Where the Broken Hearts Go

It was October 4th, 1990.  I was fifteen.  It was an atypical blustery, rainsqually early autumn day in Washington.  About 10am, the vice-principal of my little bohemian high school in Dupont Circle came in to interrupt geometry class.  She called me into the hall. I knew I was not in trouble: I was literally one of two students in the entire student body who was not using drugs.

I had always thought the sixty-something vice-principal was a bit batty, what with one or both or her false eyelashes always on the cusp of falling off, and her haughty manner of speech.  She once described the biology teacher as “crème de la crème.” He was anything but.  Thus, when she began to open her mouth to tell me why I was pulled out of class, I could not believe it: Whitney Houston was now in my father’s office at the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill, and he had called the school to get me to come meet her.  At first, I thought the vice-principal lady had just gone completely batty. It would have hardly been unexpected.  But then she gave me a twenty dollar bill and told me to hail the next cab to take me to the Rayburn horseshoe.

I had been in love with Whitney Houston for the previous five years, ever since her debut album in 1985.  A white boy from the suburbs, surrounded by other boys in the neighborhood who had a steady musical diet of 80’s heavy metal, our next door neighbors would complain that they could hear from the sidewalk the songs blaring from my bedroom window: Saving All My Love For You, You Give Good Love, Greatest Love of All, Didn’t We Almost Have It All, plus all the other greats from Whitney’s first two albums.  To me, from age nine to that point in 1990, Whitney plus Anita Baker were queens of the universe, albeit vastly different in style.

I arrived that October morning in 1990 at the Rayburn Building full of nerves.  I was in a state of shock, not really believing that this would happen – that I would actually get to meet Whitney Houston.  I went to my father’s office, where he worked for a House subcommittee, only to find my father and the other regular Hill staffers.  Whitney, they said, had not yet arrived.  She was due to give testimony before a congressional committee as part of National Children’s Day.  I waited for less than an hour in my father’s office in the back of subcommittee room.  Then, hearing a bunch of commotion, that something was happening, I peered out the door.

I immediately recognized Cissy Houston, Whitney’s mother.  There were others in her entourage as well.  The first glimpse I had of Whitney was with her back to me. Her hair style was new – the short, cropped look that she sported for her then-upcoming third album, the same style she had four months later when sang the Star-Spangled Banner at the Superbowl.  But then she turned around, and I saw her face: it was Whitney.

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