But Where is the Music?

The Houstons: On Our Own reality TV series wrapped up a couple of nights ago, leaving behind unfinished story lines and failing to convince a creeped out, skeptical viewership, at least on my part, about the wisdom of doing this.  I didn’t watch much of the 14 hours of programming that they cobbled together raiding Bobbi Kristina’s psyche over the death of her beloved mother, but I followed the show through secondary means, like recaps and commentary from vloggers like the ladies below.

Does following the series second hand like that give me the right to form harsh opinions about the show? Oh yes it does! Think of it as reading customer reviews at Amazon.com before you put a product into your online basket. In any case, some of my opinions were formed firsthand. I skimmed through the first couple of episodes, which covered Mother’s Day weekend. There was a family brunch, a service at New Hope Baptist Church, which Krissy did not attend, and a visit to Whitney’s grave that forced me to walk away from my computer. I couldn’t watch that baby sit on the ground in that cemetery and cry over her dear mother, nor could I handle Cissy make an emotional case for her baby’s baby to keep in touch with her. So the computer watched itself while I stepped into the other room and folded some laundry.

The problem with this show was that it exploited Whitney’s death so that Pat could fulfill the reality show that she had been developing for some time. This wasn’t a documentary about a musical family, because there were not enough active, working musicians honing their craft and making things happen, like on “Braxton Family Values.”

• We didn’t get enough of Cissy or Dionne Warwick.

• We didn’t get to go into Damon Elliot’s studio.

• Gary kept his exceptional tenor to himself for the most part.

• CeCe Winans dropped in for only one measly episode, and there wasn’t even a family singalong at that beautiful white grand piano at Pat’s house. What’s it there for? To hold up picture frames? Krissy doesn’t seem to be proficient at piano, judging by the meeting that she had with Ricky Minor at one point in the series, and the fact that you never saw her play. That was surprising, given the first-rate musical heritage and connections she was surrounded with growing up. Even Bobbi Kristina’s father is a talented songwriter, one has to admit. In the same class as Ike Turner and Chris Brown, two other legitimately talented musicians, who were railroaded by the media.

So without much songwriting, album making or shows, aside from the heavy lifting that Cissy did for rehearsals for the BET Awards tribute and her clips from Gospelfest (that was me waaaay back in the last row at the back of the house, BTW!), what was the point of broadcasting a show about a family of Houstons? All we saw, aside from the contrived pseudo-dramas that fill up reality TV air time, were images of Krissy in the emotional throes of grief, Krissy being taken for granted by that feckless young man that Whitney took in, and Krissy getting very bad advice from cousins and uncles to reconcile with her father.

I don’t want to spend a lot of time criticizing Black men, partly because they’re making it way too easy, but let me just say that young adult children like Bobbi Kristina do not have an obligation to strive for a relationship with a poor parent. In fairness to his convoluted denials that he hit Whitney, let’s lay aside the conflicting reports about how she sustained a deep cut on her left cheek in Capri, reports from witnesses of her screaming for help from inside her limo during an argument in a mall parking lot in Hawaii, and the revelations that Whitney was cussed out in front of her mother and father in law, and then spat on in front of her child. All of that, including his lengthy rap sheet, are in the past. If the guy is still getting DUIs, and doesn’t pick up his daughter’s calls, then distance is required. Whoever it is, bloggers or whoever, who feel that his presence would be a good influence on her life now … need to wise up and stop interfering. They are training Bobbi Kristina to lower her standards and somehow accept the poor behavior from the first male role model in her life, which could carry over to her accepting wretched treatment from the men she chooses later. And didn’t the vloggers get incensed over an incident where the stray sped off in “his car,” (probably financed with Houston dollars) leaving Krissy somewhere at an event? I saw a preview clip of Krissy sitting on the ground in the night hunched over a phone trying to call this dude. Is this what Whitney would want for her baby, and for it to be on blast like that? This is not a good pattern, it should not be encouraged, and it should not be worked out on national TV and on the Web for everyone to see. Like her dearly departed mother said to Oprah in 2009 “some things are better left unsaid.” And where are the grown men in her life to grab that boy by the collar and make him apologize to her? *Sigh*

If I want to witness family dysfunction, missteps and tragic judgment calls, I could walk down one of the particularly ragged streets in my city, or ride mass transit or something. I won’t be subscribing to cable for this display of nonsense, mainly because they’ve connected it to the name of my first and foremost favorite pop singer. I wish I could say with confidence that the show is over and done with in its current form, as it should be. But I have the feeling that Robert Sharenow, the executive vice president of programming at Lifetime, will let this trash live another season, because he and other network brass seem desperate to race our collective national intellect to the bottom of the gutter in pursuit of ratings and ad revenue. After all, they have to come up with a way to beat Bravo TV’s housewives flipping tables, starting brawls at country clubs and working stripper poles, right?

I hope Bobbi Kristina follows all of Ricky Minor’s advice. She could be a polished, strong contralto with a flourishing career. Add her voice type to her grandmother’s soprano in her prime, and her mother’s mezzo-soprano, and she could complete the packet of Drinkard voice types. Then the music could go on, and she could begin to control her own narrative, instead of leaving it to others.


The Sage of Atlanta

'The Sage of Atlanta' holds court. Aren't we lucky?

‘The Sage of Atlanta’ holds court. Aren’t we lucky?

Ladies and gentlemen of Black America, meet your new moralist, Peter Thomas. He’s the one man who knows everything that we, as a people, must do to achieve correct behavior, upward mobility, and total personal and corporate wellness.

Why just the other day, as the airwaves and blogosphere percolated with reports that Olivier Martinez contributed a Can of Whuppass to Gabriel Aubry’s Thanksgiving Day feast, I felt that the coverage lacked authoritative insight from someone who knows it all. My virtual prayers were answered when ‘The Sage of Atlanta’—those of us on a first name basis call him Sagie—favored us with his opinions, though this interview to UpTown magazine.

Although I aim to dutifully follow his teachings, I think The Sage is way out of line in this instance, and for many reasons. To begin with, he launches into the hypothetical ‘if they were Black’ argument, which is completely out of left field and inappropriate.

You aren’t cool with what went down in Halle Berry’s driveway. Why?

“My beef is that, if it was two black men who go to work on each other like that, they would say that ‘it’s expected of us,’ ‘we’re criminals,’ ‘we belong in jail’ and ‘they should take the kid away from the woman and put her in a foster home.’

This is completely untrue, as evidenced by Nia Long’s own baby-daddy-and-boyfriend run-in a few years back. Did that confrontation, between two Black men who went to work on each other, result in all the condemnation that Peter Thomas says is the norm for Black men and women? There is nothing racially relevant about a fight between two white guys, and here I think the Sage is showing himself and other Black guys that he claims to speak for, to be thin-skinned and insecure about their public reputations. I mean if two white guys can’t duke it out without someone saying … ‘if they were Black …’ then there is no relief from over discussion about race. Can you say ‘healthy balance?’ But he goes on …

“When I look at the situation with a superstar like Halle Berry, an Oscar winner, and her laundry is out in the public in such a way and she got two French men beating the [ish] out of each other and that [ish] aint right, there is nothing right about that. There is nothing right about that. She may be half white but she’s half black too and this is not good.

Yet again, I fail to see what in the world Halle Berry’s racial heritage has to do with two French guys fighting through their disagreements over the family arrangements. If he’s trying to say that no Black woman should ever let these types of situations spin out of control like this one, then say that. And if he believes that two French guys have no place fighting over a Black woman, then he really needs to explain that one.

The interview goes on to put The Sage’s egomaniac, superiority complex on full display:

Why do you say that black people don’t embrace how you, Cynthia and Leon deal with Noel?

“Because I hear rhetoric like ‘how you gone have Leon up in your house like that brother?’ ‘Is that alright with you brother?’ ‘How you know those people not gone reminisce when you’re not around?’ and I’m like ‘if they want to reminisce then let them reminisce cause that’s what grown people gone do, they’re always gone do what they want to do.’ Me and my wife have the kind of relationship where she didn’t need be with me if she still wanted to be with Leon. I’m not sweating that. I’m not sweating that at all. But every time I set in any radio station, that’s the first thing they want to talk about is how the hell we can all coexist because them and they baby mama or baby daddy can’t coexist. What we are doing is 100 percent correct and our community isn’t embracing it. We should be celebrating what me, Leon and Cynthia are doing.”

As for Halle Berry’s situation?
“There are no winners in the Halle Berry’s situation because one day that little girl is going to grow up and she’s going so see those pictures of what that man did to her father and she’s going to hate that man for putting hands on her father and she’s going to hate her mother. There’s no way around it. Little girls love their fathers. To me Halle Berry needs to check herself because she has control over the situation.

Out-friggin-rageous! While ‘The Sage’ was busy giving his irrelevant opinions about someone else’s life, he forgot about the total lack of boundaries in his own. One can easily make the argument that if Halle, Olivier and Gabriel failed to set up boundaries to hand off little Nahla in a healthy, non-confrontational way, then he, Cynthia and Leon are giving Cynthia’s daughter some really unrealistic expectations about how blended family situations can be expected to work.

And who is he to predict that Nahla will grow up to hate her mother? What a spiteful, low-blow thing to say! Who is he to presume to know Nahla so well? Look at that child’s face in photos. She seems intelligent and discerning. For all he or any of us knows, she’ll grow up to understand that her father has a temper, used poor judgement that day, and bears some responsibility for what came to him. Over the years, she might see her father lose it with her own eyes on more than one occasion, and cut her mother some slack. It might turn out that she’ll be able to strike a healthy balance between them. Chances are, at least, she’ll show much better judgement that ‘The Sage’ himself.

And by the way, investigators determined that Gabriel Aubry started that fight, according to press reports. Apparently, he committed two acts of battery on Olivier Martinez before the guy retaliated. Sounds like Gabriel should have remembered, or looked into the fact, that Olivier’s father was a professional boxer. Maybe he woulda thought twice before ultimately having that knuckle sandwich for Thanksgiving dinner. It wouldn’t surprise me to find out that he has acted that way before. I’m inclined to think it’s no mistake that Gabriel was the only serious boyfriend that Halle wouldn’t consider marrying, if you go by her change of opinions on marriage through interviews over the years. (Why he was good enough to father a child, but not marry, is not for me to judge. It bears pointing out, though.)

‘The Sage’ believes that he and his wife Cynthia are “100 percent correct” about the way they live, and anyone else who doesn’t agree with them is on the wrong track. We’ll see. I could be wrong with my deeply held skepticism about this guy. Uptown magazine, who keeps talking to this guy whose main claim to fame is that he’s the husband of a model and reality TV star, seems to think he deserves a platform to talk about people he doesn’t even know or influence. Maybe one day he’ll graduate to giving advice to anyone, anywhere in any situation, and knock Deepak Chopra off his perch. At that point, he’ll become the Oracle of the Diaspora.