Lest we forget: Whitney was a criminal

Pardon my insensitivity. Whitney Houston was a great singing talent, indeed. That was a gift of nature. She was also a criminal.

There are over a million people in our jail and prisons today, and another two million on probation for doing exactly what she did for the better part of 15 years: buy, possess and use illegal drugs. But she got away with it and continued to reap admiration along the way.

The sports and entertainment world, and the media in general, should stop lionizing dead idols who spent a good part of their lives using recreational (and illegal) drugs. The subliminal messages they send to impressionable young people by the millions is not only powerful, it is infinitely damaging and carries long-term consequences.

While we know that hundreds of idols are unapologetic users of illegal marijuana, thousands more have made no secret of using heroin, cocaine and meth for recreation, which is not only illegal but highly addictive and destructive. When they die, mass funerals are held, long-winded eulogies of praise are heard and not a word is spoken about the horrid addiction they suffered by making stupid choices, choices that no child should ever make. Neither do they mention the lifelong pain and misery suffered by family and friends in their wake.

The list of celebrity users, dead and alive, is horrific: John Belushi, Robert Downey Jr., Tim Allen, David Bowie, Billie Holiday, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Charlie Sheen, and on and on. That doesn’t even address idols whose addictions were confined to prescription drugs like Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley.

What is missing from Whitney Houston’s life, and from most celebrity drug addicts, is owning up, admitting openly that they have been caught up in the yoke of addiction and to use their fame, adoration and influence to steer young people away from the nightmare they will face if they get started on the drug path. Sadly, few do that.

Whitney Houston was talented but selfish. She wallowed in admiration for her musical skills while everyone turned a blind eye to the monkey on her back and her criminal behavior. Her sickness was of choice, not nature. As the world knew of her drug habits, she stood as a disgraceful role model for millions of young boys and girls, a shining example of how and why the drug scene is not so bad. “Look, Whitney Houston does it, it’s cool.” I dare to wonder how many kids vicariously entered the drug scene thanks to stars like her.

I might be inclined to feel more sympathetic if Whitney Houston had publicly used her iconic status in a crusade against drugs. Where are her video messages? Where are her billboards?  Where are her ubiquitous anti-drug admonitions?

“Hi kids, I’m that Grammy winner, Whitney Houston. You think I’m cool, but I’m not. I’m a hooked drug user and believe me, I curse the first day I ever tried cocaine and other hard drugs. You have no idea the sickness and pain I have suffered every day, at my own hand. I wish, so hard, I could wipe the slate clean and start over. But it’s too late. I’m an addict. My life is busted. I’m forever craving that hit one more time, a slave to drugs for life. Being rich means nothing.

“No matter how much money I have, it makes my life miserable. I beg every last one of you, don’t ever do drugs, not even the first time. Don’t get sucked into the ‘wanna be liked’ syndrome. Don’t be fooled by people like me. Drugs will eventually kill you. If not literally, they will kill your spirit and ruin your life. Never, never do what I’ve done. You’ll be sorry. That’s a promise.”

So, let’s hear it from the Hollywood stars, the rockers and rappers, musicians and singers. Where are your voices, Robert, Charlie, Lindsey and Snoop Dog? Why aren’t you using your idol status to help save the lives of impressionable kids from the misery you have suffered? Why don’t you care?

Most celebrity druggies haven’t the courage to do that. And neither did Whitney.

(Marshall Frank is former WNC resident, a retired Miami-Dade homicide detective and the author of several books. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

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