmm” is choice. I hope I choose otherwise.