Whitney Houston Coverage... Too Much?
From CJ&N's Mark Antonitis:
I was at a restaurant near Toronto just after the Super Bowl in 1991. It was more of a sports bar than a restaurant. Just as we were about to order the closing stanza of Oh Canada echoed across the eatery. On the various TVs the fans at the Maple Leaf Garden stood at rapt attention. Both the US and Canada were at war at that moment in the Middle East. People in both countries were feeling a bit more patriotic than usual.
I mentioned to my Canadian guests that I thought Oh Canada was probably a superior anthem to the Star Spangled Banner. Our waitress overheard my comment and said, “I always thought so too, until I heard Whitney Houston sing it on Sunday.” She was right of course. No one had ever sung it quite the way Whitney did that day – before or since. We spent the next 15 minutes remembering the moment. It gave me chills thinking about it. It gave me chills hearing it again this weekend.
I don’t typically watch the Grammy Awards. I did last night along with about a quarter of the country. Half of me was curious about how they would handle what is usually a raucous party (so I’m told) on the heels of Houston’s death. LL Cool J, I think, beautifully handled a situation fraught with peril. His prayer was genuine – he stressed that it was his way of honoring Whitney. The auditorium, undoubtedly a striking mix of passionate Christians, and left-wing Hollywood agnostics, participated, each believing or not, but at least respecting the moment. Cool J (or is his last name just “J”?) set the tone for the evening. This show would honor her memory, but not obsess about her death. After all, there was a party about to begin.
It would be nice and appropriate if we in the media could do the same. But we won’t. Just look at that 25 rating from last night. We’ll soak that puppy as long as we can.
I was a photographer in St Louis when John Lennon died. I remember the orgy of coverage from those days. Different circumstances certainly, Lennon dying as he did. Even then we were questioning it in the newsroom at KTVI. One of our producers was the first to say it, “This was a musician who just died, right? He wasn’t God!”
She had a point. It was an awful lot of coverage. Today we did the same for (to) Whitney Houston. No doubt it will continue for some time. It’s how we mourn our famous dead in this country, I suppose. It’s inevitable. Part of who we are.
But that night in 1991 is still a part of me. That night Whitney Houston spoke to all of us. I never felt more a part of something special that night. More American. And at least one Canadian felt the same way.