Somewhere, a photographer or record company photo portfolio has a picture of [the now late] Whitney Houston, Clive Davis, actor James Woods and me from the night I fell out of “crush” with a songstress.
In December of 1991, I was the Attendance Teacher (spelled “truant officer”) for the Special Ed kids at a high school just north of New York City, who still had his heart set on being back on the radio as a DJ as I had been for the past fifteen years at that juncture. All of my co-teachers and supervisors knew this about me, and it is probably why I they let me leave work early that afternoon so I could go home, shower, prep and get clean for the Whitney Houston album release party that one of my record promotion friends of the day, Ashleigh Sanford, of Arista Records, invited me to.
Her recent tragically and apparently un-timed/un-planned death reminded me that I had not included this episode of my “famous” life in the memoir book I published last year. So now you know there will be a “part two” as long as I stay alive to write it.
Ya want the “juicy” stuff: That night, I arrived solo at Tatou restaurant by day and nightclub by night back then, which my memory tells me is on East 50th near Park or Madison Avenues in Manhattan (my favorite rock in the world so far) New York City.
That night the lamb roast dinner I slurped was exquisite! I met pro footballers Lawrence Taylor of the New York Giants, Randall Cunningham of the Philadelphia Eagles (who the tabloids had as just having broken-up with Whitney), Ms. “Downtown” Julie Brown who was hosting a late-night music countdown show or something like that at the time, and other celebs like Samuel L Jackson. [Yes I have to ‘name-drop’ so you know I am not bullspittin!lol
After dinner, we migrated upstairs in Tatou, which is a haunt that I used to love to sneak into upon the freebie of my radio station, friend, record company promotion person (as in this night) or just my stone-cold reputation as “Lenny” Bruce. (Yes the door-people thought I was a dead guy). The party experience is intimate there and the “VIP” area accessible for me, an experienced “on-location” reporter. I just knew that I was going to get Ms. Houston to speak with me into my “on-location” voice recorder as I had previous celebs like Freddie Hubbard, Grace Jones and (almost) Chaka Khan and others on this night. After all, that is why my supervisors at the High School gave me the afternoon off!
So suddenly I find myself within the body language of Whitney Houston, who I had to now suddenly summon-up all of the DJ/radio personality bravado I could muster in-order to be able to talk to her like an unruffled professional. This is where my basic boyhood shyness usually reappears, but somehow, maybe because I had on my best double-breasted blue pin-striped suit and felt in the same “club” as all the aforementioned superstars, I was able to step to her, relaxed and confident.
So here is what happened next, in the sequence that I can recall it now, twenty-one years later (but like “yesterday”).
After mingling and working the room as I always did at Tatou,, upstairs and downstairs, I spot Mr. Davis and sashay towards then; Whitney is emerging from the draped, curtained-off VIP towards us. I try to act non-nonchalant like I did not notice her…I get a beverage handed to me by someone of the many I knew at the party…I am introduced to Mr. Woods as Whitney is lingering with Mr. Davis off in my peripheral vision until a photographer suddenly appears and urges us to scrunch together so he can get a shot. We do; he does and then the DJ introduces the strains of Anita Ward’s classic disco hit, “Ring My Bell” to the din. At which point I am talking to Mr. Woods, who walks away and just as magically as I look back to my right, Whitney Houston is like shimmying and looking at me. “C’mon Jimi!” is what I remember what she said sounding like and the next thing I know, I am dancing like I always knew it was going to work-out this way with the “somebody” who sang “With Somebody Who Loves Me!” to Anita Ward music. “How Surreal is this?!”, I thought!
Then just as abruptly as we cavorted Terpsichore, Whitney bounced away from me and when I turned back from one of my famous “spin moves” she was off, mingling back among her adoring fans near the bar.
From that moment, what I noticed that night as I futilely tried to stay within her orbit, were two things that I’ve carried away ever since: Whitney preferred the Hip Hop guys to an “Arsinio hall-style clean” brother like me and that her lexicon was surprisingly impious. Having met her prim and proper Mum, Cissy Houston, one evening at Sweetwaters on Amsterdam Avenue a few years prior, Whitney’s potty mouth surprised me and turned me off, turning my pedestal-infatuation into that of a spectator which must have lasted until last Saturday evening when, at the tale-end of a computer tutor session with my neighbor, we saw the headline on Yahoo. I “didn’t believe it” like many have professed, yet at the same time, I was not surprised.
I guess I will have to write a “part two” or “b-side” to my memoir book. What is your favorite Whitney Houston song or memory?
That night some of us went “along for the ride”; after dancing with and observing her that night, I got off of the ride.
Thank you! Спасибо! for reading.