I would like to start with a proverb that I learned from playing chess with my father when I was a teenager and listening to him talk about all his chess greats he grew up with (from Bobby Fischer to Gary Kasparov). Every great was once a beginner. One starts his career as a novice, learning his way around and experiencing success and failure- success as a way of walking forward and failure as a way of learning from the mistakes made and moving on. Milestones are reached and the pushing and shoving persist until the person is at the top and is looking down at the envious and the zealous.
The strive to get to the top may be a hard task to accomplish on its own. Staying on top is even harder, as even the most successful ones end up falling into an abyss and end up at square one again. The hardest part of all is when one tries to be the greatest again, for nine times out of ten, comebacks fail because of the mistakes not learned and the flaws not addressed properly. Many try to indulge in destructive behavioral patterns (alcohol, sex, drugs, you name it) just to quell the problems in their lives and ignoring the effects on their careers and even their lives. In the end, one falls from greatness for good and seven times out of ten into their own graves.
We have seen this pattern many times- especially those who were superstars in the 1980s and 90s, when the good times really did roll and everyone prospered in one way or another. But now what has happened to many of us? The greatness has failed, we have become a laughing stock of the paparazzi and the public, our fields of work are no longer appreciated or even needed, and since we do not know how to look left or right, we just slam our cars into the walls and walk away from this life, ignoring the people who still care a great deal about us (fans, friends and especially family). We’re too inflexible and not forthcoming with changes. We do not listen to what others tell us what they expect from us. The methods of success we presented to them in the past is no longer valid. Sometimes people want us to change professions even though we have been doing them really well for many years, as they want to see new faces. Sometimes the mistakes we make in the past come back to haunt us and in the long term have a negative impact on our careers. Sometimes we are a one-hit wonder and we walk away while on top. It all depends on who we are and what we want from ourselves and the people around us.
It is hard to think of us for our successes when we are haunted by our shortcomings and mishaps, but it does not mean we have to be jerks about it in order to succeed at any cost. Sometimes we go into cycles where we reach our peaks every few years and low points for longer periods of time. It does not mean that we are not forgotten. It means we go into stages of hibernation only to come out better than before. It is just a question of how we handle ourselves and what we can do for the better of the community and the environment. While this is possible with our careers, it is also possible when we take a few steps back from our careers, as a way of seeing what is out there and subsequentially reinventing ourselves. When doing that we can look at ourselves in the mirror more often than before and be proud of ourselves and our morals. It will make for a good reputation with the public, and show that we do have character and a set of morals for people to follow. In the end, we can take better care of ourselves and have a fulfilling career and life.
I’m writing this column in response to the loss of one of the 80s’ Greats. Whitney Houston was one of the examples of an icon who was at the top of her game in the 80s and 90s both as a singer as well as an actress. She was the best supporting actress behind Kevin Kostner in The Bodyguard, which in my opinion, was the peak of her career. Unfortunately, she fell from grace through tumultuous times with drugs, alcohol, Bobby Brown, and in the end the once beautiful voice becoming that of a frog, almost losing it in its entirety. She died on 12 February in the hotel in Los Angeles on the eve of the Grammy Awards. Her funeral came six days later as thousands paid their last respects to a person whose life was cut short way too soon. She’s one of many celebrities, whose greatness in the 80s and 90s was overshadowed by scandals that led to their downfall and the end of their lives. I hope that when today’s celebrities are at their top, they learn from the mistakes of those who were great before them. Some will read this column and take some thoughts with them. Others will find alternatives that will be useful to them. It is just a matter of how they conduct themselves and keep from falling from greatness and becoming the forgotten or worse, the persecuted.
The Flensburg Files would like to dedicate this column in loving memory of a true celebrity, Whitney Houston.