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Outraged over the National Enquirer Whitney Houston casket photo?

My coffee table.

My coffee table.

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.

Ummr9tpNzkktXKnWhen 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.

AP photo

AP photo

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 Buzz/jbrett@ajc.com

278 comments Add your comment

Carla Mabry

February 24th, 2012
11:18 am

I love Whitney and I thank The Person Who Took That Photo Of Her In the Casket Now I Can Keep Her In My Bible Rest In Peace Nippy I Love You And So Does God.

Arteriors home

February 24th, 2012
11:39 am

RIP. One of my favorite songs still is and will always be I Will Always Love You.

Really?

February 24th, 2012
12:21 pm

I should of guessed you would get at least one more Whitney Houston story out. What will you do next week? I know you will try to have at least one more Whitney Houston story……..The pressure is on.

Packed Colon

February 24th, 2012
12:27 pm

I should of guessed you would get at least one more Whitney Houston story out. What will you do next week? I know you will try to have at least one more Whitney Houston story……..The pressure is on.

Is it me, or does a dead Whitney Houston look a lot like a dead John Lennon?

flabby mcghee

February 24th, 2012
12:32 pm

Is it me or does a dead Whitney Houston look like a dead John Lennon?

Jennifer? How many more Whitney Houston blogs can you do? This has to be a record!

Esteban

February 24th, 2012
12:37 pm

Not in poor taste — her family should have made it a closed casket or frisked people at the door if they didn’t want anyone taking a picture. Get over yourselves…

kim

February 24th, 2012
12:46 pm

Anything to sell a few newspapers!! Oh well, every famous person that dies never rests in peace because people start digging up anything at all before the person gets cold. How sad because we forget that by the end of the day Whitney, Elvis and all the others were human beings too. Believe it or not we all fall short of perfection.

Tanya

February 24th, 2012
12:49 pm

People are very tasteless and greedy to take.a picture off her while dead!! U no damn well they got paid.

Barbara

February 24th, 2012
12:50 pm

If the family wanted it private so be it, Show some respect everone saw the beautiful homegoing, LET IT BE!! Very distaseful!!!!

fran

February 24th, 2012
12:52 pm

They could have made her look more beautiful then that ..The funeral home shud have done a better job with her makeup and hair !

JJ

February 24th, 2012
12:56 pm

She died almost two weeks ago. They buried her last weekend. Can we let it go now?

Sure she was very talented, but take away her voice and all she was, was just another drug addict. Quit glorifying bad behavior!!!!

tommy rolle

February 24th, 2012
12:59 pm

Black people have had open casket for our love one’s for year’s. But if whintney mother did not give the okay for that photo to be showed (national enquirer) The USA Will see you in court You cross the line.

Michael

February 24th, 2012
1:01 pm

Yet, republishing the above images to make an editorial point is somehow less outrageous?

Tubby

February 24th, 2012
1:02 pm

Amen…enough already!

Stacey

February 24th, 2012
1:05 pm

My only issue comes if the photos are unauthorized. If it is okay with the family, I see nothing wrong with it. I saw the pictures online yesterday and they are very tasteful and beautiful.

Dwayne

February 24th, 2012
1:06 pm

Lets congradulate Whitney on 2 weeks of been sober and drug free in the Kingdom of Heaven!!!! Amen!!!

Stephen Leonard

February 24th, 2012
1:06 pm

If I remember correctly, when Martin Luther King died, Newsweek put a picture of him in his open casket on the cover. People need to stop looking for reasons to be “outraged.” If families don’t want anyone to see their dead relative’s body, they shouldn’t have an open casket. Otherwise, what’s the big deal? Stolen or sneaked autopsy photos are in hideously poor taste, but a corpse, dressed in the person’s favorite clothes, arranged in a casket, is neither outrageous nor shocking. All this manufactured outrage is simply stupid.

peter deter weter III

February 24th, 2012
1:07 pm

I know members of the family, it was some of the lower level family members that sold the picture.

peter deter weter III

February 24th, 2012
1:08 pm

The only open casket that folks should fuss about and take action against was, and still is Emmett Till ! Now let me stock up on these NE, perhaps I can make a little retirement money in 20 years

peter deter weter III

February 24th, 2012
1:09 pm

JRBROOME, you the one that like me to give you my broom, yep my DNA be all over you

National Enquirer | NewsTrendr

February 24th, 2012
1:10 pm

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

Agnes Merritt

February 24th, 2012
1:10 pm

Although it was very tasteless and an invasion of the family’s privacy, she did look very beautiful and it did provide some closure to her fans.

peter deter weter III

February 24th, 2012
1:11 pm

Now James Brown look like a california raisin laying in that casket

Tina

February 24th, 2012
1:12 pm

I think she looks so beautiful and peaceful and since the picture wasn’t presented in a negative light, I’m fine with it.

Kennett

February 24th, 2012
1:12 pm

We the fans made Whitney a star. We shared in her life and for us to be banned from viewing her in her coffin was a selfish act upon her family. Now because of someone took a photo,, we finally have a chance to view Whitney inside the funeral home. I don’t think it was wrong. We shared her life and now we have finally shared her death.

peter deter weter III

February 24th, 2012
1:12 pm

John Lennon looked bloated and stuff…Elvis looked nice in his resting state, and so did Whitney.

[...] have the spirit of a camera in the service? Have they paid? Scratch that. How much did they pay?Source /* Share [...]

Denise

February 24th, 2012
1:15 pm

While I don’t agree with the publishing of the casket photo of Whitney Houston…..I have to admit that she looks beautiful & so peaceful….Sadly….these “death photos” that “rags” insist on printing are probably their highest selling issues so there are people out there who like looking at these sort of things….Fortunately….I am not one of them…..

Rich Black

February 24th, 2012
1:16 pm

Whitney Houston died? When?

peter deter weter III

February 24th, 2012
1:17 pm

fan2    /fæn/ Show Spelled[fan] Show IPA
noun
an enthusiastic devotee, follower, or admirer of a sport, pastime, celebrity, etc.: a baseball fan; a great fan of Charlie Chaplin.

there is nothing about the dovotee or follower, following the celebrity back, with that said it is like a stalker looking for rights. Being a fan did not give one permission to peep into the casket, but the family sold the photos.

Kennett

February 24th, 2012
1:17 pm

Maybe the family should have taken photos and published them for the fans who they would not allow to view her in person. Now they’re upset because someone else did it and probably made a buck from it.

JBROOME

February 24th, 2012
1:18 pm

WHITNEY? YEAH I’D DO HER

Carol

February 24th, 2012
1:20 pm

flabby mcghee, you wrote…….

“……Is it me or does a dead Whitney Houston look like a dead John Lennon?……”

The answer has got to be: It is you. I don’t think she looks like John Lennon, dead or alive :-)

Wreck

February 24th, 2012
1:21 pm

Her family sold the rights to televise the funeral. This faux outrage is about publicity and $$$. What is really sad is that i’m sure someone will try to inject racial injustice into this somehow.

Carol

February 24th, 2012
1:23 pm

While the publication of this photo might be shocking and controversial, I hope I don’t offend anybody here by saying that she does look peaceful on this picture. Finally.

  

February 24th, 2012
1:25 pm

(national enquirer) The USA Will see you in court You cross the line.

“The USA” doesn’t have a case. The casket was was open for viewing hence no implied right to privacy. People don’t automatically have a court case because photos were taken; certainly not if they’re in the public domain.

The grammar and sentence structure of some posters here really reflects their mentality. Oh, well! :/

Mel

February 24th, 2012
1:26 pm

To JBROOME

YOU ARE SUCH A DISRESPECTFULL COWARD TO MAKE A COMMENT LIKE THAT AND BY THE WAY IF YOU DIDN’T CARE…WHY IN THE H$LL ARE YOU ON THE PAGE….
F#&kING SORRY PIECE OF SH$T

Kennett

February 24th, 2012
1:28 pm

The casket shot was fine and instead of the family sharing her with the public, someone else did. Whitney loved her public. She loved her fans. Do you think that she would have wanted her fans to go view (pay respect) in the event she died? Her voice was great (prior to her loosing it). But did she sing like an angel? People are so emotional that they say, “yes”. As if we really heard an angel sing.

woodrow

February 24th, 2012
1:28 pm

That is some kind of twisted. You know dam well Whitney Houston wouldn’t want such a photo taken.

Andrea Rouda

February 24th, 2012
1:28 pm

WHL

February 24th, 2012
1:30 pm

It’s obvious either the family or funeral people did this because you see no one else in the room security was tight on this and in these cases of elebrity the funeral home and cemetery are asked to sign non disclosure agreements that if this kind of u authorized photo happens regardless if an employee leaves them open to a huge lawsuit so if the family doesn’t sue we know that it was in fact the family that sold the photo I’m sure funeral expenses and the fact that her daughter will. Red to be taken care of in her fragile state is very much needed because Whitney although had assets and a recent civil suit that she won owes more than what she owns. I’m sure Whitney wouldn’t mind that it’s going towards helping her daughter and what she couldn’t do for her in life she is doing through her death.

Liz

February 24th, 2012
1:32 pm

While the home going service was public, the casket was CLOSED. Clearly some of you didn’t watch. These photos were taken in the viewing room which was private for the family. Clearly, this is an invasion of the Houston’s privacy.

Countonme

February 24th, 2012
1:33 pm

JBROOME….Go away!

missnadine

February 24th, 2012
1:33 pm

Jennifer, if you are so outraged, why on earth would you have bought the Elvis cover, auction or not?

liberalefty

February 24th, 2012
1:37 pm

well WHITNEY dont care…

Druggie

February 24th, 2012
1:38 pm

Drugs, drugs and more drugs. It is your fault too!

Rick James

February 24th, 2012
1:40 pm

When Elis died the Enquirer found his poorest relative that had access to the body and gave him a ton of money.They rigged him with a camera and he snapped the picture as he stood over the coffin.This was an inside job that could only involve the mortuary,the family or people allowed to attend the wake.There were 300 people invited to the funeral yet some of those people’s programs have made their way to online auctions.We should stopped acting shocked at what people will do for money and at the Enquirer for releasing the picture.If there was no market they would not have bought nor released it.When I drive past a traffic accident I keep my eyes in front of me to avoid seeing gore.I’ll do the same thing when I’m at the checkout in the grocery store and if more of us did the same thing this wont happen again.Again I dont blame the Enquirer I blame our appetites.

JustMyThought

February 24th, 2012
1:40 pm

I think we have better reading material than a tabloid anyway. Don’t we have more important things in our lives to be concerned with?

cooper cooper

February 24th, 2012
1:41 pm

Where can I get a copy of this issue, and is it in the stores now????

Vanessa Dobson

February 24th, 2012
1:42 pm

National Enquirer needs to be taken to court for this because they had not gotten permission to put this on their front page. What part of privacy do they not understand this was very disrepectful to Mrs. Houston,Bobbi Kristina and the whole Houston family. the person who gave national enquirer the pictures need to ask god for forgiveness. That is what’s wrong with our world nobody feels as though they need to repect peoples wishes people never think about themselves in other peoples pain and sorrow. National Enquirer i feel Oh the Houston family an apology for disrepecting them like that. and that is how i feel about the whole situation. God Bless you,ll and i will continue to pray for our world.