Fans Mourn Whitney Houston at Apollo Theatre in Harlem


Day report for Uptown Radio, originally aired February 17, 2012.

Whitney Houston shrine in front of the Apollo Theater. Credit: Annie Russell

HOST INTRO: Since Whitney Houston’s death last Saturday, fans around the world have mourned the star many call the “Queen of Pop.” In New York City, fans have been gathering in front the Apollo Theater in Harlem, where they’re building an impromptu memorial.

By Annie Russell

RUSSELL: There’s a growing shrine of roses, photos, balloons and candles on the sidewalk in front of the Apollo Theater. Fan Therese Todman says she felt it was important to come.

ACT (TODMAN 1): “I have to show my respect by writing something on the wall for her. That the world could see.”

RUSSELL: The Apollo is an appropriate place for this memorial. Countless contestants for the theater’s iconic “amateur night” sang Houston’s songs, hoping to mimic her soaring voice. And the star filmed one of her first music videos here for her single “The Greatest Love of All.”

SOUND: Fade up and under narr, “Greatest Love of All” by Whitney Houston.

RUSSELL: Also here is retired teacher Mary Ann Sussoni, who says she used to play this song for her students. She’s surprised at how hard she’s taking this.

ACT (SUSSONI 1): “I haven’t been- except for my family members when they’ve gone that I’ve been so sad. And I’m feeling so sad for a person that’s not a family member, but yet feels like a family member.”

RUSSELL: Sussoni says it’s been an emotional week. She found herself writing poetry about Houston on the subway ride to the memorial. Some visitors, she said, were more cynical.

ACT (SUSSONI 2): “Someone just stood here and said ‘Oh what a waste.’ And I said ‘it wasn’t a waste, it’s a deep loss’”

RUSSELL: Local musicians have come to pay their respects too. Lord Harrison is a rapper who comes to 125th street to promote his group. He says he’s signed the wall several times since Saturday.

ACT (HARISSON 1)“I just wrote ‘without you there wouldn’t be no me.’ She gives me the goose bumps. She’s the best.”

RUSSELL: Like so many fans at the Apollo, Harrison has a personal relationship with Houston’s music.

ACT (HARRISON 2) “She taught me how to French kiss, Whitney Houston. I learned how to French kiss off of her songs.”

RUSSELL: Across the street from the Apollo, there’s a store called Kiss Electronics. Clerk Jasmine Mahla says the demand for Houston’s music has been overwhelming:

ACT (MALA 1): “Everything is gone, all her CDs, DVDs, everything is on backorder.”

RUSSELL: Mahla says fans started coming in so soon that there was no time to create a display of Houston’s records and films.

ACT (MALA 2): After her death that was Saturday, the next day everything was gone.”

RUSSELL: Mahla says customers had no preference for a specific album or song, but many have the same favorite.


RUSSELL: That was her hit from the movie “The Bodyguard,” I will always love you. Houston’s funeral at New Hope Baptist Church is invitation only, but the Associated Press will live stream the service on their website tomorrow.

Annie Russell, Columbia Radio News.


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