From CNN and MSNBC on down, media pundits have expressed shock and dismay at singer Whitney Houston‘s death at the young age of 48.
As a reluctant follower of Houston’s fall from grace in the pages of the National Enquirer though, my take is just the opposite.
I can’t believe she lasted this long!
For example the current issue of the Enquirer – which went to press just prior to Houston’s death last weekend – features a front page story and photos of her down and out in Beverly Hills, the city where she was found dead.
"Whitney Collapses!" the headline reads. "Strung Out & Broke, it’s worse than anyone thought. The shocking photos."
Now look, I know many of you take a dim view of the Enquirer, and I don’t entirely blame you.
However, as an adjunct to writing my column in the Kansas City Star years ago, I subscribed to a number of magazines – including the Enquirer – as a means of keeping my pop culture ear to the ground. Frankly, it gave me a bit more ammo and insight when reporting on national stars that visited KC and I sometimes interviewed.
And as I’ve said before here, the Enquirer is THE most legit of the tabloids, in my opinion.
People magazine is OK if you don’t mind waiting several months for them to catch up to the Enquirer.
But back to Whitney…
"Whitney Houston collapsed in a stunning public breakdown, and friends fear the troubled singer is back on drugs and facing financial ruin," the story begins. "Once worth more than $100 million, the 48-year-old star is nearly broke and battling health problems related to her longtime addictions to cocaine and marijuana, insiders say.
"Despite that, Whitney continues to party with duggie pals, sources add, and she crumpled after leaving a doctor’s office in Beverly Hills on Feb. 2."
By my anecdotal measure, I hadn’t read much news on Houston in recent years outside of her failed comeback long after the alleged Bobby Brown beating.
So the timing on the Enquirer story this week couldn’t have been much better, outside of the fact that Houston died just before it reached the stands. Prophetic is the word that comes to mind.
That said, the story gives a lot of insight with what may have lead to her death missing from the media coverage I’ve seen elsewhere.
Take the tale of Houston walking out of L.A.’s Le Petit Four restaurant with boyfriend Ray J.
"Whitney had a big smile on her face and seemed so out of it that Ray had to buckle her seatbelt for her," a source told the Enquirer.
"A recent report decribed Whitney as ‘broke as a joke,’ claiming she called one pal to borrow $100 and would be homeless if friends weren’t supporting her," the Enquirer adds. "It’s hard to believe Whitney could burn through all that money, but nowadays she does seem desperate," another friend told the Enquirer.
The magazine reports that Houton’s most recent "rehab stint" was last May. Right before she appeared in the movie "Sparkle" with former American Idol finalist Jordin Sparks.
The telltale closing graphs of the story, combined with the photos, tell a dark, sad tale.
"Whitney needs to slow down and take better care of herself," a source told the Enquirer. "One minute she seems down and depressed and the next she’s partying like a maniac! It’s getting to the point where she’s playing Russian rouletter with her life!"
See what I mean?