Friday, January 25, 2013

Yeah, the Day the Fucking Angels Cried

I couldn’t tell you why I was driving west across Los Angeles the day Whitney Houston died, because I lived in Brentwood then and, as a result, most of my existence in this city revolved around Brentwood and its whole fogged-in, J. Crew aesthetic. Now I live in Los Feliz, where I don’t feel so very awkward and out-of-place, and it’s surprising how much of a difference it makes to move from one neighborhood to another. Anyway, some business drew me east of the west side that day, and I was driving right by the Beverly Hilton less than two hours after Whitney Houston drowned in her hotel bathtub there. I didn’t realize it at the time. I don’t think the general public knew at that point.

A short aside: Whitney Houston is not a major figure in my life. I never listened to her music, and I never saw a single movie she appeared in — no, not even The Bodyguard. I only remember her for that one Christmas episode of Saturday Night Live that Rosie O’Donnell hosted. Houston was the musical guest and I think she sang Christmas songs. She also appeared in a Mary Katherine Gallagher sketch alongside O’Donnell and Penny Marshall. Given the rumors about Whitney Houston, that seems noteworthy. I suppose my lack of love for Houston should underscore the fact that my job at the time — writing for the kind of people for whom Fergie and Kat Von D rank as famous celebrities — was not a great fit for me. As a result of this fact, Whitney Houston’s death didn’t strike me as more of a tragedy than would the death of any other person I didn’t know and didn’t have an attachment toward her. Her death was sad in the same way that that it’s sad when anyone anywhere dies young, minus the fact that she lived large and maybe hastened the end with drugs.

Anyway, traffic poked along that evening, and it had started to rain. Trapped in my non-moving car, I had an opportunity to witness this glorious end-of-day period where the transition from late afternoon to evening was accentuated by those late-in-the-day colors you only see when it’s raining. I took some photos, and you can see them throughout this post.

Uncharacteristic rain notwithstanding, I can’t imagine a more representative snapshot of Los Angeles — palm trees, traffic, brake lights, sunset hues and, just beyond the frame of the photos, the corpse of a famous person whose life was ruined by celebrity. She died naked and floating in a hotel bathtub of questionable cleanliness.

I like the idea of showing people these photos and then explaining the context and then telling them, “I like to think that the raindrops where the angels crying because they’d lost one of their own.” And then I’d examine their faces and see how they react: with earnest tears, because this troubled woman truly was an angel in their perspective, or with eye rolls, because they see the shuddering, shit-gobbling sentimentalism in this statement — because they reject the culture that my old job pushed.

Having said all that, I do think my photos capture something. And I’m glad I no longer have to pretend like the Grammys aren’t an artless, meaningless exercise.

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