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Holland Park Press

The Death of a Diva

16 February 2012 Zie Nederlandse versie
by Arnold Jansen op de Haar

One of the most difficult things in life is to say something meaningful after someone has died, especially if you knew the person. Unfortunately Paris Hilton knows everybody and announced to the world: ‘So sad to hear the news about Whitney Houston.’

I think it is rather sad even to hear from Paris Hilton. Can’t she go into hiding during this type of event? And where was everyone when Whitney was in trouble?

Some people are just clumsy. I remember that at my father’s funeral reception you had to endure endless cuddles from aunts you hadn’t seen in ages. One cousin, who had turned fat and unrecognisable, talked away at my mother my mother for a long time. My sister whispered, ‘For heaven’s sake, who’s that?’

Elton John said about Whitney Houston: ‘She was the most beautiful woman I think I ever saw.’ So Elton thinks she was. Isn’t he quite sure?

Mariah Carey also commented: ‘One of the greatest voices to ever grace the earth.’ One used to say the ‘world’; referring to ‘earth’ or ‘planet’ instead makes it sound as if the speaker is from a completely different planet.

I’ve got a text ready in case Mariah passes on: ‘She was, I think, the most beautiful woman in the universe. Besides, she sang All I Want for Christmas Is You, the worst ever Christmas hit.’

Or take this remark from Christina Aguilera: ‘We have lost another legend.’ Often this type of response means: please call me a living legend too when I die.

The death of Whitney Houston reminds me of Karen Carpenter: a beautiful voice but with a sugary repertoire, yet a very interesting life. I think she died of grief, but a great many people have enjoyed her music.

The strange thing is that I don’t think all ‘sugary music’ is bad. As a youngster I was quite taken with Olivia Newton-John, but I kept it quiet for years. Whitney was also very beautiful, and Elton, I don’t think this, it’s the truth.

Recently I talked to Father Piet, aged eighty-nine. Father Piet is my mother’s cousin and he spent half his life as a missionary in Brazil, or ‘Brasil’. Father Piet continues to use its Portuguese name. Officially he is retired, but twice a week he says mass in an old people’s home. Before that he looked after a convent for elderly nuns. ‘By the time I left three-quarters of them had died,’ he declared cheekily, as if it was his fault.

He speaks with many of the very elderly in the old people’s home and Father Piet really listens. ‘The beautiful thing is,’ according to Father Piet, ‘that every one has had an interesting life. They have all contributed something special to society.’

Relatives of the departed often provide him with pages full of declarations about how wonderful the deceased was. During his homily Father Piet prefers to stick to the facts: ‘They are impressive enough.’

So here are the facts. The people who really loved her can fill in the gaps.

Whitney Elizabeth Houston (Newark, 9 August 1963 – Beverly Hills, 11 February 2012), singer and actress.

Whitney was born in a middle-class neighbourhood in Newark, New Jersey, the third and youngest child of John Russell Houston Jr. and gospel singer Cissy Houston (née Emily Drinkard).

She was married to Bobby Brown from 1992 to 2007. This marriage produced one daughter: Bobbi Kristina Houston Brown (4 March 1993).

She received two Emmy Awards, six Grammy Awards, thirty Billboard Music Awards and twenty-two American Music Awards, as well as numerous other awards.

This is what I would recommend for the funeral, held in the church where she sang as a child:
  1. Refuse Paris Hilton entry at the door
  2. No speeches
  3. Lots of flowers
  4. Two lovely songs sung at the top of their voices by the entire congregation
© Arnold Jansen op de Haar
© Translation Holland Park Press

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