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On TV, Whitney overload

I ask you, why are we listening to all these expert prognosticators on MSNBC and Fox?

"Words, words, words," said Hamlet, in response to Polonius' question as to what the Melancholy Dane was reading?

That's how I feel today. By now every word has been uttered about Whitney Houston, dead at 48, the probable victim of drug addiction, drink and a body weakened by years of abuse.

The shock of it is that it is not shocking. As with the deaths of so many others -- Billie, Marilyn, Judy, Janis, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Elvis, Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse -- Whitney's premature end seemed the inevitable climax, the last song in a life concert of crescendos and broken notes. And in this age of the Internet and 24-hour cable news, events are grabbed, gobbled, chewed up and spit out in record time. The air "up there" has always been thin. Now it takes the breath -- and the soul -- away. After days of relentless coverage, what's left of Whitney?

I can't add much more to the inundation of facts, fictions, opinions, praise and condemnation.

I interviewed Whitney many years ago when she was still fresh and seemingly untroubled. She was adorable, fun and cooperative. I'd heard she could be "difficult" if she didn't like you. But there wasn't a hint of attitude; she was still the all-American girl. Shortly after, things began to go south for Whitney.

I saw her performing at several galas in years to come, but never interviewed her again. As her life and career careened, I became a worried observer and a hopeful commentator. Whitney seemed forever on the verge of a great comeback, and most people were in there rooting for her. She never completely lost the qualities that made her a fabulous star of music and movies, though the magnificent singing voice was shattered beyond repair. (It will be fascinating to see Whitney's last acting performance, in the remake of "Sparkle," which is scheduled for a summer release.)

I have no idea what made Whitney do what she did, why she married Bobby Brown, why she plunged into drug use and wantonly destroyed her gift. I had no pipeline to her psyche.

Addictive personalities are confounding and heartbreaking. "The biggest devil is me," Whitney herself said. And that says it all.

Given the lengths she went to harm her legacy, perhaps she didn't care much about it. But she left one despite herself, and it is the legacy of a great artist. The rest? Just grimy humanity, writ larger than it is for most mere mortals.