Whitney Houston Gets Bad Press By Larry McShane
Associated Press Writer
Thursday, April 6, 2000; 1:24 p.m. EST
NEW YORK –– Does Houston – Whitney Houston – have a problem?
There was that allegation of marijuana possession in January, a much-discussed absence at last month's Oscars, and a disjointed magazine interview.
On Monday night, the superstar singer is scheduled to perform at Arista Records' 25th anniversary party. Given the tumult in her personal life in recent months, her appearance will be heavily scrutinized.
"WHERE WAS WHITNEY?" asked the New York Post after the diva's performance at the Academy Awards was canceled amid a report that she was "totally out of it" during a rehearsal with Burt Bacharach.
The same question applied after Houston failed to appear at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame dinner three weeks earlier. Houston was scheduled to help induct Clive Davis, the music impresario who signed her to Arista in the early '80s.
"Whitney is in good spirits and looking forward to Monday's event," says her publicist, Nancy Seltzer, who had earlier blamed a sore throat for the Oscar incident and "voice problems" for the Hall of Fame flameout.
But the bad news continues. The upcoming People magazine features a cover story about "Whitney's Troubled Times." Citing anonymous sources, it suggests a drug problem – an allegation Houston has denied in the past.
"If a performer gets a reputation for being unreliable or canceling at the last minute, that's a problem," says Richard Johnson, a veteran Houston watcher at the Post. "It seems that's been happening with Whitney Houston."
The bad publicity is a relatively new experience for the gospel singer's daughter, the all-American girl whose 1991 version of "The Star Spangled Banner" improbably turned Francis Scott Key into a best-selling songwriter.
The recent rash of incidents began in January, when airport security officers in Hawaii said they found a half-ounce of marijuana in Houston's bag. Rather than wait for police to arrive, the 36-year-old Houston boarded her flight and left the islands.
Adding to Whitney's woes was a cover story in the May issue of Jane magazine. The piece described an "extremely unfocused" Houston showing up four hours late for a photo shoot.
Once there, the singer responsible for 11 No. 1 singles had "trouble keeping her eyes open" and intermittently played an imaginary piano, according to the story.
Whitney's explanation: She had just arrived from a visit to the dentist to repair a cracked tooth.
During an interview for Jane, Houston tossed around four-letter words, compared meeting the president to hanging out with a junkie ("They're just men, you dig?"), and denied having a "lesbo" affair with her executive assistant.
Seltzer, spinning as fast as she could, said the article was not "a fair portrait of Whitney Houston as I know her."
Wrong, says Daily News gossip guru Mitchell Fink
"Look at her behavior over the last few years," Fink says. "If you did a timeline over the last few years, you'd see that this particular pattern of behavior is not at all shocking."
The problems and tabloid rumblings have had little effect on her recording career. Houston's 1998 album "My Love is Your Love" was a platinum seller and spawned several hit singles: the title track, "Heartbreak Hotel," "When You Believe," "It's Not Right But It's OK."
In May, she will release a greatest-hits album that is expected to top the charts.