(Photo Credit: Roadside Attractions)
All That Glitters is not Gold
The old folks used to say all that glitters is not gold.
The lifestyles of the rich and famous often seem glamorous, luxurious and thrilling, but fans of celebrities rarely know the back-story of their favorite entertainers.
In the documentary bearing her first name, Whitney Houston explained a recurring dream of someone or something chasing her as she tries to elude its grasp.
Her mother Cissy always told her that the thing chasing her was the devil in an attempt to destroy her soul.
Unfortunately, if that is true the devil never ceased coming after her until her dying day.
The documentary “Whitney,” exposes all of the dark clouds following the short life of pop princess Houston.
But the film marvelously shows fans why Houston made the decisions that she made throughout her life and will leave fans feeling sorry for a woman that many aspired to be like.
“Whitney” peels back the layers that music mogul Clive Davis constructed at Arista Records in the mid 1980s that presented the daughter of gospel singer Cissy Houston as above reproach.
She had an image as the innocent girl next door who married R&B bad boy Bobby Brown who corrupted her with drugs and alcohol, which ultimately led to her untimely death and the death of their only child, Bobbi Kristina Brown.
Using interviews with Houston’s family members, colleagues and friends, “Whitney” paints the picture of a troubled young girl with an enormous gift, that for decades had the wherewithal to hide her pain from the public until that pain became too much to hide and ruined her in the end.
Houston’s mother Cissy spent much of her children’s childhood on the road as a solo singer and a background singer for legends like Aretha Franklin and Elvis Presley.
Gone for weeks at a time, Cissy would have to leave her children with relatives like her niece, singer Dee Dee Warwick, the older sister of legendary singer Dionne Warwick.
Unfortunately, during the time away from her children, her children got sexually molested by older relatives, which led to the pain her two sons and daughter tried to extinguish with illegal drugs.
Whitney’s brother Gary Houston had a promising NBA career cut short because of a failed drug test, which got him barred from the NBA.
And her brother Michael Houston began abusing drugs with Whitney as a teenager, which led to much dysfunction in his life.
In the city of Newark, N.J., Houston’s father John Houston became known as a major hustler in local government who would literally force people to kiss his ring as if it was a scene from the film, “The Godfather.”
Although John’s position in City Hall garnered him respect, it was not until his daughter Whitney signed to Arista Records that he became a major player in corporate America and the entertainment business.
The film “Whitney” shows how the success of a superstar can fracture a family more than life already has, and how Hollywood can present a life and death battle of good versus evil and God versus Satan.
Surprisingly, “Whitney” goes into deep detail about the pop princess’ life and does not try to sugarcoat her story much in the same way biopics did in “Ray” and “The New Edition Story.”
The story does not sugarcoat Houston’s flaws but humanizes her despite her life sometimes becoming good, bad and ugly.
“Whitney” shows the competition between the pop princesses of the 1980s and 1990s.
Cissy did not like the singing of Janet Jackson.
And Whitney criticized Paula Abdul for singing off key on records and allegedly not staying true to her roots.
The documentary shows the jealousy that existed within Whitney’s marriage to Brown.
Whitney’s close friend and alleged lesbian lover Robyn Crawford did not like sharing Whitney with Brown.
And Brown disliked losing the spotlight to his more famous wife.
When Whitney and Brown married in 1992 they were somewhat equals in the music business.
In 1988, the “Don’t Be Cruel” album made Brown an international phenomenon.
And Houston became the most successful new artist with her 1985 self-titled debut album.
However, when Whiney appeared in the film “The Bodyguard” with Kevin Costner and delivered instant classic songs from the film’s soundtrack, her fame skyrocketed to the moon on a Michael Jackson and Prince type level.
The documentary insinuates that Brown might not have even known he harbored envy, but his behavior towards his wife turned nasty after her enormous success.
“Whitney” details Cissy’s affair with the pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, N.J. and her subsequent divorce from Whitney’s father, John.
And it details her troubled relationship with her father, even though the divorced family put up a united front publicly throughout Whitney’s career.
“Whitney” is brilliant because of its raw depiction of the singer that will make people understand her good and bad choices in life.
How should she have dealt with child molestation?
How should she have raised her child knowing that she and her brothers had suffered sexual abuse when their parents were not around?
How should a woman handle her marriage when she is the breadwinner and by far the superior talent?
With “Whitney,” fans will understand why she abused drugs.
With “Whitney,” fans will understand why she experimented sexually.
And with “Whitney,” fans will understand why her marriage to Brown was destined for a turbulent ride from the beginning.
Furthermore, the documentary succeeds because it also highlights her highs, not just her lows.
The documentary shows what went into her epic National Anthem rendition at the Super Bowl at time when the country was fighting in the Persian Gulf War.
Unfortunately, the film proves that positives do not always outweigh negatives.
Sometimes a person’s negatives weigh so much on a person throughout their life that it crushes the positives.
Like many pop stars, Whitney needed counseling and rehabilitation and what she got instead was fame.
The fame only provided more temptation, more drugs, more alcohol and more problems.
And what she did not receive was more time to turn all of her past negatives into positives.