Another celebrity washes up on shore

Whitney Houston died this past weekend, because apparently she hadn’t died already. The news that she was dead was startling to me only because I had forgotten she was alive. Her timing – only a day before the Grammy awards – was apropos.

I can’t be the only person cynical enough to wonder if the has-been diva wanted to co-opt the music award show with her (un)timely passing, knowing she had blown her last appearance there and was unlikely to ever blow any audience away again. As a performer she was done, but with her passing she was just getting started as a legend. And what better kick off for the creation of your posthumous legacy than a Grammy show?

Semi-directed demise or unexpected but inevitable end aside, it’s still frustrating to see the way our society lauds its drug-addled failures. A druggie with extraordinary talent is a “troubled soul”; a druggie who can only claim mediocrity at best is just a druggie. A druggie with extraordinary talent that never made it? Also just a druggie. Fame exempts an addict from the tarnish of social scorn, and then we are surprised when so many of the famous are addicts?

It’s sad to see talent waste itself in a spiral of self-destruction. It’s even more sad to see a society waste its adulation and reward ungrateful individuals who will turn around and throw their talent away. I realize that sounds harsh. But I also realize that a singer-turned-crack-addict was given an opportunity millions wish for, and surely there were at least dozens in the world so gifted they deserved it every bit as much as she did. She was not irreplaceable; she was the right voice in the right place at the right time, and that’s why the whole world knows Whitney and nobody knows about a middle-aged diner waitress somewhere who has a big voice and used to have even bigger dreams.

I fear that as long as celebrities know that at least the world will mourn them as a treasure taken too soon, they will have no true ultimatum to get their shit together. Maybe it’s time to stop coddling our beloved cautionary tales.

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