Barely Whitney

Our national songbird comes off the endangered list.


I'll always love Whitney Houston. Last night she let Diane Sawyer poke her with Ginsu knives for an hour on national TV in order to hawk her new CD, Just Whitney. The pop diva's publicist must have convinced her that the American people wouldn't buy the new album or old tunes like "Jesus Loves Me, This I Know" unless she came clean about her sometimes self-destructive relationship with alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, and pills.

Behold, the celebrity confessional, not necessarily redemptive but apparently quite lucrative. Such torture sessions are always painful for all involved—most of all the audience, whose only payoff is the "opportunity" to purchase the CD. But Whitney's squirmy sit down with Sawyer, with its focus on drug use, was beyond painful. It was painfully absurd.

In a typical moment, Sawyer, her face contorted in faux concern, real pity, and total discomfort, asked Houston, "Are you an addict?"

"I don't like to think of myself addicted. I had a bad habit—which can be broken," answered the singer hoarsely, her face moving quickly from pinched sadness to a great big "gotta love me" grin, a recurring tic. If Houston wasn't hopped up when she taped that interview—and if she was, more power to her—she never is.

Houston hubby Bobby Brown, temporarily released from the maid's quarters where Whitney undoubtedly keeps him when ABC's star interviewer is not around, joined his wife on the interrogation couch for a few minutes—covered in sweat throughout the ordeal. When Sawyer asked him about marijuana, he answered that he was diagnosed bipolar and therefore used pot—but, he swears, only once a day—to keep him level.

Sawyer's response was hilarious. "What about lithium?" she asked Brown, suggesting the frequently prescribed treatment for his disorder. Moments before, she had been patronizingly grilling the two about drug use. Now, suddenly, she was implicitly encouraging Brown to take lithium, rather than self-medicate with a much gentler drug. Brown explained he'd actually tried it: "Catatonic" was the word both he and his wife used to describe its effects. Still, he refused to admit ever having taken any other drug. He stuck to his story when Sawyer reminded him he'd once tested positive for cocaine.

But the best part of the interview was when Houston declared herself in the mood for kicking ass. "You mean like mine?" responded Sawyer, in one of precious few likeable moments.

Houston smiled, and without irony offered what should have been the interview's crowning absurdity: "No Diane, not you. This is a blessing." But of course, Houston's right. The interview was TV's top-rated show last night. It's a blessing she'll take straight to the bank.