The recent passing of uber-successful businessman Rev. Sun Myung Moon brought to mind a long-ago possession that I dearly, dearly wish I hadn’t lost during one of my I-95 moves: a poster advertising a 1997 Unification Church mass wedding at Washington D.C.’s RFK Stadium. The poster was particularly fantastic not because of the bizarre event it touted, but rather because it prominently featured a photograph of Whitney Houston in mid-croon. And why would that be? Because the talented-yet-troubled singer had agreed to headline the ceremony, allegedly in exchange for at least $1 million.
Houston, however, failed to make good on her commitment, as recounted in this excellent account of the day’s festivities:
Houston, who was supposed to collect about $1 million for a 45-minute concert, sent word two hours before her scheduled appearance that she was ill, according to festival organizers.
“Her band is here; her publicist is here,” said an exasperated Lavonia Perryman, a publicist for the event.
Organizers waited until after the fireworks show that concluded the program to tell the crowd that Houston wasn’t coming.
Clearly someone close to Houston convinced her that the potential damage to her reputation (and, by extension, future earning power) wasn’t worth the million or so bucks. But why did that organizational revelation not occur until the eleventh hour? Houston surely had a vast coterie of managers, publicists, and consultants on staff whose express purpose was to foresee such problems. The breakdown of her decision-making apparatus was pretty stunning.
I often think of Houston’s near-miss with the Moonies when I hear of an egregious mistake by a supposedly well-oiled machine—for example, the Qwikster debacle. Amazing how a gathering of very large and attentive brains still has the capacity to make horrendously shortsighted mistakes.