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  • Writer's pictureStuart Sheldon

Why Whitney Houston is an Immortal Goddess

Whitney Houston in The Bodyguard

Whitney Houston in The Bodyguard

The Bodyguard grossed $410 million worldwide. Amazing … since it sucked. I know. I worked on it, an extra pretending to be one of a thousand excited audience members at the Oscars. And dancing the faux night away in a club while Whitney lip-synched her slender ass off. And cramming a would-be backstage staircase at a concert. This gig was my first look at the bizarre population called extras, expert at doing nothing and being no one: the pale, tattooed, pierced and displaced creatures of the night, the almost homeless, starving actors, Hells Angels … And me.

Stu as an extra in The Bodyguard

A dashing reporter talks to Whitney’s manager in The Bodyguard.

One night, after a long day shooting in a nightclub, Whitney grabbed a live microphone, grinned like a cat and slung an arm over a casually dressed African American woman. “Before you all go home, I need to embarrass my friend right here,” Whitney said to the hundred or so of us standing before the stage. The captive woman rolled her eyes. “You see, it’s her birthday right now, so I’m gonna sing her Happy Birthday. But I’m not just gonna sing it, I’m gonna sing it like it’s never been sung before.”

With that, the diva tore into this oh-so-tired melody with a gospel fervor unlike anything I had ever heard. Her pipes, so underused in pop drivel like “Dance With Somebody,” came fully unbridled. Mad mustangs stampeding. Kicking up a dust storm of pure soul and repurposing this banal ditty into unimaginable triumph. The crowd stood frozen. Paralyzed with awe. And by the end of it, involuntary tears stained my cheeks. Swear to God!

I do not know why we never saw that side of her rarified talent in the mainstream. I guess the point is that, whatever our gift might be, we need to unleash it without reservation more often than not. Tear the lid off and share it with the world. Shut our eyes and sing. Embarrass our friends and ourselves. As Whitney proves, life is indeed short. So get crazy. Get real. Get wild. As the late great and eminent 20th century philosopher, Redd Foxx, put it, “Every now and then we need to get drunk and puke in a cab.”

And the next time you light candles at your best friend’s b-day, hit a couple new octaves just to keep it interesting.

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