Whitney Houston’s death this weekend shocked the cynical writer in me. After years of joking that she was a hot mess and this was bound to happen, it actually did.
Making fun of drug-addicted celebrities comes easily for a celebrity blogger. The jokes seem to write themselves most days as we sit around laughing about barefoot feet in the middle of winter, publicized breakdowns, embarrassing falls and passed out photos. Until the celebrity dies and we remember all these posts, all these jokes, all these death countdown conversations. When we’re uncomfortably forced to remember that drug addiction wasn’t created for SNL skits and TMZ’s news cycle. A drug addiction is a disease and people often lose the battle and die.
Whitney Houston’s death last night reminded me of that. It reminded me that while we may quote her infamous crack cocaine is for poor people line, she wasn’t joking when she said it. She was giving us a glimpse into her world and our only reaction as bystanders was to turn it into a punch line. What else could we do? Acknowledging the truth and beginning an honest conversation about drug abuse is hard. Talking about Maya Rudolph’s impression, which I actually did this very week, is easy.
When Amy Winehouse died last year I went through this same thought process. Here was a woman who so desperately needed help, but at the end of the day was unable to get it. She too was another national punchline. An easy joke. Haha, drugs are so funny. Alcohol abuse is hilarious. Let’s all gawk at photos and forget that beneath that smudged eyeliner and messy beehive hairdo is someone with a life threatening disease.
Last night when I was out, Whitney’s death inevitably weaved in and out of conversation. Everyone acknowledged her talent and mourned her loss. We spoke quietly about drug addiction and how sad it is when someone so talented can’t overcome such a scary disease. But I know, after a few days pass, after everyone cries over what I’m sure will be a moving Grammy’s tribute, we’ll forget. We’ll forget we spoke about drug abuse openly, as a serious topic — and it will go back to being the usual comedy fodder.