Whitney Houston 1963-2012

06.07.12

Bobby Brown, Cissy Houston, More of Whitney's Family Cash In

Just months after the superstar’s death, her relatives are using the singer to flog TV appearances, reality shows, and a tell-all book. They say they want to protect the singer’s name—but some just need the income, says Allison Samuels.

Odds are that no matter the results of the 2012 presidential election, singer Whitney Houston’s death will still likely be deemed one of the biggest stories of year. Not only was Houston one of the most dominant superstars of a generation, she also died a rather tragic and untimely death. Those dynamics make the story of her life and passing even more fascinating to the masses.

Still, her demise following a long battle with drugs won’t be the only disturbing event remembered by fans and admirers of the singer.  The actions and reactions from her family, ex-husband, and former cohorts in the aftermath of her death will surely go down in infamy as well.

From the interview with Oprah on the OWN network that showcased Houston’s beloved only child Bobbi Kristina speaking for the first time, to ex-husband Bobby Brown’s appearance on The Today Show,  relatives of the late singer have wasted little time in their attempt to put the “real story” of Whitney all out there for the world to see. Unfortunately each version of the “real Whitney” appears to be tainted with inconsistencies and half-truths. Pat Houston, the singer’s sister-in-law and manager, told Oprah Winfrey the star was completely drug-free shortly before she died. Toxicology reports and the fact that she was doing handstands at the hotel pool indicated the opposite. 

Bobby Brown, Houston’s ex-husband, told Matt Lauer on Today that he’d never done hard drugs until he met Whitney—apparently suggesting New Jersey-born superstar was the one who led him astray in the land of mischief and mayhem. Many close to Brown beg to differ.

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A young Whitney Houston performs with her mother Cissy Houston.

From all accounts, just four months after her death Houston seems to have provided a blueprint for her family’s (ex-husband included) entrée or re-entrée into a world of fame and fortune that would surely rival that of American Idol.

Brown has enjoyed renewed interest in his life, story, and talent with the death to of his ex-wife, and even performed live on Good Morning America for Memorial Day this year. Last month, Lifetime Networks announced a reality show was in the works for the Houston family, including Bobbi Kristina, that will follow the family’s journey after the death of their sister, mother and friend. It will air in the fall. Just two days ago, HarperCollins announced that family matriarch Cissy Houston will pen a tell-all on the life and times of Whitney Elizabeth Houston due to be released near the first anniversary of the singer’s death.

Who knew death could open so many doors? To be fair, the Jackson family had their fair share of media attention and primetime opportunities after the death of Michael Jackson. But to also be fair—the Jacksons were a family of famous performers long before Michael made his final transition in 2009.

“The family is doing whatever to make ends meet. They are grieving and trying to stay afloat at the same time.”

Friends of the Houston family insist the reasons for the family’s race to be the front of the cameras is pure and simple—money and the need for it. Houston’s estate was left primarily to her daughter, Bobbi Kristina. So those once lived on or at the expense of the singer now have to find alternative incomes. Not an easy task in today’s tough job market. So they decided to continue to use who and what they knew best, even after death—Whitney Houston.

“She took care of them for 20 years and no one was prepared for her death,” said a family friend. “No one saved enough money and no one knew what she’d done with her money really. So now the family is doing whatever to make ends meet. They are grieving and trying to stay afloat at the same time.”

Those close to Cissy Houston say she truly struggled with the idea of writing a book about her only daughter so soon after her death. But financial needs and the desire to set the record straight about her child’s life eventually forced her to seek out publishers.

In written statement, Houston’s mother explained her decision this way: “When I lost my daughter Nippy (Whitney’s nickname), the world lost one of the most beautiful voices and an extraordinarily beautiful and charitable woman. In sharing her story in this book, I hope to give her fans something to treasure.’’

Friends say Cissy is still reeling from her daughter’s sudden absence.

“I think Cissy really would have rather not done this right now with the wounds being still fresh,” said a friend. “But she had no choice. She has obligations and I think she felt like her daughter was being painted in the worst way by the media. She wants to make it right.”

In the end can she? With all due respect to Cissy Houston and her family, can any of them really offer us the true and complete story of Whitney Elizabeth Houston without ruffling feathers, angering friends and tarnishing her image more? Can any book or reality show now erase the memories of Houston’s off -key performances and erratic behavior through the years or explain why and how she lost such a heartbreakingly long battle against the demons that plagued her until her death?

Can anyone in her family, excluding her mother and daughter, explain why more wasn’t done to help her during her final days? Those are the tough questions her fans want a response to. Is the Houston family really ready to give them? Stay tuned.