Whitney Houston: A mom remembers
By Gerrick D. Kennedy, Los Angeles Times
By the time Whitney Houston died in a bathtub at the Beverly Hilton Hotel last February, tracking her deterioration had become a blood sport.
Her struggles with substance abuse had been the subject of speculation for years. Her death at age 48 on the weekend of the Grammy Awards was declared the result of drowning and the "effects of atherosclerotic heart disease and cocaine use."
Cissy Houston, the performer's mother, has chosen the first anniversary of her death to publish a memoir, "Remembering Whitney." It's her attempt to strip away the sleazy hearsay and provide a more loving look at the fallen superstar, whose massive music and movie career disintegrated as she lost herself in substance abuse and her marriage to R&B singer Bobby Brown.
Subtitled "My Story of Love, Loss and the Night the Music Stopped," the book opens with that heartbreaking day in February. Cissy writes that Nippy -- as her family called her -- seemed to be on an upswing, but exuded sadness when they talked before the Grammys.
This evasiveness runs throughout, ultimately proving to be a crippling flaw for both mother and daughter.
Whitney's path to superstardom is well-documented but Cissy, herself a well-regarded gospel vocalist and backup singer, sweetly traces her own upbringing and those early days of helping Nippy hone her talents in church. But as her career began to soar, so did her addiction.
Fans who fell in love with the wholesome Whitney of "Greatest Love of All" may be surprised by some anecdotes that suggest Whitney began to buckle under the pressure early on, and even considered walking away from her career. Yet her descent is presented rather gently here, with no major bombshells or deep analysis.
"Remembering Whitney" doesn't scratch all that deeply at Whitney's addictions, and that might frustrate readers hoping for more insight. Nor does it attempt to present a full portrait of a performer's personal life. This is a book about a mother grappling with the loss of her child, still wondering if it could have been avoided had her daughter walked away from the pressures of fame or, more heartbreakingly, if she could have averted the disaster.
"Should I have done things differently? Was I a good mother? Was I too hard on her?" she asks in the book's somber epilogue. "And the worst one of all -- Could I have saved her somehow?"n