UPDATE: I’ve confirmed that a rough cut of Sparkle was turned in, though I’m not sure whether Whitney Houston saw it before she died. Sony publicist Steve Elzer said the studio was mourning her death. The film has been scheduled for release late summer. “Like all those who knew and loved her, we are shocked and saddened and the world has lost an incomparable talent,” Elzer said. “Right now our thoughts are with her daughter, her family and her friends.”
PREVIOUS: In a most shocking development, Whitney Houston has died at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. She was 48. I confirmed this news with her publicist who made the announcement today. The cause of death has not been determined yet. Houston was that rarity: a true crossover artist with tremendous success in both music and movies. Houston burst on the scene with a gospel-trained voice of an angel and the beauty to match. She seemed to have the world at her feet when she was recording platinum-selling albums. She sold 55 million records in the U.S. alone and then branched seamlessly into films, and seemed the successor to Aretha Franklin and Gladys Knight in that when she sang her soaring vocals, they made the hair stand up on your neck. She made her feature starring debut in the Mick Jackson-directed The Bodyguard with Kevin Costner. The film grossed $411 million worldwide, a giant number for 1992. She also starred in the motion pictures Waiting To Exhale and The Preacher’s Wife. For The Bodyguard, she sang a rendition of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You”, which sat atop the charts for weeks and won Grammy’s Record Of The Year and Best Female Pop Vocal awards on a soundtrack named Album Of The Year. Both Waiting To Exhale and The Preacher’s Wife spawned soundtrack albums. Most recently Houston played a role in a remake of Sparkle. She’d been touted as a possible judge on Simon Cowell’s The X Factor for Fox, and reports claimed she was on the brink of bankruptcy. She’d been photographed (above left) at a Hollywood nightclub with scratches on her wrist and blood dripping down her leg. She’d been expected as a guest at her mentor and music industry legend Clive Davis’ Grammy party tonight.
Houston won two Emmys, six Grammys, and over 20 American Music Awards. She sold 200 million record worldwide throughout her career. But by the time Houston co-starred in a TV reality show about her then husband Bobby Brown, she was the subject of many rumors about her personal life. She finally confessed to the media that she’d been abusing cocaine, marijuana, and pills for years. “The biggest devil is me. I’m either my best friend or my worst enemy,” Houston told ABC’s Diane Sawyer in an infamous 2002 interview with Brown by her side. She went into rehab several times and in 2009 appeared to make a comeback. Writes the AP: “But by the end of her career, Houston became a stunning cautionary tale of the toll of drug use. Her album sales plummeted and the hits stopped coming; her once serene image was shattered by a wild demeanor and bizarre public appearances. and her once pristine voice became raspy and hoarse, unable to hit the high notes as she had during her prime. It was a tragic fall for a superstar who was one of the top-selling artists in pop music history alone.”