Copyright © 2002 Terry Joseph
By Terry Joseph
May 15, 2002
Former seer-women of the once lucrative Psychic Friends Network (PFN) must still be very upset at ex-spokesperson Dionne Warwick, to not have warned her of last Sunday’s potential for peril.
Notorious for inaccuracy, it is also possible that the psychics actually declared Sunday a safe time for any diva to fly from Florida to California with marijuana concealed in lipstick cases. Whatever the truth of that matter, Miami-Dade police didn’t just walk on by. Ms Warwick was charged with possession of the herb, suggesting that not only security was tight at the check-in counter.
A booking on drug charges must be a brutal heartbreaker for the superstar singer and role model. One could almost hear some impish young guard mumbling “Do You Know the Way to San Quentin?”
There was also a touch of déjà vu. Ms Warwick’s favourite cousin and fellow diva Whitney Houston was busted just two years earlier at Hawaii’s Keahole-Kona International Airport after security guards found what Trinis refer to fondly as “a little kooshoompeng” in her lipstick bag.
Quite unlike the Houston example, Ms Warwick’s long-standing buddies remain fiercely loyal. Ruth Bowen, a theatrical agent and close friend, told the Miami Herald the ganja was medicinal. Ms Warwick’s sister Deedee insisted to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: “Dionne doesn’t use drugs,” implying the herb was planted.
Well, I suppose, that’s what friends are for.
To her credit, Ms Warwick, 61, didn’t attempt deception. She could have assumed a mask of innocence and ask her well-rehearsed question: “What’s it all about?” Or even more plausibly, argue that the grass was for a paranoid professional colleague and she was only taking a message to Michael.
The former Solid Gold television show host and PFN spin-doctor’s image was only just recovering from the beating it took in 1998, when the latter organisation filed for bankruptcy protection after grossing US$1 billion during its relatively short existence.
Senior PFN diviners (who, if they were any good, should also have seen bankruptcy coming) failed in a legal bid to secure outstanding emoluments and mounted a rather unflattering campaign against Ms Warwick.
But in the sum, she contributed a helluva lot more to civilisation than a marijuana charge or the PFN scam (which, after all, only conned willing fools) can erase, although the combination coming so late in her life does loom formidable.
Winner of five Grammys, Ms Warwick was in Miami to collect a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Red Cross, an event frequently punctuated by standing ovations and other forms of adulation. After Sunday evening’s embarrassment, she must have wanted to ask her hosts: “Will you still love me tomorrow?”
But anyone who had a heart would have let her go. Ms Warwick is no fly-by-night cult singer. She had in fact missed an earlier plane to California, home of the legendary San Quentin prison, the type of facility to which latter-day psychic Miss Cleo seems headed after the FBI exposed her scam and bogus Jamaican accent.
Ms Warwick’s career spans four decades, placing 60 hits on the Top 100 charts. She has performed for numerous heads of states, grouped with Elton John, Stevie Wonder and Gladys Knight and raised millions for the fight against Aids and has devoted much of her mature years to a slew of humanitarian causes; serving as the US Ambassador for Health throughout the 1980s.
Originally part of a gospel-singing duet with sister Deedee, Ms Warwick rose to personify the work of legendary composer Burt Bacharach. While attending Hartt College of Music, she sang background vocals for some of the biggest stars of the 20th Century, including Dinah Washington, Brook Benton, Chuck Jackson, The Drifters and Solomon Burke. She later got her master’s degree in music at Hartt and discovered Luther Vandross.
She was a key participant in production of the all-star single “We Are The World”, a charity effort to fight hunger in Africa and performed at “Live Aid” in 1984.
In addition to co-creating The Soul Train Music Awards, Ms Warwick, whose star still shines on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, received the “Luminary Award” from the American Society of Young Musicians in 1997. Later that year she co-hosted with current US Secretary of State General Colin Powell the 10th anniversary of Best Friends, an abstinence and character-building programme with which she has been involved from inception.
Perhaps given the outcome of recent events here, no one may be willing to call up the Miami-Dade police to make enquiries about the possible outcome of her court matter.
But for all her faults, she has provided a lot of us with lasting memories of good music, the kind I know I’ll never love this way again, if current industry trends hold.
So particularly for your overwhelming contribution to the welfare of underprivileged, sick and starving people everywhere and entertainment of the contented, at least this guy’s in love with your work, Ms Warwick and will certainly say a little prayer.
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