I Have Officially “Made It” as a Blogger

… because I have to welcome my dear friend, the Doyenne of Dumbo, as my first GUEST BLOGGER!

I wanted to post a montage of heinous pants, but I promised her she’d get to be post #600.  Faithful readers will immediately be able to figure out which part of this piece I am currently OMGing over.  And here we go!

My Name is Not Susan

By DD

Upon waking up from my disco nap on Saturday, I found out that Whitney Houston died. My dear friend who introduced me to colorful resin ’80s vintage earrings and who does not shy away from spontaneously belting out a R&B classic fittingly broke the news of the latest celebrity death via mass text message. My husband was excited for the Whitney tribute! Everyone was talking about Ms. Houston on the Lower East Side that night.  “Did you know that Whitney Houston died?” a loud girl exclaimed obviously on the corner of Ludlow Street. Who didn’t?  Each of Whitney’s songs was memorialized with its own hash tag; Twitter was exploding as were the cramped quarters of our BYO sushi spot with a spontaneous restaurant-wide dance party.  Someone had propitiously switched the iPod to a medley of the late chanteuse’s greatest hits!

Needless to say, waking up too early on Sunday morning hungover with no cell phone and another dead pop star was not pleasant. Luckily, Whitney Houston left behind a moving collection of music videos that helped ease the pain of my loss. My neighbors probably wanted to kill me (or maybe they too were having a rough morning?) as I watched Whitney’s greatest music videos lying in bed on full volume.  I was mesmerized by the power of her voice and 1980’s fashion statements. In her 1987 hit, “I Wanna Dance with Somebody,” Whitney, resplendent in her signature floppy silk headband (leopard print), rocks a perm, neon knits and multiple shades of pastel eyeshadow.  Her beautiful voice conveys a deep longing, which, as evidenced by last night, continues to move many a drunken party girl to gleefully engage in some embarrassing throwback choreography.   Rewind to 1985: I watch a hardworking and earnest pop star, juxtaposed with an aspiring young performer (meta Whitney?) in the video for “Greatest Love of All.” The message here:

“I believe the children are our future/

Teach them well and let them lead the way/

Show them all the beauty they possess inside”

is all about learning to love yourself. Probably not a hard concept for Whitney during the decade of excess. She shines in a big gold hoops and a black leather motorcycle jacket fringed in copper, then dons a flashy silver sequin gown with elaborate rhinestone earrings/earmuffs for the final scene in which she sings to throngs of adoring fans. Whitney Houston was at the helm of the billboard charts when I was an uncoordinated 3rd grader taking hip-hop dance in the 1990s.  I was very surprised when my tough middle school crush was moved to tears by Whitney’s performance in The Bodyguard.  Yet, I’m still empowered by her rendition of Chaka Kahn’s “I’m Every Woman,” a much-needed message of girl power in the R&B canon. Whitney Houston brings us back to a time when pop stars could really sing and songs were true musical productions, rich with instrumentation (check out Kenny G’s cameo in “Saving All My Love For You”) and synthesizers.

Whitney’s 4-Octave vocal range and soul legacy upbringing were the true marks the world famous singer. Yet by the 1990’s we see our sweet Whitney embroiled in an identity crisis (“My Name is Not Susan”), and attempting to cross over to hip-hop with material that is not exactly hardcore and white overalls that could pass for a painter’s uniform. The hardworking singer’s marriage to bad boy hip-hop legend Bobby Brown is a surprising pairing of industry names and does little for her image.

The day after she passed away, as I watched Whitney Houston in the video for her 1999 comeback single, “It’s Not Right but It’s OK,” I began to feel a little better.  Whitney, looking pretty with a sleek new do and smoky eyes, had fought hard her to restore her pedigree. This diva, post-divorce, was not taking shit from anyone. While I could not stop myself from singing off key throughout my homemade video tribute, I was perhaps most excited to see Whitney shine in “My Love is Your Love,” a song which never fails bring me back to my first taste of freedom: spending the summer in Paris with my best friend, hanging out on the Champs Elysee and watching a very zen Whitney, in a trench coat and afro, pay homage to 70s style and rule the charts on MTV Europe.

Fast forward to 2005: Whitney Houston’s hits are relegated to the playlists of our 80s themed parties in college but she finds her way back into our discourse with her erratic behavior on her ex- husband’s reality TV show, Being Bobby Brown.  In light of our own habits, we had no doubts our beloved Whitney was on drugs. We knew she had recently sojourned to the holy land of Israel where she was hosted in the middle of nowhere desert town of Dimona by the African Hebrew Israelites, a vegan polygamist group who believe a former bus driver from Chicago was their messiah.  (He is currently mourning the passing of  his “spiritual daughter.”)  Whitney’s bizarre attempt at spiritual rebirth before her 40th birthday did little to save the troubled star. We continued to see her in the tabloids, her expression, which in the ‘80s may have signified a glorious high note, stuck in a grotesque and messy manifestation of her alleged crack habit. Whitney tried to be a better role model for her fans during an interview with Diane Sawyer.  “First of all, let’s get one thing straight. Crack is cheap. I make too much money to ever smoke crack. Let’s get that straight. Okay? We don’t do crack. We don’t do that. Crack is wack.”

Whitney’s vast fortune could not save her from herself and rumors of her bankruptcy were not so hard to believe (drugs are expensive!). Sunday’s New York Post headline “Queen of Pop” places Whitney on the same pedestal as Michael Jackson, whose drug habits also proved insurmountable.  Will we continue to be “So Emotional” over Whitney Houston’s passing? Most likely not. I’ll let ID elaborate on the theme of losing another mega-star to addiction, a time honored tradition in our society, yet one that keeps us asking, “Didn’t We Almost Have It All?”

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