*There was a time when Whitney Houston was the brightest star in the universe. Remember that?  It’s kind of hard to nowadays. Seven consecutive #1 hits. The biggest-selling single by a female artist in history. Starring roles in The Bodyguard and Waiting to Exhale and The Preacher’s Wife.  Astonishingly beautiful, with a voice from the heavens and talent to spare.

And now … a punch line. What could be sadder than that? A decade’s worth of ugly innuendo, drug rumors, shaky performances, bizarre television appearances, that train-wreck of a marriage to Bobby Brown.  We’ve watched as she’s self-destructed – like Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears, a voyeuristic peek into a life crushed by fame. It’s captivating in its train-wreck scene. There’s nothing sadder than seeing an icon have their aura stripped away.

Could there be a second life for Whitney? Let’s hope so. Ironically, Houston was on a flight to Detroit to the set of a pretty high-profile film project, the remake of the 1976 film “Sparkl”e with Jordin Sparks, Mike Epps and Derek Luke. A showy role like that one is a good first step on the road to a comeback – just look at Eddie Murphy’s transcendent performance in “Dreamgirls.” Maybe … with some time out of the tabloids and some time to recover, that astonishing voice will come back.

Hey, who would have thought Britney Spears would be back in society’s good graces after her very public breakdown, and that immortal photo of her attacking the car with an umbrella, bald as Patrick Stewart? She’s recovered, and come back stronger … and she doesn’t have anywhere near the talent that Whitney does. Something to wish for over the next couple of years.