Shortly after taking to network television to tell all the world about Whitney Houston’s addiction, accuse Nick Gordon in the untimely deaths of both his ex-wife and their daughter, Bobbi Kristina, and claim that once upon a time he had sex with a ghost, Bobby Brown had one more bombshell to drop on the promo tour for his new book, Every Little Step.
The late Whitney Houston was bisexual, Brown told Us Weekly following his hour-long 20/20 interview, confirming longstanding rumors about the “I Will Always Love You” superstar and her BFF, Robyn Crawford.
“I know,” Brown, 47, told Us. “We were married for 14 years. There are some things we talked about that were personal to us…”
But nothing, it seems, too personal to share with US Weekly.
Houston drowned in 2012 in a bathtub at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, and was discovered to have had a cocktail of drugs in her system. Two days earlier, she had performed at a pre-Grammys party hosted by her longtime mentor and friend Clive Davis—who himself came out as bisexual in 2013.
“I opened myself up to the possibility that I could have a relationship with a man as well as the two that I had with a woman,” he told Katie Couric in a televised interview, also promoting his memoirs. “I’m still attracted to women… You don’t have to be only one thing or another. For me, it’s the person.”
For years leading up to her tragic death, Houston denied persistent gossip-rag reports that she was not only gay, but involved romantically with Crawford, who she’d met as a teenager in East Orange, New Jersey, before her immense talents skyrocketed her to global fame.
Houston was 16 and Crawford was 19 when the two women first became friends and then quickly became inseparable. They lived together as roommates in a New Jersey apartment, raising eyebrows and spurring speculation that they were more than just best friends. Crawford later became the pop diva’s assistant and creative director, often appearing by her side in public—and the media took notice, hounding Houston time and again to set the record straight.
“I tell my family, ‘You can hear anything on the streets, but if you don’t hear it from me, it’s not true,’” Crawford commented in a 1987 Time magazine profile of Houston. In the same article, Houston acknowledged that her closeness with Crawford made people wonder, but said expressly, and not for the last time, that she was not gay.
“My mother taught me that when you stand in the truth and someone tells a lie about you, don’t fight it,” said Houston. “I’m not with any man. I’m not in love. People see Robyn with me, and they draw their own conclusions. Anyway, whose business is it if you’re gay or like dogs? What others do shouldn’t matter. Let people talk. It doesn’t bother me because I know I’m not gay. I don’t care.”
But soon after Houston married R&B singer Brown in 1992—with Crawford serving as her maid of honor—the besties seemingly grew apart.
Back then in the mid-’80s, before she met and married Brown—the man she’d be most closely associated with for the rest of her life and career—being openly gay or bisexual was not an easy option for Houston. After Whitney’s death, Cissy Houston declared to Oprah Winfrey that she did not approve of her daughter’s close relationship with Crawford. Should Whitney have come out, said Cissy, she would not have supported it.
“I knew I didn’t want Robyn around my daughter, and I told [Whitney] that,” Cissy wrote in her own book, Remembering Whitney. “There wasn’t much I could do though. [Whitney] liked Robyn. She was past the age when I could forbid her from seeing someone. Kids have a mind of their own when they get older. They want to experiment with all kinds of things. And I don’t know if it was more than that.”
At that time, before female stars like Ellen DeGeneres courageously broke through the LGBT curtain and declared themselves out and proud on the world stage, another Hollywood darling was living in the closet. Jodie Foster had been acting since the age of 3 and learned the hard way, as the object of would-be presidential assassin John Hinckley’s obsession, to fortify the walls around her personal privacy.
But even without concrete confirmation, Foster’s rumored fling with her The Accused co-star Kelly McGillis stoked the fires of Tinseltown gossipmongers plenty. When both women confirmed their homosexuality years later, Foster acknowledging it gradually in public beginning around 2007 and McGillis in 2009 after several relationships with men, it only reignited those vintage rumors—including never-confirmed scuttlebutt of a love triangle between Foster, McGillis, and… Houston.
The rumors, oft-chronicled by the Village Voice’s Michael Musto, alleged a heated incident involving the three women, with some versions setting the so-called altercation at NYC’s lesbian hangout the Cubby Hole. But asked years later, McGillis denied ever having met Houston—and Houston’s repeated denials of being gay stymied the truth-seekers year after year.
Much like his overshare about discovering Whitney doing blow on their wedding day, Bobby Brown’s revelation of her bisexuality seems an awful lot like yet another grossly exploitative way for the former New Edition singer to throw his late ex under the bus and sell more books. But if true, it means there were more international superstars living in the closet in the ’80s and ’90s than Hollywood history previously knew.
And it means that both the biggest actress in Hollywood and the biggest pop singer in music at the time were hiding their sexuality due to outside pressures to protect their image, family, careers, and privacy.
Brown left the topic of Whitney’s sexuality out of his much-hyped sit-down with Robin Roberts on Tuesday. Perhaps Roberts, who revealed she is gay in a Facebook post in 2013, chose deliberately not to go there out of respect for the late Houston, who was hounded for the last few decades of her life by tabloid rumors of her increasingly erratic behavior, suspected lesbian relationship, and drug abuse.
Even in death Houston parried speculation over her sexuality from everyone from sometime Daily Beast columnist Musto, who pondered the “open secret” of her romance with Crawford in a piece titled “Whitney Houston’s Lesbianism: Let’s Discuss,” to Sandra Bernhard, who outed her on Rosie O’Donnell’s OWN show and suggested that the pressures of hiding her sexuality contributed to her death.
In a 2000 interview with Out magazine, Houston once again denied that she was anything but straight.
“That ain’t me, I know what I am, I’m a mother. I’m a woman. I’m heterosexual. Period,” Houston said. “But I love everybody. If I was gay, I would be proud to tell you, ’cause I ain’t that kind of girl to say, ‘Naw, that ain’t me.’ The thing that hurt me most was that they tried to pin something on me that I was not. My mother raised me to never, ever, be ashamed of what I am. But I’m not a lesbian, darling. I’m not.
“I am me, I’m a mother. I love to hear my child call me Mommy. That’s what I am, not lesbian, not gay, not all the bullshit. I don’t wanna hear that. It’s over. It’s done.”
According to Brown, Houston was sexually interested in both men and women. “I’m a man and she was attracted to me!” he told Us Weekly.
Brown, who on 20/20 blamed Whitney’s death on Gordon, pointed more fingers. Her inability to live and love freely as she chose, he said, referring to the disapproving Cissy, also led to her demise. “I really feel that if Robyn was accepted into Whitney’s life, Whitney would still be alive today,” Brown told Us Weekly. “She didn’t have close friends with her anymore.”
But this is also not the first time Brown’s sold out Houston’s personal life and purported secrets in order to promote a book.
In 2008, the New York Post published an early excerpt from his authorized biography, Bobby Brown: The Truth, The Whole Truth, and Nothing But, in which he claimed she only married him to straighten out the lesbian rumors that dogged her and Crawford:
“I think we got married for all the wrong reasons,” he claimed. “Now, I realize Whitney had a different agenda than I did when we got married… I believe her agenda was to clean up her image, while mine was to be loved and have children… The media was accusing her of having a bisexual relationship with her assistant, Robyn Crawford. Since she was the American Sweetheart and all, that didn’t go too well with her image... In Whitney’s situation, the only solution was to get married and have kids. That would kill all speculation, whether it was true or not. In the short, I think I got caught up in the politics and ended up marrying one of the biggest stars in the world.”
In that book, he also blamed Whitney for introducing him to hard drugs like cocaine, instead of the other way around.
Meanwhile, the only person who might confirm the claim beyond any doubt is keeping mum—as she has for three decades.
“I have never spoken about her until now. And she knew I wouldn’t. She was a loyal friend, and she knew I was never going to be disloyal to her. I was never going to betray her,” Crawford wrote in a 2012 Esquire obituary memorializing Houston.
It would seem Brown, whose new book hits shelves next week, had no such qualms.