While the glory of her voice propelled Whitney Houston into the pop stratosphere, her demons kept dragging her down, a powerful undertow of drugs and toxic relationships.But early this year, with new music, a new man, and a new movie— due out this summer—she seemed to be resurfacing.When talent scouts began to circle the teenage Whitney, Cissy told them it was too soon.By 18, however, after graduating from an all-girls Catholic high school, Whitney was ready.“She was way more energetic than the young people, more excited to be in the studio, more passionate to make something outstanding,” said Mason. She’s dead.” On the fourth floor, meanwhile, the R&B singer Brandy—Ray J’s older sister—who had starred with Houston in the 1997 TV movie was out in the hall, crying. Winter will take good care of Whitney,” adding, “and thank you for taking such good care of Michael Jackson.” By the time Winter went downstairs, the lobby was crawling with stars—Tom Hanks, Tony Bennett, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Neil Young—arriving for the party. Brown’s sister Leolah Brown, Whitney’s former assistant, said on the If Whitney had arrived in L. a diminished diva, she left it a fully restored icon, seizing headlines, mourned on talk shows, and memorialized at a three-and-a-half-hour, star-studded, nationally televised funeral.Everyone agreed that she was also clean and sober on the set of her upcoming movie, a remake of a 1976 film called . Bobbi Kristina, Whitney’s 18-year-old daughter with the singer Bobby Brown, was attempting to gain access to her mother’s room. Pat Houston would later blame Whitney’s death not on drugs but on “lifestyle.” She told Oprah Winfrey, “The handwriting was kind of on the wall.” The cause of death clearly went deeper than toxicology.
According to the producer Harvey Mason Jr., she was on time at the studio the Tuesday night before her death to record one side of a duet called “Celebrate” with the winner Jordin Sparks, and she played a CD of the song for Clive Davis at the Beverly Hills Hotel. But it didn’t happen, “because Bobbi Kristina wound up going to the hospital,” he said, after reportedly becoming “hysterical, exhausted, and inconsolable.” He added, “And Pat Houston [Whitney’s manager and sister-in-law] had kind of an anxiety attack.”While Houston’s family would insist that they had seen no evidence of her recent drug use, members of Bobby Brown’s family went on television to tell a different story.As they frantically administered CPR, Jones told the switchboard to call 911.Fans were already gathering at the Hilton for Clive Davis’s party when Ed Winter, the coroner, took the elevator to the fourth floor.The hallway there had become a crime scene, with police tape blocking the area, and a dozen family members and friends were demanding, “What happened? ” There were no immediate answers and no real evidence.Though the surrounding rooms were occupied by people who loved and depended upon the singer, if she called for help she had gone unheard.The gospel singer Be Be Winans first heard it when Whitney was opening for the singer Jeffrey Osborne.“I went backstage, and we met, and I said, ‘I want to know what church you come from, because, singing the way you sing, you come from somebody’s church,’ ” recalled Winans. ’ ”New Hope Baptist Church sits at 106 Sussex Avenue in Newark, New Jersey. That’s what I wanted.” Across the street from the church was the now defunct James M.Following her death in a Beverly Hilton bathtub, Mark Seal investigates Houston’s final days: the prayers and the parties, the Hollywood con artist on the scene, and the message she left behind.Scheduled to appear at the pre-Grammy Awards party given annually by her mentor, the music impresario Clive Davis, on February 11, Whitney Houston arrived in Los Angeles a week early, without fanfare, and checked into the Beverly Hilton with her small entourage under the pseudonym Elizabeth Collins.“This was a positive reinforcement for young African-American women.For anyone who wanted to pursue their dream and present their gifts.