Published on February 13th, 2012 | by Alan Cross20
When an Artist Dies, My Day Goes Nuts
Despite what you may think, this story isn’t meant to be about me. It’s about the speed of media today and the frantic nature of the 24 hour news cycle. And it goes like this.
I first heard about Whitney Houston’s death while having dinner with my wife and a friend in New York just off Times Square. First came a text followed by a series of tweets and emails, each building on the story.
By the time we were done and headed by to the hotel, thousands of tourists were staring up at the big news crawls that snake on the neon signs. People were taking pictures with their cell phones and tweeting/emailing/Facebooking/BBMing the photos to their friends.
“Uh-oh,” I thought, “tomorrow is going to be crazy.”
And it was. Whenever a music personality or celebrity suddenly makes news, things move very, very fast. And with today’s technology, things move faster than ever before.
I seem to have become a go-to first-responder guy when it comes to stories like this. Even though my area of music has nothing to do with pop stars like Whitney Houston, I still get frantic calls from chase producers looking for someone to help them fill time and feed the 24 hour news cycle.
First came a request on my cell for an interview by CTV News early Sunday morning asking for comment and perspective on Houston’s career. That was followed by Sun TV. And then CBC News Network. All the calls and emails came in within 30 minutes of each other.
In the past, I wouldn’t have been able to accommodate these requests because, after all, I was in NYC with my wife and a friend. And because no producer really wants to do something like this over the phone, I would have had to decline. Which, of course, would have been totally fine with me.
But this is 2012 and the chase producers at the networks are under tremendous pressure to fill time. Now that they found me on my phone and email, they needed to follow through.
I checked out, set up my laptop in the bar and ordered a drink. In the space of 45 minutes, I banged off all three live TV interviews via a crystal-clear jitter-free Skype video call and a wireless connection. Pretty freakin’ magic, considering that this wouldn’t have been possible even just a few years ago.
Between interviews, I was asked to submit at 250 word column for the Metro papers that had to be filed by 1:30pm. I dashed that off and fired to the editor via email so it could make Monday’s deadline.
At that point, I had to grab a cab to the airport where I missed a phone call from CP24 who wanted me for a live hit. Sorry, guys, but AT&T service in NYC sucks.
Here’s that Metro column, written over a lychee martini (or three) in the bar of The Mark at 77th and Madison. I figured that there are plenty of people far, far more capable of writing a eulogy for Ms Houston, so I took a different tact.
Apparently, though, I’ve annoyed some fans. Judge for yourself.
If you had to pinpoint the moment things began to go wrong for Whitney Houston, it was around the same time everything was going right.
In 1992, she had already sold nearly 50 million albums and was about to sell 44 million more with The Bodyguard soundtrack.
There was her children’s charity, her support of Nelson Mandela and a world tour.
But she married Bobby Brown, a guy who came with a lot of very heavy baggage. Together, they became tabloid gold.
By 2000, her erratic behaviour, increasingly embarrassing live performances and a shocking deterioration in her physical appearance turned her into a punchline for morbid jokes.
UPDATE: Gawker has picked up my post and, uh, it hasn’t been pretty. Richard Ouzounian of the Toronto Star is also being punched in the throat for merely relaying an unflattering encounter with Whitney and Bobby on a cruise a dozen years ago. Such is life on the Internet.