Two days earlier than her loss of life on Feb. 11, 2012, Whitney Houston confirmed as much as rehearsals for mentor Clive Davis’ annual pre-Grammy gala, a glitzy evening of music and mingling that she was planning to attend. The star-studded bash — which, held the evening earlier than the awards, is at all times one of many hottest tickets of Grammy weekend — was happening at Los Angeles’ Beverly Hilton resort, the place the singer was additionally staying.
Houston’s longtime musical director Rickey Minor was placing the band by its paces for the occasion, and he seen instantly that one thing was totally different in regards to the lady who was like his “little sister.”
“She pops into rehearsal, and we hadn’t even started, and it’s 10:30 in the morning,” Minor advised The Post. “Like, she doesn’t get up till the crack of 3, you know? She’s not a morning person. She loves her sleep, and she’s a night owl, so I never get to see her at 10:30. And she was kind of wet, like dripping. And I said, ‘Where are you coming from?’ She says, ‘I’ve been swimming. I’m getting my lungs back. I’m getting back in shape.’ ”
Houston claimed to be cleansing up her act, after years of drug abuse and smoking had taken their toll on her once-pristine pipes. But she was clearly mendacity to Minor — and maybe to herself.
Indeed, the comeback that Houston hoped to have after wrapping her upcoming film “Sparkle” — a remake of the 1976 musical drama — didn’t occur. She died, at age 48, within the drug-filled rest room of her resort room only a few hours earlier than the Davis celebration was as a result of start. The reason for loss of life was unintentional drowning within the bathtub, however long-term cocaine use and coronary heart illness have been contributing components.
The stunning passing of the pop diva who as soon as possessed the best voice of all rocked that Grammy weekend, turning it right into a collective mourning by the music world that had assembled to rejoice its greatest evening of the year. Still, amid the surreal disappointment, the Grammys carried on the day after Houston’s loss of life.
“Your almost natural instinct right at the beginning was to throw the [originally planned] show out and make the show a tribute to Whitney Houston,” longtime Grammy producer Ken Ehrlich advised The Post. “But that wouldn’t have been the right thing to do. So it was trying to find the blend between honoring her memory and then doing a Grammy show right.”
Gerrick Kennedy, writer of the brand new e-book “Didn’t We Almost Have It All: In Defense of Whitney Houston,” agreed that, “Nothing would have made the circumstances less horrible. Nothing would have made the moment feel less awful,” he mentioned. “So it just was kind of like, what do you do?”
Clearly nonetheless utilizing
Kennedy recalled seeing Houston on the Beverly Hilton two days earlier than her loss of life. The star was in full of life spirits when she crashed an E! News interview that Brandy and Monica have been doing on the Davis celebration rehearsals. “In the moment, it was just like, you know, she’s having a good time,” he mentioned. “She was there to see her little babies. But obviously, we now know that clearly she was not [sober].”
Later that evening, Houston gave an impromptu efficiency of “Jesus Loves Me” at Kelly Price’s For the Love of R&B pre-Grammy occasion held at Tru Hollywood nightclub. It would transform the final time she ever sang in public.
The subsequent day, photographs surfaced with Houston trying matted whereas leaving Tru. Minor acquired a name from Houston that day, however she didn’t depart a message and didn’t answer when he known as her again. “I never talked to her again,” mentioned Minor, who had shaped an in depth bond with the singer since first working along with her in 1982.
Minor acquired information of Houston’s loss of life from the pinnacle of safety on the Beverly Hilton. “He said, ‘Come with me.’ And we went to the service elevator, and we went up to the floor. And he said, ‘You know, she’s unconscious. She’s unresponsive.’ And then they cleared the floor, and I was the only one allowed to be on the floor. My head was spinning. Of course, I couldn’t tell anybody. It was an out-of-body experience to me … like some weird freak dream.”
A Grammys with out Whitney
Ehrlich was busy at Grammy rehearsals when phrase of Houston’s loss of life unfold all through the Staples Center. “I had two or three people come up to me with long faces,” he mentioned. “And my first reaction was, ‘You’re kidding.’ Because those are things you think when the unthinkable happens. And I could see from their reaction that they weren’t kidding.”
At that second, Ehrlich — like many who knew and have been impressed by Houston within the music trade — felt a really personal loss. “It hurt me so deeply,” mentioned the producer, who had first showcased Houston singing “Saving All My Love for You” on the Grammys in 1986. “We worked with Whitney an awful lot over the years. I felt like we had been there for her for so long. And I had watched, honestly, the steady decline.”
But Ehrlich and others on the Staples Center discovered consolation in LL Cool J, who was internet hosting the Grammys for the primary time. “All of a sudden, here he is walking into a show that he was really looking forward to being a part of and being hit with what might have been, you know, the last thing that you want to hear when you were starting a new venture. But he was remarkable … He guided the vibe that was needed behind the scenes and on camera.”
In reality, it was LL’s concept to honor Houston’s reminiscence with a moving prayer to open the Grammys as an alternative of the monologue he had deliberate. “To be honest with you, I wasn’t so sure that was the right thing to do,” mentioned Ehrlich. “But basically, they were his words.”
Meanwhile, Ehrlich instantly considered Jennifer Hudson to carry out a musical tribute to Houston and reached out to her. “She was getting dressed on her way to Clive’s party when we finally reached her. And she agreed to do it, very reluctantly. But obviously, [Houston’s death] had a profound effect on her.”
Hudson labored out the stripped-down efficiency of Houston’s traditional “I Will Always Love You” with Minor in one other room earlier than Davis’ celebration. Meanwhile, different artists scheduled to carry out on the Beverly Hilton ballroom — together with Alicia Keys and particular honoree Diana Ross — puzzled if they need to nonetheless do it whereas Houston’s physique was nonetheless upstairs.
“I was grappling over what to do,” mentioned Minor. “My input was that everyone will be grieving and mourning. So we celebrate her life separately or together — and we’re here. And if the artists are willing to do it, I mean, it’s a healing thing.”
But Kennedy doesn’t assume that the Davis celebration ought to have gone on as scheduled. “I thought it was completely disgusting,” he mentioned. “I have never gotten over the fact that this party happened. She’s upstairs, and the coroner is waiting to go up there and get her. It’s appalling to me. It felt like this weird Shakespearean tragedy unfolding where it’s like, this woman who was granted so little dignity in her lifetime can’t even die in dignity.”
At the Davis celebration and different pre-Grammy occasions round Los Angeles that Saturday evening, Kennedy describes the temper as “like the apocalypse.”
Then on the morning of the Grammys — with stars similar to Bruce Springsteen, Adele, Taylor Swift and Paul McCartney set to carry out later within the day — Hudson arrived earlier than everybody else to rehearse in non-public. “Before anybody came in, it would be a little bit less pressure on Jennifer,” mentioned Ehrlich. “And it’s probably a good thing that I did it that way ’cause she couldn’t get through it. She broke down at least twice while we were rehearsing.”
Ultimately although, Hudson — backed solely by a piano — delivered a stirring rendition of “I Will Always Love You.” But there wasn’t a dry eye in the home on the Staples Center. “She got through it, but all of us were crying,” mentioned Ehrlich.
Although Adele was the large winner with six Grammys that evening, music’s greatest evening belonged to Houston. “That is a room full of people, many of whom have walked through doors that she opened,” mentioned Kennedy.
And within the wake of Houston’s loss of life, the Grammy after-parties have been decidedly somber affairs. “That’s when it really set in,” mentioned Ehrlich, “and it really hit us how impactful she had been — and how tough it was.”