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ROEPER: Houston’s death sad, tragic; certainly not shocking

Updated: March 14, 2012 8:09AM

When organizers go ahead with an event after an entertainer has died, when a football player takes the field shortly after the death of a loved one, the rationale is always the same: The recently deceased “would have wanted it that way.”

Maybe so. Although a friend of mine who works in the spotlight once said, “If I die young, I want all of you to be so paralyzed with grief you don’t leave your houses for a whole year.”

In a macabre scenario that would have been deemed too over-the-top even for an updated remake of “A Star is Born,” police confirmed Whitney Houston’s body was still in her fourth-floor room at the Beverly Hilton while the annual pre-Grammy gala rolled along in the ballroom downstairs Saturday night.

So while ambulances and police vehicles were parked outside, while fans were leaving candles and flowers and handwritten tributes, while camera-wielding paparazzi swarmed around, the likes of Tony Bennett and Diana Krall and Ray Davies of the Kinks were performing onstage to a celebrity-filled crowd as Houston’s body was still in that room on the fourth floor.

“She graced this stage so many times with her regal presence,” said Clive Davis, the legendary producer who hosted the annual pre-Grammy bash. “Whitney would have wanted the music to go on...”

Recording Academy CEO Neil Portnow said canceling “was never an option, because you could hear Whitney on your shoulder saying, ‘Hey guys, this is showbiz. The show must go on.’ ”

Maybe so. And maybe it wouldn’t have seemed so bizarre if Houston had died a few days earlier, or in another locale. But given that police were still treating her hotel room as a potential crime scene and her body was still on the premises, would it have been so terrible to cancel the pre-Grammy party and start planning the tributes to Houston for the Sunday Grammys?

A bright shining star

It was 20 years ago, 1992. Long before Houston infamously told Diane Sawyer, “Crack is wack!” in 2002 (she was quoting a Keith Haring mural from 1986), long before the seemingly endless stories about her troubles with Bobby Brown and her battles with drugs, long before all those photos and videos of a disheveled Houston delivering off-key performances or stumbling out of some nightspot, Whitney Houston was a superstar. In ’92 she starred with Kevin Costner in “The Bodyguard,” which grossed more than $400 million worldwide. The soundtrack, filled with hits such as “I’m Every Woman,” “I Have Nothing,” “Queen of the Night” and “I Will Always Love You,” sold 45 million copies worldwide. (That’s roughly the combined sales total of all of Lady Gaga and Rihanna’s albums to date.)

In 1992, Houston was as beautiful as any movie star in the world, and she had a bigger voice than any other singer on the charts. She was so lovely, so talented. There were few if any multi-platform stars that shined brighter at the time.

But like dozens of other pop culture icons and millions of others whose troubles don’t make headlines, Houston was overmatched by addiction.

When the Twitterverse blew up last Saturday evening with the first reports of Houston’s death and the inevitable crush of “RIP” messages, thousands of fans talked of being “stunned” and “shocked.” Was it sad and tragic news? Obviously. But stunning or shocking? This was not a plane crash. Given the length and depth of Houston’s troubles, let’s just say more than a few people had her in their 2012 Celebrity Death Pools. The time period between “The Bodyguard” and “Crack is wack!” is equal to the time period between “Crack is wack!” and Houston’s death in 2012. For a solid decade, she’d been in the headlines much more for her tribulations than her artistry.

Houston’s body was finally removed from the Beverly Hilton in the very early hours of Sunday morning.

By then, the party was over.

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