National Enquirer publisher Mary Beth Wright called the photo of Whitney Houston in her coffin “beautiful,” but the tabloid newspaper faced widespread condemnation from other media outlets and the public– even as they couldn’t avert their eyes from the image.
Among other things, The Enquirer introduced a whole new generation of Americans to the kind of bare-knuckle journalism that existed at the dawn of the tabloid era in the 1970s.
The Enquirer ran a photo of Elvis Presley in his coffin after he died of a drug overdose in 1977. It was the widest selling issue in the history of the tabloid. And, it immediately prompted the question: Who took it?
Check out the National Enquirer; click to enlarge.
Publishing photos of celebrities lying dead in their caskets is a time-honored tabloid tradition at the National Enquirer.
The same question was being asked now, in the wake of Houston’s appearance on the cover. In Elvis’ case, his insiders took the photo.
Magazine photo editors told FoxNews the tabloid could have easily paid $500,000 for the coffin image, or even higher. The photo shows the late singer in a gold casket with the headline, “Whitney: The Last Photo!”
The image doesn’t look like it was shot by a professional and appears to have been done hastily. The room, believed to be inside the Whigham Funeral Home in Newark, NJ, is empty, suggesting someone beyond the mourners had access, or somehow slipped in when no one was there.
The funeral home’s owner told The Los Angeles Times today (Feb. 23) the photo was unauthorized and had nothing to do with the funeral home where the singer’s body was prepared.
Although Bobby Brown’s sister Tina has been listed as one of the suspects because the same issue contains an in-depth interview with her, for which she was probably paid, the photo could just have easily been taken by one of the funeral parlor employees.
A source said Brown did not got to the private viewing and could not have taken the photo.
A slew of media outlets condemned the Enquirer’s decision to run the photo. A Washington Post blogger declared that “a line had been crossed.” Other outlets called the move morbid and tasteless.
Nearly two million viewers watched a live stream of Houston’s funeral last Saturday at the New Hope Baptist Church. Houston died Feb. 11, on the eve of the Grammys, at the Beverly Hills Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif., She was 48.