I realize I’m rather late in discovering the details of Whitney Houston’s last meal. According to TMZ she ordered a hamburger, fries, a turkey sandwich and jalapenos. Pictures (below) show the remains of the burger on a table in her hotel room, along with a Heineken can and an empty champagne glass. Even if she consumed all this herself it hardly strikes me as living la vida loca, though I suppose there are those who would consider it a “binge.”
In any case, the turkey sandwich and jalapenos aren’t there on the hotel room table. They’re to be seen in another photograph, on a tray on the bathroom floor (below).
To quote TMZ, “Family sources say Whitney ate the burger and fries and took the turkey sandwich and jalapenos into the bathroom where she planned on eating both items after (my italics) her bath.” This strikes me as very unlikely. Surely you only take a sandwich into the bathroom if you’re going to eat it during the bath, not after. Unless the family was wrong and she was taking a shower: I guess nobody eats a sandwich during a shower.
Thomas Demand, generally a serious photographer, has recreated the scene for reasons that remain, to me at least, opaque. He says, “The proliferation of that kind of image at the time when she was not even in the coffin amazed me. It amazed me that it would ever have been released." Well yes, Thomas but … Also I don't think it would be entirely Philistine to point out that's it's a pretty piss poor and largely inaccurate representation, unless that's the whole point. Who knows?
Things are much simpler with blues guitar great Buddy Guy, who has an autobiography out, titled When I Left Home. It contains a story that he’s told before elsewhere, about his first meeting with Muddy Waters. This version comes from an interview in Rolling and Tumbling, a book edited by Jas Obrecht.
“I was going on my third day without eating in Chicago, trying to borrow a dime to call my mom to get back to Louisiana. And Muddy Waters bought me a salami sandwich and put me in the back of his 1958 Chevy station wagon. He said, ‘You’re hungry, and I know it.’ And talking to Muddy Waters, I wasn’t hungry anymore; I was full just for him to say, ‘Hey.’ I was so overjoyed about it, my stomach wasn’t cramping anymore. I told him that, and Muddy said, ‘Get in the goddam car … yes I wish he were here now. I thanked him many times before he passed away, and told him how much better I felt after he … made me eat that sandwich that night.” He tells the story a little differently in the autobiography, but you’ll just have to seek that out for yourself.
All of which, inevitably got me thinking about Warren Zevon, he of the song, album, and eventually catchphrase “Enjoy Every Sandwich.” Well, why not? After he’d been diagnosed with terminal cancer he appeared on the David Letterman Show, and Letterman asked him if his attitude to life and music had changed. Zevon said, “You put more value on every minute ... You know I always kinda thought I did that. I really always enjoyed myself. But it’s more valuable now. You’re reminded to enjoy every sandwich and every minute.”
Well, Buddy Guy certainly enjoyed his salami sandwich, though it was by no means his last, and poor Whitney never got to enjoy her last turkey sandwich, though I realize it was hardly the most tragic aspect of the event. Now, of course, some sandwiches are easier to enjoy than others, but heck, as Mr. Zevon would have told you, you might as well try to enjoy every last one of them, don’t you think? Even, perhaps especially, if you eat them in the bath.