Last Call: The Whitney Factor

“They’re devils to me…and they’re out to eat my flesh.”

That was one among several memorable quotes uttered by six-time Grammy Award winning singer Whitney Houston over the years. The comment in particular was from a 1996 interview in Redbook Magazine on her opinion of the media.

If the “Drive-By Media,” as Rush Limbaugh calls them, are devils in disguise, then they really had a plateful and were only too eager to come back for sloppy seconds with drool spewing from their mouths when the recording artist and actress was found dead in her fourth floor suite at the Beverly Hilton hotel February 11 at the age of only 48.

The singer’s body still hadn’t been released to the coroner’s office when I read a story from TMZ the morning of February 12 that an unnamed source said pill bottles were nearby in the bathroom where Houston was found reportedly under water in the bathtub. Toxicology results are not expected for weeks but speculation exists that a lethal combination of prescribed medications and alcohol likely played a role.

Not surprisingly the Houston story dominated the Monday morning news shows. Switching stations from NBC to ABC to CBS reminded me of that scene near the end of Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers (1994).

In typical tabloid media fashion, the negatives not only outweighed the positives but conflicted with other’s accounts from those close to the singer who were interviewed about her supposed behavior in the days prior to February 11.

“She (Houston) did not seem disheveled,” said singer Kelly Price in a February 13 story on CNN who was with icon at a party two days before. “She was dancing. She was laughing. We were having a good time. What I saw on Thursday night was not erratic behavior. I didn’t see someone who was high.”

A far contrast from what Los Angeles Times’ music writer Gerrick Kennedy said when he ran into Houston at the Beverly Hilton during a press event.

“She (Houston) was very – almost kind of frantic,” Kennedy told NBC’s Matt Lauer on the Today Show February 13 who added the singer smelled of cigarettes and alcohol. “There was a bit of erraticness in her behavior, you know. When I had the first time to interact with her outside in the lobby she was wandering around aimlessly, almost like a child. She seemed lost. That was the first interaction I had but as the day went on, you know, you got more glimpses of her and you got another taste of the fact something was off that day.”

Even more ghoulish was the picture Entertainment Tonight showed on their broadcast Monday of the pop superstar in a body bag and boasted how this was an “exclusive” photo that only they had.

That night, HLN’s Nancy Grace put in her two cents when speaking with CNN’s Brooke Baldwin demanding answers while the investigation was still ongoing.

“I’d like to know who was around her, who if anyone gave her drugs…and who let her slip, or pushed her, underneath that water,” Grace said.

I heard some say that February 11, 2012 is another one of those “where were you when” moments when you heard Whitney Houston had passed. To me February 11 is no more different than any other day. I will for the record say I was at work when a friend of mine texted me the news and asked “who’s next” given that celebrity death’s always seem to come in threes.

Even now, I can’t get Houston’s ‘golden voice’ out of my head as I recall the lyrics of “I will always love you”, “I have nothing,” “I wanna dance with somebody,” “I’m your baby tonight” and her patriotic rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Super Bowl XXV Jan. 27, 1991 that puts just about every other entertainer who has done the country’s national anthem since to shame.

That’s the Whitney Houston I prefer to remember versus the sad scandal ridden portrait the “Drive-By Media” has been so fixated on reporting about since her final curtain unexpectedly fell late Saturday afternoon.

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