Are you outraged over the National Enquirer’s cover photo of Whitney Houston lying in repose?
It’s generated a great deal of criticism, but it’s not a new idea.
The photo on the right is the National Enquirer from Sept. 6, 1977, showing Elvis in his open casket. I bought it at a silent auction for 20 bucks at a charity event last year. I keep it on my coffee table, to keep me humble and reflective.
When John Lennon died in 1980, the National Enquirer was back with more necro journalism, featuring the slain Lennon’s final image on its front cover. This time the photo was in color, and was a closer shot of Lennon’s face, but the layout was otherwise very similar to the Elvis shot, which was in black and white. Even the text blocks about “The Untold Story” and “The Last Picture” were identical. Makes you wonder if they had a celeb death template at the ready.
These covers have much in common with the Whitney Houston open casket photo that the National Enquirer just ran. The current cover’s headline says “Whitney: The Last Photo!” while the others say “The Last Picture.” (Coincidentally the Elvis cover teases to a story on how to be more creative.)
Celebrity open casket photos aren’t common (thank goodness) but not terribly rare, either.
When James Brown died a few years ago, photos of his open casket were kind of hard to avoid. Images of his final viewings ran in numerous publications.
The hardest working man in show business kept a busy tour schedule even days after he’d gone on to glory, with viewings at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, and then a huge public home going service held in the Augusta venue that bears his name.
More than 8,000 people filed past the late Godfather of Soul when his carefully coiffed remains were laid out in the James Brown Arena. Celebrity guests included Michael Jackson, and Brown’s widow Tomi Rae performed, serenading her late husband’s body. It was a memorable event.
But back to Houston. The National Enquirer, never a stranger to controversy, is taking quite a bit of flack for running the unauthorized photo from Houston’s funeral. (Actually it’s thought to have been taken during the funeral home viewing, not the home going service).
This Detroit Free Press article notes that the National Enquirer publisher says the photo was “beautiful,” but that the decision to publish it has been criticized by a number of other media outlets. And questions are swirling. Who took the photo? How did they spirit a camera into the service? Did they get paid? Scratch that. How much did they get paid?
My point: this is nothing new.
- Jennifer Brett/The Buzzfirstname.lastname@example.org