Whitney Houston’s death could not have happened without a coterie of enablers who catered to her every whim, even when she was self-destructive, charges Mark Bego, a writer and author who chronicled her career beginning in the 1970s.
In an exclusive interview with TheImproper, Bego drew parallels between Houston’s death and the demise of Elvis Presley and blues singer Billie Holiday. Behind the death for all three were “enablers” who lived off of and profited from their downfall.
“Certainly there is a strong parallel between Elvis and Whitney in that the met their demise with prescription drugs involved,” said Bego. “The fact is that they were both surrounded by an entourage of enablers and doctors who would give them whatever they wanted to ingest.”
Bego was working on a new book based on Houston’s disastrous 2010 comeback tour, when the 48-year-old singer died suddenly Feb. 11 on the eve of the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. Although the cause of death has yet to be established, drugs and alcohol are suspected to be factors.
The book is titled “Whitney Houston! – The Spectacular Rise and Tragic Fall of The Woman Whose Voice Inspired A Generation (Skyhorse).”
“I draw a strong parallel between Billie Holiday and Whitney,” said Bego. “They both had voices and images that defined their lives, and they both became addicted to their drug use and died in their 40s.”
Bego is one of the most prolific writers about celebrities and artists. His 1984 book on Michael Jackson was a New York Times bestseller and he’s been called the “prince of pop music bios” by Publisher’s Weekly.
“I was the first author to ever publish a book about Whitney Houston in 1986, with the book “Whitney!” Since that time I have stayed on top of the story. His new book will focus on Houston’s disastrous 2010 world tour, and what led up to her death, and turns and plot twists.
Bego knows the artist well. “I first saw and was impressed by Whitney when she was a background singer in her mother’s (Cissy Houston) cabaret act in New York City in the late ’70s. And I was at her triumphant Carnegie Hall debut in 1985,” he said.
Mark Bego is a New York Times bestselling author. After writing his book on Michael Jackson (Michael!) in 1984 he was proclaimed the “prince of pop music bios” by Publisher’s Weekly. His subjects have included Barry Manilow, Madonna, Bonnie Raitt, Micky Dolenz, Cher, Elton John, Joni Mitchell and Jackson Browne. He’s currently working with the daughter of a country music superstar, and she is poised to write a frank and fascinating book about life with her talented father.
“I predicted big things for her from the very start, and after she starred in the 1992 film The Bodyguard, she became an international icon of the highest degree. She was beautiful, had an incredible singing voice and she had a carefully crafted image that made her the world’s No. 1 sweetheart.”
But behind the alluring side of show business and stardom–the fans, the money, the flashy clothes, the exciting lifestyle–the pressures on artists are tremendous. “Time and time again it causes celebrities to turn to alcohol or drugs to relax, to sleep, or to find energy to carry on,” he says.
Bego sees parallels between Whitney and Elvis, particularly the role hangers-on played. He’s written a book about Elvis’s behind-the-scenes life with Lamar Fike, a member of Elvis’s entourage, known as the infamous Memphis Mafia.
“Lamar lived with Elvis at Graceland in the 1950s, appeared in the film “Jailhouse Rock,” and he went to Germany with Elvis when “The King of Rock & Roll” was drafted into the U.S. Army.
“As cliché as it seems, as soon as Whitney Houston married Bobby Brown, her once-perfect life began a slow downward spiral that ended on February 11, 2012 in the Beverly Hills Hilton Hotel,” he said.
“Regardless of the final coroner’s reports as to the exact cause of her death, it is a foregone conclusion that it was her 20 years of substance abuse which ruined her voice, her looks, and ultimately cut her life short at the age of 48. My new book on the life of Whitney Houston is a great American tragedy.”
His book on Houston is slated for release next week. The book will also be published in Britain and Germany. In April, Skyhorse will also release his tome, “Aretha Franklin: the Queen of Soul.” It’s been called the definitive book on the soul singer by Library Journal.