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Houston was a pioneer of her time on Astini News

It's easy to imagine a teenager watching the Grammy Award ceremonies Sunday night and wondering what the fuss was about.

(Maybe the biggest fantasy of that sentence is the idea of a teen watching the Grammys. But then again, Adele won a truck of prizes, and Chris Brown and Kanye West got their moments in the spotlight. So maybe.)

Some of them might have been wondering about the fuss over Whitney Houston. (Heck, some of them were wondering who Paul McCartney was, as proven by a couple dozen social media posts gathered on the website And as opposed to Houston, McCartney still tours and does interviews with each new release. Heck, as opposed to Houston, McCartney still has new releases.)

Unless you were there, it's probably difficult to grasp Houston's affect on the music scene and how it was presented and consumed in the 1980s.

Houston's arrival in 1985 was a public explosion. She was breaking ground we didn't even realize needed to be broken. If Michael Jackson was MTV's Jackie Robinson, breaking the color barrier and opening up the influential television network to more styles of music and something other than white people in spandex, Houston was its Larry Doby. She was a pioneer equal to Jackson, the sheer force of her talent (and the public acknowledgment of that talent) making Houston's presence on the channel almost as omnipresent as Jackson's. Her first album contained three No. 1 singles. The first four singles off her second album made it to No. 1. No artist has ever started a career like that - not The Beatles or Elvis Presley or Madonna.

Then the first movie she starred in made $100 million. That was at a time when that plateau meant more than it does now. (In 1992, 11 films had domestic gross of $100 million, in 2011, 30 films passed the mark.)

She was on top of the entertainment universe, one of the most popular women in the world.

Then her life devolved into what one friend called a "slow-motion train wreck," with a marriage that included plenty of arrests, admitted drug abuse and a reality TV show; a tussle that resulted in her being fired from an appearance on the Academy Awards (back when the audience for the show was what the Academy would kill for today); and erratic live shows, and failure to appear at concerts.

She went from being Larry Doby to being Sly Stone.

Houston never disappeared from the public eye, and the foundation of art she laid at the start of her career always allowed fans to think she was capable of repeating the accomplishments. But a weak ear for songs and the fading of the once-legendary vocal talent led to her diva crown's fade.

But those are just a handful of the reasons Houston's death report found itself at the top of newspapers around the country Sunday morning, including this one.

The March 2012 issue of Vanity Fair magazine contains features on past actress sex goddesses Brigitte Bardot and Sophia Loren.

Bardot's last film came in 1973, and she might be best known today for her activism as an animal rights advocate, and her perpetual fines for her public pronouncements of her hatred of Islam.

The voluptuous Loren had a more impressive run as an actress, and has a pair of Oscars (including an honorary one) to her credit. She also has five Golden Globes. Loren's film career essentially drew to a close with the arrival of the 1980s, although she infamously appeared in director Robert Altman's "Prêt-à-Porter" in 1994 and was a love interest in "Grumpier Old Men" the following year.

But it's easy to picture fans of Rooney Mara, Mia Wasikowska, Jennifer Lawrence and Jessica Chastain - among the cover subjects in a group shoot of young actresses - wondering about the identity of these fossils taking up space inside the issue's pages.

Bardot and Loren are not dissimilar to what, most recently, Elizabeth Taylor was. Their time of relevance has long since passed. When Taylor died, her passing was important and news valuable to report because of what she still meant to the millions who had followed her life with interest.

Like younger people who need to be reminded of Houston's significance well past her relevance, it will eventually again be the job of those who remember to explain.| 421-6908


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