Sunday, February 19, 2012


Valley of the Dolls Redux- Requiem for Whitney

In witnessing the mystical music tour of Whitney Houston’s going home ceremony, I
was struck by the overflowing pews of show business stars brightly shining in
the New Hope Baptist Church. Some of the most successful entertainers in world showed up to be a part of the last rights for music diva, Whitney Houston, who died mysteriously and tragically in her Beverly Hills hotel bathroom just twenty-four hours before the Grammy Awards
were to commence.
As is customary in the arts, the music and song that were shared with us during
the funeral service elevated our senses to higher emotional levels, heaping greater sadness upon us as we underwent our inexorable shift from who Whitney was for us in recent years to reflection upon the extraordinary vocal talent that she was during her career. We are inspired to reflect on Whitney’s meteoric ascent from teenaged prodigy singing gospel songs at New Hope Baptist in Newark, N.J, to super star protégé of music mogul, Clive Davis.
Juxtaposed to her music and acting fame are the dominant images of a troubled mega-star,
sporadically sinking, drowning in the morass of insecurities, of an unimaginable
unmanageable love relationship with former husband, singer Bobby Brown and a
fantasy existence bogged down in a lifestyle of drug and alcohol addiction. One is left wondering: What Happened to her life? As a child of God, what happened to her?
In pondering these questions as I observed her super star of yesteryear cousin, Dionne
Warwick, tenaciously presiding over the funeral program flow, my mind flashed
back to the moving 1968 cinema hit, “Valley of the Dolls,” in which Dionne sang the theme song for “Valley of the Dolls.” How ironic that forty-four years later that life of fame, stardom and
disconnection from one’s self, about which cousin Dionne sang, seemed the life-imitating-art
world we viewed through the window of Whitney’s real life these past twenty years.
As is the case with too many artists, loaded with unmanageable sensitivity and
artistic talent, the clarity and passion through which they experience life is
often an unbearable burden where exaggerated reactions and substance excesses
become the escape vehicle.
Yes, Sister Whitney may have had a fighter pilot intensity toward living her life as that
humble childhood in Newark metamorphosed into an inexplicable albatross of
insecurity generating from an enigmatic place. Her life in a speedier lane accelerated to a warp mania when she crossed romance paths with Bobby Brown where a mind blowing intimacy overloaded the emotional circuitry, leading deeper into the unreality of show business swirl, fogged in by drugs and alcohol. The bleacher aficionados want to blame Bobby, but he seems merely a willing accomplice, grateful for being invited to share the bed of the exquisite beauty queen that was Whitney, happily disposed to full throttle perpetuation of the daze of confusion.
Paradoxically, the necessary marriage dissolution from Bobby left Whitney in a place where
many of us have not found timely answers- alone and unsupervised. Reeling in blurred vision, caught in an auto-pilot lifestyle of deleterious medicating, Whitney sought familial balm
bonding with her daughter, Booby Kristina, all the while swirling and dancing her way
unaware into to the doom of her own Valley of the Dolls. We pray that rumors of baby Kristina slipping off the edge into her own private maelstrom are not founded.
Wish it were that Whitney’s relationship with God could have secured a livable peace for her.
Sadly, it appears in the final analysis, like the late pop star, Michael Jackson, she could not count on her closest entourage of aides, family and medical support to save her from herself. How could Cousin Dionne have known over forty years ago that she was singing the ironically prophetic lyrics in “Valley of the Dolls” for her “Nippie” Whitney. What we are left to ponder are those final lyrical lines whose answers desert us and leave us blinking tears soaked in the
echoing questions: “Tell me, when will I know, how will I know, when will I know why?”
The author is Brian H. Settles, an Adjunct professor at Mercer University, public speaker,
former airline pilot, Vietnam combat pilot and author of a next generation
combat pilot story that stands on the shoulders of the “RED TAILS”: No
Reason for Dying: A Reluctant Combat Pilot’s Confession of Hypocrisy,