When I was first asked by Jet magazine to fly to New Jersey to cover Ms. Houston's funeral, I was enraged. I'm an original gangsta from Compton. As an urban militant and former member of The Inkspots, I found this kind of pop culture news reportage beneath me, especially in a time when if a black man goes to court looking for justice, that's all he finds... just us. However, as a gay man, I thought it would be fabulous.
So I called my dear friend, George Takei, and asked him what I should wear to the affair.
"Black," he said, inscrutibly, "is the new black."
"George," I told him, "black sucks."
"Honey," he replied, "Uhura's black. So if that were true, I'd still be straight."
When I got to the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, N.J. for the funeral service, I was surprised to find out that there was a two-dollar cover-charge. They sat me pretty far in the back. I slipped the usher an extra buck. He sat me even further in the back, just a few aisles in front of the last row, which was reserved for Bobby Brown.
Eventually, Bobby Brown--his nose lightly dusted from having just eaten a powdered donut--showed up, sat down, and immediately started making out with his date. His date was a tall, pretty Asian girl. Funny, but I've never seen a girl with that noticeable of an adam's apple before. Almost as immediately, the ex-Mr. Houston left.
"I thought there was gonna be food," he grumbled, as he staggered out. I checked the soles of my shoes. I could swear I had just stepped in something.
I must admit, I was a bit disappointed at first with my seating arrangement, but soon realized that from my vantage point I'd be able to observe and report on everything. Whitney Houston's death was a tragedy, but it was also a chance for me to cash in.
I received a text from Dolly Parton, a personal friend of mine. She wrote that, unfortunately, she would be unable to attend Ms. Houston's funeral, mainly due to the fact that she wasn't invited. (Attention, English students: that's what us professional Pulitzer Prize winning writers call irony.) What many people don't realize is that Dolly wrote Whitney's biggest hit I Will Always Love You. I find it fitting that the song was such a big hit for Whitney. White people have been stealing the black man's songs and becoming rich since the beginning of music. It was time a black artist did the same to whitey.
I thought for a few minutes about the circumstances that brought me here. It was only a few days ago, but it seems now like an eternity, that Whitney Houston was found dead in the bathtub of her hotel room. When Clive Davis got the news at the party he was hosting downstairs, he decided to continue partying "in honor of Whitney."
I looked around and saw Whitney's Waiting To Exhale co-star, Angela Bassett. I would have gone up to offer her some comfort and support, but thought it better that I didn't, especially since she had that restraining order against me.
Dionne Warwick insisted, through tears, on reading a poem. Unfortunately, that poem was about how she was the one who should have won Donald Trump's Celebrity Apprentice. She generously offered to stay and sign autographs for five dollars a pop. They had her escorted out.
Alica Keys sang Send Me An Angel, but had to stop when she began crying. She spent the rest of the services asking people who Bob Dylan was, and why would he mention her in one of his songs.
Stevie Wonder admitted that he had a crush on her, even though they had never met, and that if she were still alive she would want everybody to "buy my new album."
Tyler Perry confessed that, even though no one knew it, he and Whitney had become close friends in the last few years, and what a shame it was that "the only person who can confirm that has now died."
Kevin Costner, who hadn't accepted any of Whitney's phone calls since the last time he looked in a mirror and saw a full head of hair, gave a touching eulogy about how close they were. Tyler Perry rolled his eyes at that.
"She wasn't his friend, she was mine," he huffed to Oprah, who was sitting next to him in the pew, taking up enough space for two people and a small child.
"Pass the gravy," Oprah said.
I couldn't help but notice that Kevin Costner brought his daughter, Christine, to the funeral with him. She was a young, pretty girl. Somebody told me that she was his wife, but I didn't believe it.
"Oh, yeah?" I said. "Then why did she just leave with Clive Davis?"
Speaking of Clive Davis, there was a touching moment when he first entered the church. He walked mournfully up the aisle, and made his way over to where Whitney's grieving mother sat. He gently took her hand, and solemnly asked her to move.
"You're in my seat, Cissy," he told her, with all the due respect the sad occassion required.
He had her moved to the back of the church, in the seats that Bobby Brown had just vacated, where her crying wouldn't disturb him. But it didn't really matter, since Whitney Houston's mom thought she was at the Michael Jackson funeral.
Whitney's daughter, Bobbi Kristina, was said to be stoned, but that was completely untrue. She had just accidentally inhaled smoke from the cremation.
Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton were there, even thought they were purposely given the wrong day and time. However, they were asked to leave when they kept passing around the collection plate.
The Reverand Wright--President Obama's pastor, mentor, and close personal friend--was there to throw in a few anti-American remarks. "The chickens have come home to roost in the U.S. of KKK," he said, "and now, sadly, so has Whitney Hutton."
Paul McCartney made a surprise appearance, but nobody recognized him.
"But I'm Paul McCartney."
"You know, from the Beatles."
"I just performed on the Grammys."
"Sorry, man, but you don't look nothing like Chris Brown."
As it turned out Sir Paul wasn't there to pay his respects to Whitney Houston or her family. He just saw a large crowd and thought it would be a good opportunity to promote his new album where he covers old songs that nobody remembers anymore.
R. Kelly was schedualed to perform I Look To You, and I had a chance to talk to him just before the services were to start.
"Did you know her?" I asked him.
"Did you ever meet her?"
"Then why are you here?"
"Well, I'm dropping a new cd soon, and..."
But he wasn't able to finish. The church's pastor, Marvin Winans, finally began the service. The church grew quiet. The pastor lifted his eyes and arms heavenward, and he asked in a voice full of sadness and longing:
"Who's going to pay for all this?"
Fifty Shades of Funny