Waiting to Exhale

The final results are in from all reporting precincts and it’s now official: Bobby Brown can’t catch a break. Granted, we all suspected that Mr. Whitney Houston has been rolling snake eyes at the craps table of life for a long time. It’s been 14 years since he enthralled us with “Humpin’ Around,” and since then he’s been giving his best performances in courtrooms and prison cells. It can’t be easy waiting for that call from Ralph Tresvant about the 47th New Edition reunion tour, or being relegated to Whitney’s finger-flexing constipation technician.

But Brown’s problems seemed positively trivial until last week, when we learned that the world’s most feared terrorist, Osama bin Laden, lusts after Brown’s wife, blames him for corrupting Houston’s true Islamic soul, and wants to detonate an explosive device in Brown’s loafers. I mean, bickering with Johnny Gill over who left the dressing-room toilet seat up can get thorny, but it’s not like having al Qaeda monitor every little step you take.

We’ve learned about this made-for-VH1 fatwa from Kola Boof, a Sudanese poet who says she was bin Laden’s sex slave for four months in 1996. In her autobiography, Boof details bin Laden’s obsession with Houston, saying the al Qaeda leader described the pop star as “the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen.” Rumors that bin Laden singlehandledly quadrupled Waiting to Exhale’s video-rental receipts in Afghanistan have yet to be confirmed.

What in the name of new-jack-swing is going on here? Sure, Brown is a washed-up train wreck, but as washed-up train wrecks go, he’s an affable one. Aside from his cameo in Ghostbusters II, what capital offenses has he committed?

This is the kind of love triangle Brown doesn’t need at this crucial juncture in his career. Now if Ciara or Rihanna want to send him some flirty emails just to get Whitney a little jealous, that’s cool. But a ménage a trois with Osama will leave everyone feeling a little cheaper when morning comes around.

Bin Laden apparently sees Brown as the epitome of everything that’s decadent and depraved about American culture, but that’s giving Bobby way too much credit. It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes an eclectic generation of raunchy pop stars to warp the sexual attitudes of American youth.

Granted, Brown displays an alarming commitment to Dionysian self-fulfillment in his defining anthem, “My Prerogative”: “They say I’m nasty, but I don’t give a damn/gettin’ girls is how I live.” Even when he tries to convince us of his humility, Brown’s denials ring false: “Don’t get me wrong/I’m really not zooped/ego trips is not my thing.” Bin Laden is hardly the only person to suggest that Brown is more zooped than he lets on.

It’s hard to shake the suspicion, however, that bin Laden is simply blinded by love. He dreams that he, not Kevin Costner, could be Houston’s bodyguard and gladly take a bullet for her at the Academy Awards. He imagines that when she sings “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” she’s really singing “I Wanna Dance With Osama.” He hates Mariah Carey for supplanting Houston with that infernal dog-whistle trill that created a Pavlovian rush to the record stores in the ’90s. He hates Burt Bacharach for booting Whitney from the 2000 Oscars (she just needed her “medicine,” that’s all!), and he even hates Dolly Parton for writing “I Will Always Love You,” because her songwriting credit prevents him from believing that Whitney penned the song for him.

The more we learn about bin Laden, the more we discover what a complex crackpot he really is. He abhors television, yet he can’t resist Bonanza reruns. He decries materialism, yet he buys his kids Nintendo games. And he rails against Western immorality, while keeping four wives — and a mistress or two — dangling on his yo-yo.

If bin Laden could calm down, though, he might see beyond Brown’s unflattering press clippings. For all his self-described nastiness, Brown treated his tenderonis in a highly chivalrous manner. (If bin Laden thinks Brown poisoned people’s minds, he should go back and listen to the second Bell Biv DeVoe album.) And, just as Brown once asked Mr. Telephone Man to find out why he heard a click every time he dialed his baby’s number, bin Laden wonders why he hears CIA operatives whispering on the other end every time he dials his baby’s number.

Brown routinely takes the blame for Houston’s disheveled descent into drugs and reality-show madness, but has anyone considered that it was Whitney who brought Bobby down? When they got together, he was the hottest star in pop music, and after a few years of marriage, he was urinating in police cars and running onstage to wipe the sweat off Whitney’s forehead. Say what you want about Brown, he never put his spouse in the crosshairs of Islamic extremists. He’s kept all his feuds within the biz, and we should respect him for that.


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