February 11 remains a day of mourning for anyone who has ever been affected by the music of Whitney Houston. That’s the day in 2012 we lost one of the most talented artists of all time.
Whitney Houston broke more music industry records than any other female singer in history. With sales of more than 200 million album worldwide, she was the only artist to chart seven consecutive No. 1 singles in the U.S.
Almost everyone has a story about Whitney.
Growing up in a very conservative Judeo-Christian neighborhood in Brooklyn, it was very hard for me in the early ’90s to come to terms with being gay. I didn’t know anyone else who was gay. I didn’t know about any gay events. I had no idea where gay people gathered.
Then one day I was paging through a newspaper (I think it was The Village Voice) when I spotted an advertisement for The Gaiety, a Times Square theater that promised “The Best in Male Burlesque” and, less poetically, “LIVE SHOWS! 6 BOYS 5 TIMES A DAY!”
I couldn’t get there fast enough.
I knew it was a strip club so I was incredibly nervous to go inside. I must’ve walked up and down the block 10 times before I finally ducked up the stairs. What I didn’t know is that most of the strippers were there to meet “businessmen” and do “private shows” at a nearby hotel to supplement the tips they collected on stage.
The Gaiety would be described by some as a “den of iniquity.”
But something amazing happened there for me.
Two of the strippers came out on stage and danced together to Whitney’s monster hit from The Bodyguard, “I Will Always Love You.” But they didn’t just dance. They made pseudo love. It was sexy, yes. But it was also tender. And seeing this made me realize that I, a gay man, could find someone to be in a relationship with — and share a life. Before that, I was sure that being gay condemned me to a life of lust and sin.
It’s amazing how a song can be so powerful that it change the course of your life.
That was how Whitney affected me, and I’m sure there are millions of other stories about how Whitney and her music affected people’s lives.
So, I couldn’t wait to see Whitney, the new, authorized documentary on her life. The film features never-before-seen archival footage, exclusive demo recordings, video of rare performances, audio archives, and original interviews with the people who knew Whitney best: her mother Cissy, the rest of her family, and her friends.
Little did I realize the many variables that affected Whitney’s successes and failures. I don’t want to call attention to any of them here since I don’t want to ruin the movie for anyone, but I suggest you make two hours to see this incredibly powerful documentary. It’s worth every minute, and the time flies by.
A lot of people think they know the reason for Whitney’s downfall. Trust me, you don’t! But you will have a much better understanding of how such a sweet and phenomenally talented person could come to such a horrible end after watching this film.
Whitney (Rated R; 2h 2m) is in theaters Friday, July 6, including O Cinema Wynwood (90 NW 29th St, Miami) and The Classic Gateway Theatre (1820 E Sunrise Blvd, Fort Lauderdale).
Pat Houston, Whitney’s sister-in-law, talks about making the film.
Whitney Houston’s family was involved in the making of the new documentary, offering a wealth of archival materials to Director Kevin Macdonald, both as background and for use in Whitney. For at least one family member, the documentary was a labor of love. Pat Houston, Whitney’s sister-in-law, served as an executive producer on the film. It was a pleasure to sit down with her for this exclusive Hotspots interview.
Do you remember the first time you met Whitney?
The first time I met Whitney was in Las Vegas in 1992. I went to visit [Whitney’s brother] Gary, and Whitney was very nice and cordial.
Were you always close?
At the very beginning, I was closer to her parents. It wasn’t until 1999 that [Whitney and I] started becoming close.
How did the film come about?
Whitney started thinking about doing a documentary in 1999, but it just never happened.
Did you have doubts about producing it?
Since I knew Whitney wanted to do one, it was an easy decision for me.
Did the entire family support the project?
They supported it from the very beginning.
Is the family happy with the film?
There were a lot of revelations in the final product that were a little bit overbearing to hear. Nonetheless, we are family, and we dealt with it and got through it together.
Tell us about your nonprofit organization, Teen Summit?
I established Teen Summit in 2007. I’m originally from North Carolina, and growing up I was blessed to have a civil group in the area offer me a liberal arts scholarship. There was always someone mentoring me and making sure I had what I needed when I was in school. Therefore, I decided to start a mentoring program, so I could give back and pay it forward.
In 2016 President Barack Obama presented you with the Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award. How exciting and fulfilling was that?
I don’t have any words to describe it. My first thought was: Who, me? To be given an award for [work] that you love is a really good feeling. Life is about your purpose and what you do with it. I love helping millennials.
Why should readers go see Whitney?
They should go see it because Whitney’s fans are very in tune with her music but don’t know enough about her personal life. Her life was much more than music. They need to see where [Whitney] came from and how she ended up where she did. In this movie you see the music, and the story of her whole life.