Goodbye, Whitney.

February 12, 2012

Standing in a nightclub, at roughly 2am in the morning during an enjoyable night of friends and dancing, I wasn’t really prepared for the shocking news that I was about to hear. I’d been catching up with people that I hadn’t seen for a while, dancing to the latest songs and had just seen Emeli Sandé perform live. I was thinking to myself how I wasn’t overly keen on many of her songs but that she had an outstanding vocal and was a clearly talented singer / songwriter. As she finished her set, the odious club owner came on to stage to announce that Whitney Houston had died and they were to play a Whitney song next as a tribute. As the opening sounds of I Wanna Dance With Somebody played I just kind of stood there, frozen for a moment. Did I hear that right?

In the moments that followed, I was trying to process the thought in my head. Really? Actually? Whitney was dead? I went outside the club where I briefly got some signal and opened Twitter and Facebook. It was absolutely everywhere. Everyone outside was talking about it. I heard people calling others on their mobiles in disbelief. Slowly it was beginning to sink in. Whitney, who was a massive part of my childhood, really had passed away. After arriving home, we sat and discussed Whitney and our thoughts on her and what had happened but we particularly focused on the memories.

There are many people too quick to judge others who mourn the loss of a celebrity. Don’t get me wrong, celebrity death jokes are fine with me, heck I’ve already giggled at a Whitney one as I type this, anyone who knows me will be aware that humour is how I deal best with most situations. It’s those that just dismiss others feelings about these occurences that I take issue with. We all have the right to react to the news in whichever way that we see fit. My reaction is one of great sadness as I believe that the world has lost a truly great talent and that a part of my childhood died along with Whitney. This is what Whitney meant to me……

My childhood was, on the whole, a very happy one. We all have elements of our upbringing that were upsetting or difficult but there are many others who were worse off than me and I feel grateful for the way I was brought up and for the things that I had, the main one being love. My mother was one child of 8 and as such I grew up with many aunts, uncles and cousins around me. The majority of my mother’s side of the family were massive pop music lovers and simply listened to the latest, greatest tunes from the radio. I credit my love of pop music to this and in particular my aunt Ann whose record collection (vinyl for all you young ones out there who might glance at this blog) was outstanding. Boxes of hundreds of records lived at her house and every time that I was there, myself and my cousins would get all the records out and dance around the room. Ann was a big fan of many pop acts, one of which was Whitney.

Whitney’s songs soundtracked my life growing up in the 80’s, just as other massive stars of the time did, including the late, great Michael Jackson. Her songs and videos recall a time of happiness for me, enjoying my innocence, being loved by my amazing family, playing out in the street until dark. Whitney’s songs are synonymous with these memories, if I hear an 80’s Whitney track I am immediately transported back to those wonderful days. I will never forget a video that (probably) still exists somewhere. We had been on holiday in the summer, maybe 1987, probably to Blackpool or somewhere just as exotic (such was my childhood) and we had taken along one of those massive 80’s camcorders to capture all the family fun. Upon returning there was still some room left on the video tape to record some furhter scenes. One such scene had Ann doing some ironing, a mundane task and not exactly thrilling footage.  Then, I Wanna Dance With Somebody came on in the background. I was in the room as a 7/8 year old child and was watching Ann sing along. I then started lip synching all the words and myself and my aunt started to dance together around the room to the track, I seriously couldn’t have been any gayer! That’s just one of many Whitney memories from some of the happiest years of my life.

Fast forward to 1998 and I was now a 19 year old and Whitney had her first new studio album in years with My Love Is Your Love. I realised that Whitney still had it in her to sing and perform some amazing tracks. Whitney once again soundtracked a very important part of my life. I was relatively new to being gay and visiting gay places and bars and the new tracks and especially all the remixes from this album and the subsequent Greatest Hits package were played in almost every venue. I would pay expensive prices to track down import cd singles to get all these remixes and still have them all proudly on a shelf at my mother’s house. Of course, the years of substance abuse and addiction, more than likely fuelled by the partnership with Bobby Brown, sadly took a toll on Whitney’s voice and mental state.

She came back in 2009 with a new album, which included the now club classic Million Dollar Bill, but her shambolic performance on the X Factor results show highlighted that things had gone too far for Whitney and there showed signs that she was ever going to be the same again.  I felt a great sadness that this once outstanding performer had been reduced to the empty shell that stood on stage unable to answer questions from the host. Rather than berate her, or call her a smack head as some did, I just felt that we had finally lost Whitney to her addictions. Even with these warning signs, I still was not prepared to hear what I did in the early hours of this morning. I went to sleep and woke up just a few hours later. I looked at Facebook and Twitter again and read some moving tributes from celebrities and I burst into tears. Finally, it had hit me. It’s difficult for some people to understand why a person can react to a celebrity death in such a way, but I hope that I have outlined why I feel the way that I do about the loss of someone who was a very big part of some very happy times in my life. Thankfully, those happy memories will stay with me until it’s my time to depart from this very unpredictable life.

Sunscreen Challenge – “Happy”

June 1, 2011

On this day in 1997, the words that were immortalised by Baz Luhrmann “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)” are 14 years old.

The original article appeared in the Chicago Tribune entitled, “Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young”.

The author, Mary Schmich set out to write a fictitious graduation speech. “Most of us, will never be invited to sow our words of wisdom among an audience of caps and gowns”.

She invited her readership to do the same, 14-years later we take up that mantle and the #sunscreenchallenge was born.

Each blogger spent 1-hour creating a graduation speech. Essentially, it’s the advice that they’d pass onto school leavers today based on their own life experience.

If you’ve enjoy the blog – please RT the post, include the #sunscreenchallenge tag and find other blog posts using this hashtag.

If I were to give some advice to you all, right now, it would be to make yourself happy.

Happiness can come from you and only you. Other people can make you happy, but it is YOU that has to choose the right people to share the best moments of your life with.

Friends – The people who you choose to spend time with and want to spend time with. Make sure that these are the ones who have a positive effect on you and your life. These are the people who should know, without having to be told. The people who can make you laugh or smile with just a single look. action or word. Do not endure the friendship of people who bring you down or use you.

Family – Cherish the family members that love and cherish you in return. These are the ones that share your blood and should mean the most. If a family member doesn’t show you the love and respect that you deserve, then don’t be afraid to cut them off. You don’t have an obligation to these people if they do not know how to treat you.

Lovers – Don’t be afraid to open your heart and fall madly in love, if it feels right. This person has to be able to make you happy. A relationship should never be hard work, if it feels like hard work, then it’s probably time to move on. You do not need an other half to make you happy or make you feel complete. Your own company and that of others should be enough to make you happy.

I have some more advice for helping towards leading a happy life.

Mistakes – Everyone makes them at some point or other. Who can say that they have made a mistake that they haven’t learnt from. It’s what makes us grow as people. Move on from each one you that make and use the experience gathered to lead a happier life.

Music – A simple song can make you feel elated at the memory of the good times that it reminds you of. A holiday where you couldn’t stop laughing, a person that means so much to you.  Songs can also remind you of sadder times but this can be turned into a positive, you can remind yourself that these sad times are no longer here.

Spreading happiness – While making yourself happy is of paramount importance, helping others to be happy is just as essential. If there’s someone going through a hard time, do your utmost to bring back their happiness. Whether it’s a night out, a shoulder to cry on, or a simple text, do whatever is required to help them through the darkest periods.

Taking chances – Never be afraid to do just that. If it does not come to fruition then upset or disappointment may occur, but this will only be temporary. If taking a chance pays off, it may well just last for the rest of your life.

If something in your life is making you unhappy, whether it be your job, a friend, a relationship or where you live, then only YOU can make the necessary changes to make yourself happy.  Are there things that you need to change to make the rest of your life a happy one? Get out there and do it. You’ll be very glad that you did.

Humour….us?

October 12, 2010

So, what is funny? What is it acceptable to laugh at, and what is it unacceptable to laugh at?

For the second year in a row, it appears that my X Factor tweeting has caused people to react to my tweets in a less than favourable way and give me their take on the moral high ground, then block or un-follow me straight after. I’m often left wondering where these people have been for the majority of my tweeting, and if they even took heed of the warning in my Twitter bio. I make it clear that some of the stuff that I say ain’t gonna be pretty, so it’s probably wise to steer clear if you’re not gonna like swearing and very un-pc humour.

I am a massive fan of comedy. For me, comedy can’t have any limits. If you start to impose boundaries on it then it becomes some massive debate about what you can, and can’t joke about. Is a rape joke the moment it goes too far? A racist one? Who gets to decide? So for me, I will find amusement in a joke about any person, or situation. It does not in any way, shape or form mean that I advocate the content of said joke. For example, I lost a very young friend to cancer just a few months ago. I will still laugh at a cancer joke. Paedophile jokes make me chuckle no end. I believe that molesting a child is disgusting and should be punishable to the highest level. Just because I laugh at something, or joke about it myself, it does not make me a bad person. It’s just…. humour. I also firmly believe that we should be able to laugh at ourselves.

This leads me onto a certain group of people who seem to find this extremely difficult to do….. THE GAYS! Last year, I got abuse from some gay followers for my taunting of Joe McElderry. I was accused of “vile homophobia”. Yes, my comments were very homophobic, but I’m gay, if I can’t take the piss out of gays then who can? It’s like black people reclaiming the word “nigger”. They are allowed to use a derogatory term about their race as much as they like. Therefore if I wish to use the word faggot regularly, then so be it. I am, after all, a faggot. This year, I really managed to set the cat amongst the pigeons as I dared to mention HIV in my slating of Diva Fever. The reaction was quite incredible, the gays were up in arms. Unfortunately, hypocrisy was the main issue of the evening.

It appears that for the gays,  joking about gay “issues” is a complete no-no. Yet joking about other issues, which are just as bad, if not worse is perfectly acceptable. One of them thought nothing of making paedophile jokes. That was hilarious. Yes of course, children, being mentally scarred for life is perfectly fine to laugh at.  Another enjoyed re-tweeting a joke that I tweeted about the Haiti disaster. You know, the Haiti earthquake where thousands of people lost their lives. Where children were left without parents. Of course, it’s ok to laugh at that, their deaths were funny, right? But make light of a disease that is rife in the gay community and can kill? Suddenly, it’s not funny anymore. Well in my eyes, that is just utter hypocrisy. Luckily, the people that have been following me long enough, and that don’t jump on their high horses, got that I didn’t mean what I was saying, that it was just humour, irony, sarcasm, whatever. I don’t actually really want Diva Fever to die of AIDS. I just don’t like them very much.

Funnily enough, I had a much more positive response to my comments than I did negative. I gained loads of new followers during my X Factor tweeting, so I’m not losing any sleep over the 3 that un-followed. During the hoo-ha, I received tweets, DM’s and text messages of support from people who could see the negative comments I was receiving. One text said “I still love you mate, they should know you by now”. Indeed they should. I’m glad that people are aware of my humour and how it works. I will continue to tweet as I always have, in the exact same manner that I speak in person, around my family and friends.

Oh, and by the way, I donate money to the Terrence Higgins Trust and have done every month for the last 10 years.

Who wants to live forever?

January 12, 2010

Age.

It’s something much discussed, thought and worried about. It’s seen as an important part of who you are. One of the first questions asked when people make new acquaintances is the one of age. We use it to make snap judgements and assumptions about the person that we are meeting. Some people are more than comfortable with their age, others would give their right arm to go back to days gone by.

I turned 30 a mere 5 months ago. As it was approaching, I was absolutely hating the fact that my  days as a twenty-something were about to be behind me. I’m not sure exactly what I thought was going to change as it struck midnight on August the 1st. I was actually laying on a blanket on the ground watching Poltergeist open air at Somerset House as the minute ticked over to my 30th. I kinda didn’t know it had happened until David (the guy I was seeing at the time) leant over and gave me a kiss and said “Happy Birthday”. Nothing had changed. I suppose I was worried that peoples perception of me would be different. Would men suddenly stop being interested in me? Was I too old for drinking and dancing until the small hours? Of course, I was being ridiculous. The clock ticking from one day to the next doesn’t change the way we act or feel or appear to others, that’s all down to us and how we want to feel and present ourselves. But how long do I really want to be around?

I’m often berated by others for my eating habits, smoking and drinking. The fact that I don’t go to the gym or do any exercise is seen as almost evil by many people, especially the gays. The gym seems to me to be more of a lifestyle thing than anything else. Are you a Londoner? Work in an office? Think you have a certain social status? Then why not go to the gym so you can fit in with everyone else! Luckily, I’ll never do something just to “fit in”. It does not look fun to lift weights, or run loads or any of the other tiring activities that go on in these sweat boxes. I’m happier in a bar with a drink in my hand or at home lounging and watching a movie. Each to their own, I say. People tell me my lifestyle is unhealthy. I don’t eat fruit or vegetables. Again, this is something which gets me a lot of flak. “Don’t you want to look after yourself?”, I’m asked. In short, the answer is no.

This is how I view the situation. If you lead a so-called healthy lifestyle, by rights, you should live longer. That’s right, you add more years to your life. However, these years are at the end of your life. You know, the bit where you look rancid and everything is sagging. The part where half the time you can’t remember your own name, let alone what day it is. Your body is gradually failing and just walking to the kitchen is an effort. I don’t want that, living to be 100 years old is a dreadful thought. I’d like to die before the point I start being unable to control my own bladder and bowels. This is the reason that I’d rather do the things that make me happy and enjoy my life while I’m still young enough to do so. I’d be plain miserable doing exercise and eating foliage.

Life’s about being happy, right?