WHINEY HOUSTON, POP AND R&B STAR
Pop superstar Whitney Houston dead at 48
by Associated Press
Posted on February 11, 2012 at 7:19 PM
Updated today at 9:56 PM
LOS ANGELES — Whitney Houston, who ruled as pop music’s queen until her majestic voice and regal image were ravaged by drug use, erratic behavior and a tumultuous marriage to singer Bobby Brown, died Saturday. She was 48.
Beverly Hills police Lt. Mark Rosen told reporters outside the Beverly Hilton that Houston was pronounced dead at 3:55 p.m. in her room on the fourth floor of the hotel. Her body remained there and Beverly Hills detectives were investigating.
“There were no obvious signs of any criminal intent,” Rosen said.
Houston’s publicist, Kristen Foster, said the cause of death was unknown.
Rosen said police received a 911 call from hotel security about Houston at 3:43 p.m. Saturday. Paramedics who were already at the hotel because of a Grammy party unsuccessfully tried to resuscitate the singer, he said.
Houston’s end came on the eve of music’s biggest night—the Grammy Awards. It’s a showcase where she once reigned, and her death was sure to cast a heavy pall on Sunday’s ceremony.
Her longtime mentor Clive Davis was to hold his annual concert and dinner Saturday, and a representative of the show said it would proceed.
Producer Jimmy Jam, who had worked with Houston, said he anticipated the evening would become a tribute to her, and he expected there to be one at the Grammys as well.
Houston was supposed to appear at the gala, and Davis had told The Associated Press that she would perhaps perform: “It’s her favorite night of the year … (so) who knows by the end of the evening,” he said.
Houston had been at rehearsals for the show Thursday, coaching singers Brandy and Monica, according to a person who was at the event but was not authorized to speak publicly about it. The person said Houston looked disheveled, was sweating profusely and liquor and cigarettes could be smelled on her breath.
Two days ago, she performed at a pre-Grammy party with singer Kelly Price.
The Rev. Al Sharpton said he would call for a national prayer Sunday morning during a service at Second Baptist Church in Los Angeles.
“The morning of the Grammys, the world should pause and pray for the memory of a gifted songbird,” Sharpton said in a written statement.
In a statement, Recording Academy President and CEO Neil Portnow said Houston “was one of the world’s greatest pop singers of all time who leaves behind a robust musical soundtrack spanning the past three decades.”
“Her powerful voice graced many memorable and award-winning songs,” Portnow said. “A light has been dimmed in our music community today, and we extend our deepest condolences to her family, friends, fans and all who have been touched by her beautiful voice.”
At her peak, Houston was the golden girl of the music industry. From the middle 1980s to the late 1990s, she was one of the world’s best-selling artists. She wowed audiences with effortless, powerful, and peerless vocals that were rooted in the black church but made palatable to the masses with a pop sheen.
Her success carried her beyond music to movies, where she starred in hits like “The Bodyguard” and “Waiting to Exhale.”
She had the perfect voice and the perfect image: a gorgeous singer who had sex appeal but was never overtly sexual, who maintained perfect poise.
She influenced a generation of younger singers, from Christina Aguilera to Mariah Carey, who when she first came out sounded so much like Houston that many thought it was Houston.
But by the end of her career, Houston became a stunning cautionary tale of the toll of drug use. Her album sales plummeted and the hits stopped coming; her once serene image was shattered by a wild demeanor and bizarre public appearances. She confessed to abusing cocaine, marijuana and pills, and her once pristine voice became raspy and hoarse, unable to hit the high notes as she had during her prime.
“The biggest devil is me. I’m either my best friend or my worst enemy,” Houston told ABC’s Diane Sawyer in an infamous 2002 interview with then-husband Brown by her side.
It was a tragic fall for a superstar who was one of the top-selling artists in pop music history, with more than 55 million records sold in the United States alone.
She seemed to be born into greatness. She was the daughter of gospel singer Cissy Houston, the cousin of 1960s pop diva Dionne Warwick and the goddaughter of Aretha Franklin.
Houston first started singing in the church as a child. In her teens, she sang backup for Chaka Khan, Jermaine Jackson and others, in addition to modeling. It was around that time when music mogul Clive Davis first heard Houston perform.
“The time that I first saw her singing in her mother’s act in a club … it was such a stunning impact,” Davis told “Good Morning America.”
“To hear this young girl breathe such fire into this song. I mean, it really sent the proverbial tingles up my spine,” he added.
Before long, the rest of the country would feel it, too. Houston made her album debut in 1985 with “Whitney Houston,” which sold millions and spawned hit after hit. “Saving All My Love for You” brought her her first Grammy, for best female pop vocal. “How Will I Know,” “You Give Good Love” and “The Greatest Love of All” also became hit singles.
Another multiplatinum album, “Whitney,” came out in 1987 and included hits like “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” and “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.”
The New York Times wrote that Houston “possesses one of her generation’s most powerful gospel-trained voices, but she eschews many of the churchier mannerisms of her forerunners. She uses ornamental gospel phrasing only sparingly, and instead of projecting an earthy, tearful vulnerability, communicates cool self-assurance and strength, building pop ballads to majestic, sustained peaks of intensity.”
Her decision not to follow the more soulful inflections of singers like Franklin drew criticism by some who saw her as playing down her black roots to go pop and reach white audiences. The criticism would become a constant refrain through much of her career. She was even booed during the “Soul Train Awards” in 1989.
“Sometimes it gets down to that, you know?” she told Katie Couric in 1996. “You’re not black enough for them. I don’t know. You’re not R&B enough. You’re very pop. The white audience has taken you away from them.”
Some saw her 1992 marriage to former New Edition member and soul crooner Bobby Brown as an attempt to refute those critics. It seemed to be an odd union; she was seen as pop’s pure princess while he had a bad-boy image, and already had children of his own. (The couple had a daughter, Bobbi Kristina, in 1993.) Over the years, he would be arrested several times, on charges ranging from DUI to failure to pay child support.
But Houston said their true personalities were not as far apart as people may have believed.
“When you love, you love. I mean, do you stop loving somebody because you have different images? You know, Bobby and I basically come from the same place,” she told Rolling Stone in 1993. “You see somebody, and you deal with their image, that’s their image. It’s part of them, it’s not the whole picture. I am not always in a sequined gown. I am nobody’s angel. I can get down and dirty. I can get raunchy.”
It would take several years, however, for the public to see that side of Houston. Her moving 1991 rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” at the Super Bowl, amid the first Gulf War, set a new standard and once again reaffirmed her as America’s sweetheart.
In 1992, she became a star in the acting world with “The Bodyguard.” Despite mixed reviews, the story of a singer (Houston) guarded by a former Secret Service agent (Kevin Costner) was an international success.
It also gave her perhaps her most memorable hit: a searing, stunning rendition of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You,” which sat atop the charts for weeks. It was Grammy’s record of the year and best female pop vocal, and the “Bodyguard” soundtrack was named album of the year.
She returned to the big screen in 1995-96 with “Waiting to Exhale” and “The Preacher’s Wife.” Both spawned soundtrack albums, and another hit studio album, “My Love Is Your Love,” in 1998, brought her a Grammy for best female R&B vocal for the cut “It’s Not Right But It’s Okay.”
But during these career and personal highs, Houston was using drugs. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2010, she said by the time “The Preacher’s Wife” was released, “(doing drugs) was an everyday thing. … I would do my work, but after I did my work, for a whole year or two, it was every day. … I wasn’t happy by that point in time. I was losing myself.”
In the interview, Houston blamed her rocky marriage to Brown, which included a charge of domestic abuse against Brown in 1993. They divorced in 2007.
Houston would go to rehab twice before she would declare herself drug-free to Winfrey in 2010. But in the interim, there were missed concert dates, a stop at an airport due to drugs, and public meltdowns.
She was so startlingly thin during a 2001 Michael Jackson tribute concert that rumors spread she had died the next day. Her crude behavior and jittery appearance on Brown’s reality show, “Being Bobby Brown,” was an example of her sad decline. Her Sawyer interview, where she declared “crack is whack,” was often parodied. She dropped out of the spotlight for a few years.
Houston staged what seemed to be a successful comeback with the 2009 album “I Look To You.” The album debuted on the top of the charts, and would eventually go platinum.
Things soon fell apart. A concert to promote the album on “Good Morning America” went awry as Houston’s voice sounded ragged and off-key. She blamed an interview with Winfrey for straining her voice.
A world tour launched overseas, however, only confirmed suspicions that Houston had lost her treasured gift, as she failed to hit notes and left many fans unimpressed; some walked out. Canceled concert dates raised speculation that she may have been abusing drugs, but she denied those claims and said she was in great shape, blaming illness for cancellations.
Whitney Houston in 1988.
Ms. Houston reigned as pop music’s queen until her majestic voice and regal image were ravaged by drug use, erratic behavior and a tumultuous marriage.
By JON CARAMANICA 5:44 PM ET
Whitney Houston’s fall attracted so much notice because she had so far to go, down from the clouds into an abyss.
What can I say?
The timbre, the octaves she could hit, the beauty, the resilience of such lovely vocal cords.
It is hard to believe that Whitney is no longer with us.
That all is left are recordings, concerts, and films that captured her image for all time.
But, she is still here.
Still in my heart, my memory, my love for her extraordinary talent.
She is still here in every little girl I see who in her innocence, gives me joy.
Whitney is still here, in every little girl I see who looks at the world with eyes of wonder and grows up to give us all gifts that made us cry tears of sorrow that you have left this world, but most of all, tears of happiness that she graced our lives.
Thank you for all you have given us.
May you find peace in the next life, where there are no broken hearts, where you can dance, where you will receive the greatest Gift of all.
Rest in peace, Ms. Houston.
Rest in peace.
PATRICIA STEPHENS DUE, CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER
Frank Noel, courtesy of the State Archives of Florida
Patricia Stephens Due, center, in a protest at a segregated theater in 1963 in Tallahassee, Fla.
By DOUGLAS MARTIN
Published: February 11, 2012
Patricia Stephens Due, whose belief that, as she put it, “ordinary people can do extraordinary things” propelled her to leadership in the civil rights movement — but at a price, including 49 days in a stark Florida jail — died on Tuesday in Smyrna, Ga. She was 72.
The cause was thyroid cancer, her daughter Johnita Due said. She had moved to Smyrna, an Atlanta suburb, to be near her family after living in Miami.
At 13, Patricia Stephens challenged Jim Crow orthodoxy by trying to use the “whites only” window at a Dairy Queen. As a college student, she led demonstrations to integrate lunch counters, theaters and swimming pools and was repeatedly arrested.
As a young mother, she pushed two children in a stroller while campaigning for the rights of poor people. As a veteran of integration and voting rights battles, she went on to fight for economic rights, once obstructing a garbage truck in support of striking workers. As an elder stateswoman of the movement, she wrote a memoir to honor “unsung foot soldiers.”
She fought beside John D. Due Jr., a civil rights lawyer, whom she married in 1963. For their honeymoon, they rode the Freedom Train to Washington to hear the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. give his “I Have a Dream” speech.
Mrs. Due paid a price for this devotion. She wore large, dark glasses day and night because her eyes were damaged when a hissing tear gas canister hit her in the face. She took a decade to graduate from Florida A&M University because of suspensions for her activism.
Her F.B.I. file ran more than 400 pages. Her stepfather urged her to give up civil rights, to protect her and his own job. She was kicked and threatened with dogs, including a German shepherd whose police handlers gave it a racial slur for a name.
Mrs. Due’s greatest prominence came after she and 10 other students were arrested for sitting at the “whites only” lunch counter at a Woolworth’s store in Tallahassee, Fla., on Feb. 20, 1960. It was 19 days after four black students in Greensboro, N.C., had made civil rights history by doing the same thing.
Mrs. Due and seven others refused to pay $300 fines for violating laws they abhorred. Five served the full 49-day sentence.
As leader of the sit-in, Mrs. Due became a national figure. Jackie Robinson sent her a diary for her jail-time thoughts. James Baldwin, Harry Belafonte and Eleanor Roosevelt endorsed her efforts. Dr. King sent a telegram saying, “Going to jail for a righteous cause is a badge of honor and a symbol of dignity.”
It was not easy behind bars. She and her sister, Priscilla Stephens Kruize, her compatriot in many battles, had to share a narrow bed. They suspected that a mentally disturbed woman was placed in the cell to unnerve them. Food was awful; nights were cold.
Thurgood Marshall, head of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, questioned whether it was all worth it, given the deplorable state of Southern jails. But the drama of righteous incarceration seized the nation’s attention, a freed Mrs. Due went on a national fund-raising tour and the “jail-in” became a movement standard.
Patricia Gloria Stephens was born on Dec. 9, 1939, in Quincy, Fla., and was raised in Belle Glade, Fla. As high school students, she and Priscilla, who was 15 months older, started a petition to have the principal removed, The Miami Herald reported in 1990. Patricia said the two were “always testing things.”
In 1959, she formed a local chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality. It was the beginning of life as “a professional volunteer,” in her daughter’s words. She worked with youths, helped out in political campaigns and spoke on human rights issues. In the last year of her life, state, county and local governments in Florida honored her.
In addition to her husband of 49 years, her sister and her daughter, Mrs. Due is survived by two other daughters, Tananarive Due and Lydia Due Greisz; a brother, Walter Stephens; and five grandchildren.
In 2003, Mrs. Due and her daughter Tananarive, a novelist, wrote “Freedom in the Family: A Mother-Daughter Memoir of the Fight for Civil Rights.” The book discusses thorny issues like black people’s ambivalence about the civil rights struggle in the movement’s early days and the emotional turmoil of children whose parents are activists. It also contains many tales of courage.
“Stories live forever,” Mrs. Due liked to say. “Storytellers don’t.”
Patrica Stephens Due.
She was called the “Joan of Arc” of the Tallahassee, Florida community where she strove, through peaceful demonstrations, to bring civil rights to Black denizens of Florida in her fight to end segregation. Ms. Due’s arrest, along with her sister Priscilla, along with other Florida A&M University students, is considered the nation’s first jail-in.
Her daughter, famed author Tananarive Due, interviewed her mother in a discussion of her civil rights activism and on the mother-daughter memoir they wrote, Freedom in the Family.
She was one of the many unsung heroines of the Civil Rights Movement.
Because of her, the world and this nation is a better place.
Rest in peace, Ms. Due.
Rest in peace.
JILL KINMONT BOOTHE, ‘OTHER SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN’ SKIER
By BRUCE WEBER
Published: February 10, 2012
Jill Kinmont Boothe, a champion ski racer whose struggle to recuperate from a paralyzing fall on an icy slope became the subject of the popular 1975 film “The Other Side of the Mountain,” died Thursday in Carson City, Nev. She was 75.
George Silk/Time Life Pictures — Getty Images
Jill Kinmont, around 1955, before a fall left her paralyzed.
Marilyn Hassett, with Timothy Bottoms, played Kinmont in two movies.
Her death, at Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center, was confirmed by a Carson City coroner, Ruth Rhines, who said no cause had yet been determined.
The cover of the Jan. 31, 1955, Sports Illustrated featured a photograph of Jill Kinmont, as she was then known, carrying her skis over one shoulder against a backdrop of snowy mountains. Then 18, she had won the national women’s slalom championship and was deemed a sure bet to represent the United States at the 1956 Winter Olympics in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. But days after that issue landed on newsstands, she slid off an icy bump at high speed during a giant slalom race in Alta, Utah, severely damaging her spinal cord. The accident left her largely paralyzed from the neck down.
“The Other Side of the Mountain,” a lightly fictionalized and highly sentimental account of her accident, triumphant rehabilitation and discovery of a new life as a teacher, starred Marilyn Hassett in the lead role and Beau Bridges as her handsome, daredevil fiancé, who is killed in a plane crash. Ms. Hassett’s performance earned her a Golden Globe nomination as best actress in a drama and a Golden Globe for “best acting debut in a motion picture, female.”
“The Other Side of the Mountain” drew attention to the plight of paraplegics and quadriplegics, and for a time Boothe — she married John G. Boothe, who survives her, in 1976 — was a frequent guest on television talk shows. A sequel, “The Other Side of the Mountain, Part II,” which told of their courtship and marriage, appeared in 1978. (Timothy Bottoms played John Boothe.)
Born in Los Angeles on Feb. 16, 1936, Jill Kinmont moved with her family when she was a girl to Bishop, in the eastern Sierra region of California, where she began skiing at age 12.
After her accident, she attended U.C.L.A. and the University of Washington, and taught in schools near Seattle and in Beverly Hills before returning to Bishop and continuing her teaching career in 1975. A public high school in Bishop was named in her honor.
PETER BRECK, ACTOR IN ‘THE BIG VALLEY’
By ANITA GATES
Published: February 10, 2012
Peter Breck, who starred as Barbara Stanwyck’s most tempermental son in the popular 1960s western series “The Big Valley,” died on Monday in Vancouver, British Columbia. He was 82 and had lived in Vancouver since the 1980s.
ABC, via Photofest
Peter Breck as Nick Barkley.
His death was confirmed by his wife, Diana.
Mr. Breck began his acting career shortly after serving in the Navy. He studied drama and English at the University of Houston and began appearing in productions at the Alley Theater in Houston before moving on to the Arena Theater in Washington, where Robert Mitchum saw him in George Bernard Shaw’s “Man of Destiny” and offered him a small role in his next film, “Thunder Road.”
Brooks Atkinson, the New York Times theater critic, happened to be in the audience that night too. He wrote that Mr. Breck “pitches into the part with wit, energy and comic invention.”
Mr. Breck had already made his television debut, in 1956, in an episode of “Sheriff of Cochise,” which was not a western but a contemporary police drama. But westerns seemed to be his particular destiny. In 1959 he starred in “Black Saddle,” a short-lived series about a gunfighter who becomes a lawyer.
Beginning in 1961, he played Doc Holliday in a half-dozen episodes of “Maverick.” And in 1965 he was cast in “The Big Valley,” a drama about a prosperous ranch family in the Old West, which ran four seasons on ABC. The show, a kind of matriarchal version of “Bonanza,” also starred Lee Majors, Linda Evans and Richard Long.
He appeared in feature films over the years but concentrated on theater work beginning in the 1970s and eventually founded an acting school in Vancouver. His last screen appearance was in “Jiminy Glick in Lalawood,” the 2004 Martin Short comedy.
Joseph Peter Breck was born on March 13, 1929, in Rochester. Because his father was a jazz musician often on the road, Peter lived with his grandparents in Haverhill, Mass., which they felt would offer him a more stable childhood.
In 1960 he married Diana Bourne, a dancer. She survives him. Their son, Christopher, died of leukemia in his 20s.
Mr. Breck had an opinion about why those TV westerns decades ago disappeared. “I think they’ve just forgotten how to make them,” he told The Toronto Star in 1998. “Everybody is so antiviolence these days.”
Though not as well known as the Cartwrights’ ‘Bonanza’, ‘The Big Valley’ was a TV western that had panoramic vistas, engaging stories, a rousing theme, and wonderful actors. Starring the great Barbara Stanwyck (“Double Indemnity”), Linda Evans (“Dynasty”), Richard Long (“Nanny and the Professor”), and Lee Majors (“The Six Million Dollar Man”), there was Peter Breck, whom I considered the more dashing and handsome of the brothers. (It also can be stated that because of his last name, I always had the image of the Breck Shampoo ads running though my mind).
Yes, Mr. Breck’s character, Nick Barkley, could be explosive, tempermental, and blunt, but, I still considered him a steady and strong anchor in the family.
Here’s to you, Mr. Breck, as you ride off into the sunset into the Great Beyond.
Rest in peace, Mr. Breck.
Rest in peace.
FLORENCE GREEN, LAST WORLD WAR I VETERAN
By MARGALIT FOX
Published: February 7, 2012
The last veteran of World War I was a waitress, and for 90 years no one knew her name.
Senior Aircraftman Chris Hill/British Ministry of Defence, via Associated Press
Florence Green received a cake from the Royal Air Force for her 109th birthday in February 2010. Mrs. Green joined the Women’s Royal Air Force in 1918, toward the end of World War I.
Florence Green, a member of Britain’s Royal Air Force who was afraid of flying, died in England on Saturday, two weeks shy of her 111th birthday. She was believed to have been the war’s last living veteran — the last anywhere of the tens of millions who served.
Mrs. Green, who joined the R.A.F. as a teenager shortly before war’s end, worked in an officer’s mess on the home front. Her service was officially recognized only in 2010, after a researcher unearthed her records in Britain’s National Archives.
That Mrs. Green went unrecognized for so long owes partly to the fact that she served under her maiden name, Florence Patterson, and partly to the fact that she conducted herself, by all accounts, with proper British restraint, rarely if ever flaunting her service.
It also owes to the fact that her life followed the prescribed trajectory for women of her era: by the time the 20th century had run its course, Mrs. Green had long since disappeared into marriage, motherhood and contented anonymity.
With the death in May of Claude Stanley Choules, an Englishman who served aboard a Royal Navy battleship, Mrs. Green became the last known person, male or female, to have served in the war on either side.
Her death, at a nursing home in King’s Lynn, in eastern England, was announced on the Web site of the Order of the First World War, an organization based in Florida that keeps track of veterans.
In the spate of interviews she gave after her existence was discovered, Mrs. Green expressed quiet pride in her service. She also recalled approvingly the courtly behavior of the officers she served.
“It was very pleasant, and they were lovely,” she once told an interviewer. “Not a bit of bother.”
But though she was aware of her historical position as the war’s last veteran, Mrs. Green was philosophical about the war itself, one of the defining events of modern history, in which more than 20 million people died.
“It seems,” she remarked to The Independent last year, on the occasion of her 110th birthday, “like such a long time ago now.”
The daughter of Frederick Patterson and the former Sarah Neal, Florence Beatrice Patterson was born in London on Feb. 19, 1901, and moved to King’s Lynn as child.
In September 1918, two months before the war ended, Florence, then 17, joined the Women’s Royal Air Force. An auxiliary branch of the R.A.F., it had been created not long before to help free men for combat duty by recruiting women to work as mechanics and drivers and in other noncombat jobs.
Made a steward in the officers’ mess, she was assigned first to the Narborough Aerodrome and later to the R.A.F. base at Marham, both in England’s Norfolk region.
She served the officers meals and tea, and in free moments she would roam the base, admiring the men. “I met dozens of pilots and would go on dates,” Mrs. Green told The Daily Mail in 2010.
But when they offered to take her aloft in their craft — Sopwith Camels and other biplanes — she demurred. She was afraid to fly.
At Marham, Mrs. Green witnessed what was undoubtedly the most benign bombing of the war. On Nov. 11, 1918, when armistice was declared, the Marham fliers celebrated by swooping down on the Narborough airfield, a few miles away, and letting loose bags of flour. The Narborough boys quickly retaliated by pelting Marham with bags of soot.
Mrs. Green, who remained in the Women’s R.A.F. until July 1919, married Walter Green in 1920. Mr. Green, a railway porter, died in the 1970s.
Her survivors include two daughters, May and June; a son, Bob; four grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.
Mrs. Green’s wartime experience remained unsung until 2009, when an English newspaper, The Lynn News and Advertiser, wrote about her 108th birthday. Andrew Holmes, a British researcher for the Gerontology Research Group, an American organization that keeps statistics on people who live well past 100, then located her service records in the National Archives, resulting in Mrs. Green’s recognition as a veteran the next year.
At her funeral next week, The Associated Press reported, the Union Jack will drape the coffin.
Richard Goldstein contributed reporting.