170 million records sold, seven consecutive number 1 hits, the first artist to top the US & UK album charts, an inspiration to a generation. The late Whitney Houston was one of the most admired and successful recording artists of all time, blessed with a voice that few if any could match. Yet in spite of her immense talent and achievements it seems as though several media outlets have decided to focus upon her already well known battle with drugs.
The Telegraph’s headline read “A majestic voice ravaged by drugs” while the Sun went with “£100m diva Whitney blew fortune on crack” while Radio 1 presenter Paul Gambuccini told listeners that Miss Houston had “squandered her talent” and was a victim of a “self-administered decline”.
Listening to these sources, you get the impression that she threw her career down the toilet and that her relationship with Bobby Brown was the principle reason she used drugs.
What they won’t tell you is how the culture of Hollywood has destroyed the lives of many a star.
During an excellent interview on James Lipton’s “Inside actors studio” a few years back, Comedian Dave Chappelle spoke about the realities of life in Hollywood. He cited the experiences of his mentor Martin Lawrence, a man who he describes as emotionally and mentally strong as well as Mariah Carey and himself as examples of people who severely affected by life in Hollywood;
“What is happening in Hollywood that a guy that tough (Martin Lawrence) will be on the street, waving a gun, screaming ‘they’re trying to kill me’? What’s going on? Why is Dave Chappelle going to Africa? Why does Mariah Carey sign a $100 million deal and take her clothes off on TRL?”
“These people are not crazy. They are strong people. Maybe the environment is a little sick.”
Speaking of that environment, it’s a fact that drugs are a standard component to life in Hollywood. Jeff Wald, former manager of the likes of Sylvester Stallone, Bill Cosby and others claimed that drugs are an “essential lubricant” in Hollywood in his memoirs.Under the unimaginably intense pressures of stardom, many stars turn to drugs for comfort or use them as crutches to endure gruelling schedules. Indeed numerous stars and industry insiders claim that very few people avoid those pitfalls.
However they are often enabled by doctors who will “prescribe” them numerous dangerous drugs for money.
This was demonstrated in the aftermath of Michael Jackson’s death when an unnamed ex performer went undercover for news network MSNBC. He met with a celebrity doctor and explained that he had minor ailments in his back and arms. The doctor then offered to get him “anything” he wanted for a fee. Within 5 minutes of handing over $2000, he left the surgery with numerous prescription drugs and a “doggy bag” of samples to try out.
It was noted, that the drugs given were enough to “kill 20 people” if taken simultaneously. Unsurprising then that numerous people have died as a result of taking prescription drugs including Heath Ledger, Anna Nicole Smith, Michael Jackson and now Whitney Houston.
Having entered the entertainment industry as an innocent teenager with a love of gospel singing, Miss Houston clearly left it as a different person. While some will say that she brought it upon herself, judgement should be reserved as few are able to cope in the whirlwind of stress, drugs, corruption, money and yes men that is the entertainment business.
It’s cruel and fickle nature is perhaps best summed up by her “lifelong friend”, Clive Davies a few hours after her death. Having briefly dedicated the pre- grammy awards to her memory and held a moment of silence, he said with excitement;
“Now ladies and gentlemen, let the music begin!”
And on the party went. With no thought spared for the increasingly cynical entertainment industry which seems to have a habit of destroying some of its most treasured performers. Would she or any star need to turn drugs if the industry wasn’t such a cold and soul destroying arena? How many more artists and performers will die mentally and financially broken?
Her record sales are expected to increase signficantly in the same way Michael Jackson’s did back in 2009 and Apple have already raised the price of her albums on iTunes. They her record label stand to profit a great deal from her death. As will the media, who will sell more papers and the television networks airing tributes will recieve more viewers.
However while the machine rolls on, her family and loved ones are left to deal with a terrible loss which could have been prevented, had she of been in a better environment.
Perhaps Miss Houston’s decline and passing be further proof that the glitter of Hollywood isn’t really gold. Maybe the time has come for us to create entertainment platforms which will protect and preserve talent rather than simply using and abusing it.