Gaywatch: What Whitney Meant To Me
By Tim Parks
There are some music artists that are intertwined with the coming out process and beyond, forever encased in a piece of memory amber to be looked at under the light of remembrance, intrinsically using the spotlight of said musician to illuminate what they meant on a personal level over the years.
For me, during the ’80s it was Madonna, Whitney Houston and Janet Jackson, all on heavy rotation on MTV. You know when they actually played music videos by people with actual talent, and not a bunch of drunk, belligerent and horny Jersey Shore vacationers that make obscene amounts of money to be, well, drunk, belligerent and horny.
But I digress.
Our relationship fluctuated more than Jennifer Hudson’s weight over the years – by the by, she did a very good rendition of “I Will Always Love You” at The Grammys, but Amber Riley’s on Glee two days later blew that out of the water.
We now return to our thought process already in progress…I always hoped that she would pull herself together when she entered the troubled phase of her career; when she needed to lose 170 pounds, otherwise known as Bobby Brown.
So may I indulge you in a walk down memory lane on Whitney Houston Street, where the cracks are wack and we will be avoiding them, as to not break our collective mothers’ backs. No, there will not be a lot of the usual cracks (dammit) about celebrity foibles in the case of Ms. Whitney Elizabeth Houston. No, really. I’m being totally serious.
How Will I Know About The Greatest Love of All
I first became aware of the awe-inspiring vocals of Whit Whit on her 1985 single, “Saving All My Love For You,” a song that perfectly encapsulated what passed as my first “relationship” with a fella that was 10 years my senior, but was not a senior citizen, as I was just 16. I was easy, but not cheap, ok?
He was what you might call another ’80s song, one “Part Time Lover” by Stevie Wonder, since we had weekend rendezvous and those few stolen moments were all that we shared, as he had a girlfriend and when she wasn’t there, I was more than happy to take up a musical instrument. No, not the skin flute, well that’s not entirely true, but I became adept at playing second fiddle.
After our 9 months of being on the sly were said and done, I would wonder if I’d ever meet anyone who I could give good love to, in essence how would I know if he really loved me.
Adding confusion to my teenaged mind, and according to her liner notes, that “love can be deceiving” and “don’t trust your feelings” in the chorus really threw me for a huge loop. As I did not have anyone who I could turn to that would “know about these things,” I reconciled myself to just enjoy the music bleeding through the orange sponged headphones of my Walkman.
But, she got me again with “Greatest Love of All,” as there was this thing I’d heard about called “self esteem,” which proved more elusive than the pair of parachute pants I wanted at Chess King that my mom wouldn’t buy me.
For you youngins reading this, please turn to pages 40 and 69 (nudge, wink) in your Present-Day-To-1980s-Reference-Book to look up definitions for both Chess King and parachute pants.
I found it startling that this foreign concept of “learning to love yourself” was akin to having a true relationship – why that was crazy talk! It would take me years to really embrace this concept, but the seeds were planted by a woman nicknamed “Nippy.” For those of you not paying attention that would be Whitney Houston…geesh, do you need a crash helmet to read this?
Sufficed to say that by 1987, I hadn’t come out to my four older, and very straight, brothers, although my mom and dad were privy to that bit of information…hello, they had met me! So when upon purchasing the aptly titled Whitney, I immediately received an unsolicited ration of brown expletive from one sibling, who was incredulous that I was listening to, and enjoying the hell out of, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me).”
Oh, did the obvious attempt to conform by having a Christie Brinkley calendar in my bedroom not have it desired affect? My brother essentially got so emotional over my musical tastes that for a nano second he made me not enjoy listening to her on my ghetto blaster.
Eventually, it passed and fueled me with that desire to find the titular somebody to dance with, who would make love save the day, but not inform me as to where broken hearts go. I did eventually find that in my first real boyfriend when I was 18, but he shared my brother’s disdain for her brand of music. Curb meet Scott, since I am kicking him to you.
It’s Not Right, but It’s OK, OK?
There are so many songs that I have very fond – and other – memories associated with Whitney, whether they are from her films (shoop!) or her 170 million combination sales of singles, videos and albums, but none ever spoke to me more than her 1999’s “It’s Not Right, but It’s OK.”
Its release came right on the heels (little pink one, naturally) of a breakup, so its anthem-style lyrics of “I’m gonna make it anyway” were right on par with where I was at in August 1999. The Thunderpuss remix, and my new found freedom, had my feet on the dance floor at Rich’s every weekend, until I could actually feel the pain getting less and less.
Cut. Print. That’s A Wrap!
Contrary to popular belief, I did not have my tear ducts removed because I never use them; I am still tearing up almost a week since the passing of a truly great star. Especially as I write this. Yes, I know in the past I have made my fair share of jokes at her expense, but her untimely death has made me focus on the positives of what she brought to my life. R.I.P. Whitney and thanks for the wonderful memories that you leave us with.