I was not a big fan of Whitney Houston.
It wasn't that I didn't like her. It's just that I didn't pay very much attention to her music and didn't really follow her career or buy her albums.
I knew she was from New Jersey and that she kept ties with the state and even continued to live here for some time after she became a superstar. In fact, she lived in Mendham, also the home of Chris and Mary Pat Christie and their family as well as the home of my Very Best Friend from high school.
Now, a controversy has arisen over New Jersey Governor Christie's decision to fly the flag at half staff today in memory of Whitney Houston whose funeral is being held in her hometown of Newark.
I really can't seem to understand why so many people seem to be so bent out of shape by the Governor's decision -- especially when there are far more pressing matters being faced by our state and nation.
The brouhaha is all outta proportion to the "issue" at hand
But all of this controversy set me to investigating Whitney Houston and her charitable works and other good deeds.
Here's some of what I discovered:
1. The Whitney Houston Foundation For Children: Formed in 1989, the WHFC aids sick and homeless children, and works toward the prevention of child abuse, teaches children to read, and has built inner city parks and playgrounds. In past years, the foundation also has hosted a Christmas party for homeless children.
2. The United Negro College Fund is a favorite Whitney Houston charity. She raised a quarter of a million dollars for the UNCF at a 1988 Madison Square Garden concert, appeared on at least two "Lou Rawls Parade of Stars" telethons to benefit the UNCF, and has been honored by the organization for her consistent giving with the Frederick D. Patterson Award. One of Whitney Houston's first gigs was a benefit concert for the UNCF in which she sang "Tomorrow" from the musical "Annie."
3. The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation: Whitney Houston regularly attends their "Carousel of Hope" charity gala and was honored for her giving in 1996 with the Brass Ring Award.
4. St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital: Founded by the late actor Danny Thomas, this hospital helps critically-ill children without asking for money from their parents or guardians. It is subsidized completely by charitable giving. Whitney Houston has given so much to the hospital over the years that the founder's daughter, Marlo Thomas, honored her at a charity banquet in 1994.
5. South Africa: The announcement that Whitney Houston would participate in the 1988 Freedom Fest concert event (for a then-imprisoned Nelson Mandela) drew other artists and much media attention. In 1994, Whitney also toured in South Africa, giving concert proceeds to numerous children's charities including two children's museums, the President's Trust Fund (for the freed Nelson Mandela), the Kagiso Foundation and several orphanages. In the 1980s, when Whitney was an up-and-coming fashion model, she also refused to work for any company that did business in then-Apartheid South Africa.
6. American Red Cross: Whitney Houston donated all of her proceeds from the single and home video sales of her Superbowl XXV rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" to benefit Gulf War troops and their families. Whitney's record company followed suit. Whitney was elected a member of the American Red Cross Board of Directors in 1991.
7. New York Firefighters and Police: Whitney Houston re-released "The Star Spangled Banner" charity single to benefit the New York Firefighters Disaster Relief Fund and the New York Fraternal Order of Police Fund following terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. She waived her royalty rights to the single, which went on to top the U.S. sales charts in October 2001 and raised more than $1 million.
8. The Children's Defense Fund: All of Whitney Houston's proceeds from her two "Classic Whitney" concerts in Washington, D.C., totaling a quarter of a million dollars, were donated to this charity.
9. The National Birth Defects Center: The Boston area center named its Hearing & Language Disorder Clinic after Whitney due to her giving.
10. UMDNJ University Hospital: The Newark, N.J.-based hospital named its Pediatric Special Care Unit after Whitney Houston due to her giving.
11. Hale House: Whitney Houston donated enough to this Harlem-based charity that they were able to build a Learning & Recreation Center.
12. Rainbow House: Whitney Houston has provided financial assistance to this shelter for adolescent mothers and for children with HIV and AIDS.
13. Russian Aid Fund: In February 2004, Whitney donated 1 million rubles to the Aid Fund for victims of a bomb attack in the Moscow subway. The funds were raised by her performances in Moscow.
14. T.J. Martell Foundation: Whitney Houston has supported this foundation, which funds research for leukemia, cancer and AIDS.
15. Harlem Boys Choir, New Jersey State PBA, and The Youth of Atlantic City: Whitney donated proceeds from her only 1990 U.S. concert appearances to these three charities.
16. Debt Relief: Whitney supported a cyber petition by international debt relief campaign Jubilee 2000 to persuade world leaders to erase debt owed by 40 of the world's poorest nations.
17. Wyclef Jean Foundation: Whitney Houston participated in a Carnegie Hall benefit that earned about $250,000 for this foundation in January 1991.
18. Welcome Home Heroes: Whitney's Easter Sunday 1991 concert in Norfolk, Va., was free for returning Gulf War veterans and their families. HBO, which televised the event live, encouraged cable systems to descramble their signal so everyone could enjoy the show for free.
19. 1994 Rainforest Benefit: Whitney Houston made a surprise guest performance at this event, notable for Whitney's singing a bit of "La Donna e Mobile" from Giuseppe Verdi's opera "Rigoletto." She also performed "If It's Magic" and "I Will Always Love You."
20. For the 1992 movie premiere of "The Bodyguard," proceeds went to The Whitney Houston Foundation For Children and to the Magic Johnson Foundation for pediatric AIDS research .
21. For the 1996 movie premiere of "The Preacher's Wife," proceeds went to The Whitney Houston Foundation For Children, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America (Denzel Washington's choice) and a third charity chosen by director Penny Marshall.
22. Kurdish Refugee Relief 1991: Whitney performed at the "Simple Truth" concert at London's Wembley Stadium and allowed MTV to simulcast her performance of "Miracle" at her Oakland, Calif., concert during a telethon held for this cause.
23. Fighting AIDS: One of Whitney Houston's favorite causes, highlights include her performance at the Arista 15th Anniversary AIDS Benefit in 1990. She also flew to Los Angeles for the "Commitment for Life" AIDS Benefit in 1994 from her South American tour, and then immediately flew back to resume her concert tour.
24. Fighting Cancer: Another of Whitney Houston's favorite causes, Whitney performed at a Cancer Research Benefit at Howard University in Washington, D.C.
25. Michael Bolton Foundation: This charity honored Whitney for her giving in 1995 with a fund-raising gala. In 1997, Bolton's foundation joined forces with Whitney's foundation to honor other charitable artists at a fund-raising gala.
26. Emmanuel Cancer Foundation: Whitney was unable to attend a 1990 benefit held in her honor, so she turned it into a food drive to benefit this New Jersey chidren's organization.
27. Special Olympics: Whitney performed at the Opening Ceremonies in 1987 and recorded "Do You Hear What I Hear" for free for their first "A Very Special Christmas" benefit album in 1989.
28. 1988 Olympic Games: Whitney Houston recorded the song "One Moment In Time" for an album of the same name to benefit Olympic athletes.
29. Ronald McDonald Children's Charities: The South Florida arm of this organization honored Whitney for her giving.
30. The Bronx Zoo: Whitney Houston donated two lion cubs to the Bronx Zoo in New York City in 1989.
31. For her 1992 wedding, Whitney asked attendees and fans to contribute to the Whitney Houston Foundation For Children in lieu of gifts.
32. Whitney Houston has been honored for her charity work by the VH1 Honors in 1995, The First Annual Triumphant SPIRIT Awards by Essence Magazine in 1997, and 1998 Trumpet Awards (organized by Ted Turner).