Sunday, February 12, 2012

My Brush with Whitney

I'm conflicted. Should I mention this or not? A momentary brush with a superstar? I wasn't a fan. She was good, but my feelings about Whitney Houston have always been somewhere in the middle of fan and anti-fan. She had a good voice, but a good voice isn't everything. I'm not making a negative or a positive comment on her life; I'm simply mentioning this to document two lives crossing...and to bid her farewell. I'm glad she's not suffering any longer.

It was 1991. I was living in LA for about six months and waiting tables at Jerry's Famous Deli. The graveyard shift. I waited on every comedian--both professional and incredibly amateur--in LA. One night Whitney with her entourage of four or five friends showed up at one of my tables.

She ordered fried chicken at a Jewish deli.

"It's not going to be good," I said--as a good waiter should.

"I want fried chicken," she said.

"And fried chicken you'll get," I said. Really really bad chicken, I didn't say.

Twenty minutes later when she got here food, her reaction was "Bullshit. Just like I thought. Bullshit." She laughed hysterically as if even bad fried chicken were something to smile about. She had a beautiful smile.

"Actually," I said, "I was the one who said it would be bullshit." She should have ordered the lox or the matzo ball soup.

She laughed. I laughed. And she ate it, I think. I don't remember her sending it back.

In LA I waited on the likes of Billy Idol (very nice) and Marlon Brando (from top to bottom, total and complete, every bit an asshole), but Whitney was just there to have a good time with her friends. I don't think she ever looked at me--which is perfectly fine. When I worked as a waiter, I wanted to be invisible. 

So--besides telling all my students in Germany that "I Will Always Love You" was actually a country song written and sung for decades by Dolly Parton--my few invisible moments in LA with Whitney are all I have to cherish. I was a twenty-something in the 80s, so I knew every Whitney song by heart. Her downward spiral saddened everyone I knew.

Her life was too short.

I must be off,