Woman who was Whit­ney’s great­est love of all

The ru­mours had al­ways swirled. Now a bomb­shell book by the singer’s long-time com­pan­ion claims she re­ally WAS the...

Scottish Daily Mail - - News - from Tom Leonard

ROBYN CrAWfOrd first met the woman who would cast a long shadow over her life in the sum­mer of 1980. robyn was 19, and they were both work­ing as camp coun­sel­lors in New Jersey dur­ing their school hol­i­days.

She spot­ted a ‘strik­ingly beau­ti­ful’ teenager sit­ting at the back of the room. dressed in a silk blouse and knee-length shorts, she ‘sim­ply stopped me in my tracks’, she says. Crawford asked her name. ‘Whit­ney El­iz­a­beth Hous­ton,’ the 16-year-old replied. The pair would soon be­come in­sep­a­ra­ble friends — and lovers.

Through­out her ca­reer, Whit­ney Hous­ton, singer of I Will Al­ways Love You and All The Man That I Need, was dogged by ru­mours that she was gay. As an African-Amer­i­can singer raised in the church, ‘com­ing out’ would have been un­think­able in her 1980s and 1990s hey­day.

Hous­ton, who won more awards than any fe­male per­former in mu­sic his­tory, de­nied the gos­sip, even as her pri­vate life was en­gulfed in ad­dic­tion, al­co­holism and mar­i­tal vi­o­lence.

Now, seven years af­ter Hous­ton’s death, Crawford — the woman at the cen­tre of those ru­mours — has bro­ken her si­lence to con­firm the sto­ries were true, in her mem­oir, A Song for You: My Life With Whit­ney Hous­ton.

Both girls came from un­happy fam­i­lies. Crawford’s abu­sive fa­ther beat her mother. Hous­ton went to a pri­vate girls’ school and had al­ready been signed by a modelling agency, but was caught be­tween her war­ring par­ents — her fa­ther John, a hous­ing ad­min­is­tra­tor, and im­pos­ing gospel singer mother, Cissy.

Within weeks of meet­ing, Crawford claims, the girls had their first kiss in the liv­ing room of Hous­ton’s fam­ily home. ‘If I knew when my brothers were com­ing home, I’d show you some­thing,’ she told Crawford. The saucy re­mark re­minded Crawford of what her mother had said on first meet­ing Hous­ton: ‘You look like an an­gel — but I know you’re not.’

Crawford was deeply moved by the power of Hous­ton’s voice when she wit­nessed a parish­ioner faint with emo­tion as Hous­ton sang at her lo­cal Bap­tist church.

Later, the girls spent the night at a friend’s flat, Hous­ton clutch­ing a cannabis joint in one hand and a Bi­ble in the other, be­fore join­ing robyn in bed. ‘We took off our clothes and for the first time, we touched each other,’ Crawford says. ‘What­ever en­ergy we had be­tween us all that time was ex­pressed through our bod­ies that night. It was free and hon­est. It was ten­der and lov­ing.’

HOuS­TON had in­her­ited much of her mother’s Chris­tian fer­vour and ‘knew the Bi­ble like the back of her hand’, but she had a re­bel­lious side. She smoked cannabis and told Crawford she’d first taken co­caine at 14. Yet Hous­ton in­sisted they wouldn’t take co­caine once she was fa­mous. ‘Whit­ney would say, “Co­caine can’t go where we’re go­ing,”’ says Crawford. How trag­i­cally wrong this proved to be.

Crawford says their se­cret re­la­tion­ship was nearly ex­posed when her mother came home one af­ter­noon and was sur­prised to find her daugh­ter in bed. If she re­alised Hous­ton was naked be­hind the door, she didn’t say.

‘You could tell Whit­ney and I were tight,’ Crawford writes. ‘It wasn’t all about our sleep­ing to­gether. We could be naked. We could be bare and didn’t have to hide. We could trust each other with our se­crets, and who we were. We were ev­ery­thing to each other.’

Crawford — now a 58-yearold fit­ness trainer — says ‘we never talked la­bels, like les­bian or gay. We just lived our lives, and I hoped it could go on that way for ever.’ But it couldn’t. Hous­ton — who at­tracted mu­sic in­dus­try at­ten­tion when per­form­ing with her mother in New York night­clubs — be­gan re­ceiv­ing of­fers for a record deal aged 18. Af­ter she signed, she gave Crawford a present — a blue Bi­ble — and an ul­ti­ma­tum. Crawford says: ‘She said we shouldn’t be phys­i­cal any more, as it would make our jour­ney even more dif­fi­cult,’ adding: ‘She also said that she wanted chil­dren one day, and liv­ing that kind of life meant that we would go to Hell.’ Hous­ton noted, ‘If peo­ple find out, they’ll never leave us alone’.

Crawford ac­cepted this. The pair moved into a flat in New Jersey, hav­ing sep­a­rate rooms but often shar­ing a bed, if only be­cause — when they were do­ing drugs — Crawford wanted to keep an eye on her friend. She says: ‘We had a bond that no one could pen­e­trate. It would be our se­cret, and it would hold us to­gether.’

She be­gan to feel the first of many pangs of jeal­ousy when Hous­ton recorded her de­but al­bum with Jer­maine Jack­son — the mar­ried older brother of Michael — and they had an af­fair.

When Jer­maine later re­buffed Hous­ton, Crawford tried to make her feel bet­ter by say­ing she was ‘wor­ry­ing over the wrong Jack­son’. Hous­ton soon hired Crawford as her as­sis­tant, and ru­mours swirled that they were to­gether.

Hous­ton was not as self-as­sured or as cool as she was por­trayed, Crawford says. ‘Per­form­ing, Whit­ney was a li­on­ess, but off­stage she was quiet and rarely roared.’ When Hous­ton — un­der pres­sure from her man­age­ment — agreed to straighten and lengthen her hair with a ‘weave’ of false hair at­tach­ments, she laid her head in Crawford’s lap and cried. Crawford says she was a ‘home­body’ and a ‘kid’.

On tour, they would race each other bare­foot down hotel cor­ri­dors or have wa­ter pis­tol fights with her en­tourage. Hous­ton re­laxed with colour­ing books.

Sadly, tour­ing es­ca­lated her

drug use. She would at­tend mu­sic in­dus­try par­ties fea­tur­ing large bowls full of co­caine.

Ac­cord­ing to Crawford, Hous­ton’s fam­ily didn’t just bleed the star dry fi­nan­cially but — in the shape of her brother Michael — kept her sup­plied with the drug on tour. The fam­ily dis­missed Crawford as an op­por­tunist.

Hous­ton wasn’t short of male pur­suers, ei­ther. Robert De Niro was an early ad­mirer ‘she had trou­ble shak­ing’, says Crawford.

He re­peat­edly rang with din­ner in­vi­ta­tions, once call­ing her hotel at mid­night. ‘He must be crazy,’ said Hous­ton, who ‘let him down gen­tly’, says Crawford.

Kevin Cost­ner was an­other per­sis­tent suitor, although he sim­ply wanted Hous­ton to star in his film The Body­guard. Crawford said she kept re­fus­ing, as she didn’t want to be an actress.

FI­NALLY she re­lented. The 1992 film earned more than $400mil­lion. Hous­ton said she’d told Cost­ner she had one pro­viso with love scenes — he mustn’t put his tongue in her mouth.

Crawford casts Hous­ton’s mother as a foul-mouthed bully who be­came jeal­ous when she saw Crawford over­tak­ing her in the singer’s af­fec­tions.

Cissy told her daugh­ter: ‘It’s not nat­u­ral for two women to be that close.’ When a magazine re­ported they were hav­ing an af­fair, Cissy — who, by that time, was help­ing her hus­band John run Hous­ton’s ca­reer — in­sisted Crawford never again ap­pear be­side her daugh­ter in pub­lic.

Hous­ton was so des­per­ate to shake off the gay ru­mours that she com­pared ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity to bes­tial­ity. ‘Her protests were too much and some­times un­kind,’ says Crawford. She adds that her dif­fi­cult re­la­tion­ship with Cissy boiled over on the Lon­don leg of Hous­ton’s 1988 tour, when Cissy, fu­ri­ous that Crawford had left their hotel for a walk, slapped her.

That evening, she was slapped again — by Hous­ton, who had learned Crawford had kissed one of her fe­male dancers. Hous­ton, who ‘could be pos­ses­sive’, sacked the dancer, she says.

Hous­ton’s own love life was a dif­fer­ent mat­ter. She was at­tracted to the ac­tor and co­me­dian Ed­die Mur­phy, but he failed to turn up to their first date.

Then when she went to sur­prise the star on his birth­day wear­ing only lin­gerie and a fur coat, he re­fused to let her into his house.

Hous­ton took it badly, dis­ap­pear­ing on a two-day ‘drug binge’ be­fore re­turn­ing to Crawford a ‘wreck’, barely able to stand up.

Crawford says Mur­phy played on Hous­ton’s crip­pling in­se­cu­rity. Although he gave Hous­ton a di­a­mond ring which Crawford took to be an en­gage­ment ring, she be­lieves he never had any in­ten­tion of mar­ry­ing the singer.

Hous­ton was even ro­man­ti­cally linked to Michael Jack­son, but when she and Crawford vis­ited him at his Nev­er­land ranch, Crawford was dis­con­certed when Jack­son started to stare at for min­utes on end. ‘He must re­ally love your eyes,’ Hous­ton said.

Hous­ton should have re­alised her next ma­jor suitor, R&B singer Bobby Brown, was not ideal boyfriend ma­te­rial when she and Crawford, who by the 1990s was shar­ing a New Jersey man­sion with the singer, first went to meet him back­stage. The mother of his chil­dren had also come to see him and, ac­cord­ing to Crawford, the pair came to blows.

It didn’t de­ter Hous­ton. Nor did news that Brown had gone to see the same woman, un­named in Crawford’s book, to tell her he was now see­ing Hous­ton, and in­stead got her preg­nant again.

Hous­ton’s drug-tak­ing only wors­ened with Brown around, and their co­caine-fu­elled rows were so vi­o­lent the cou­ple were thrown out of at least one hotel.

When Crawford urged her friend to stop, Hous­ton told her: ‘I’m not ready just yet.’

On the day of Hous­ton’s 1992 wed­ding to Brown, Ed­die Mur­phy rang out of the blue and told her she was mak­ing a big mis­take.

Crawford, as ‘Ma­tron of Hon­our’, fought back tears as she took ‘one last look’ at the bride and re­alised their re­la­tion­ship had changed.

Hous­ton re­turned from her Amalfi coast hon­ey­moon with a 3in scar on her face. Crawford didn’t be­lieve her ex­pla­na­tion that she had cut her­self af­ter throw­ing a glass against a wall.

In 1995, it was claimed that John Hous­ton, Whit­ney’s fa­ther, had of­fered a man $6,000 to smash Crawford’s kneecaps. Years later, Hous­ton’s brother, Gary, in­sisted the fam­ily — irked by the neg­a­tive head­lines about les­bian­ism — had merely wanted to scare her.

Mean­while, Hous­ton’s toxic mar­riage to the vi­o­lent and un­faith­ful Brown fur­ther iso­lated Crawford from the star.

She doesn’t ad­dress claims that she had phys­i­cal fights with Brown over Hous­ton. She says she once saw him spit in Hous­ton’s face and then hit her on the head with a phone.

How­ever, she no longer lived with Hous­ton, and felt pow­er­less to save a friend who looked so ill that she was un­recog­nis­able to some. She felt even more sorry for Bobbi Kristina, Hous­ton and

Brown’s daugh­ter who — says Crawford — re­ceived lit­tle at­ten­tion from her mother. (In 2015, in a par­al­lel of her mother’s demise three years ear­lier, Bobbi Kristina died aged 21, af­ter be­ing found un­con­scious in her bath.)

Crawford says the fi­nal straw came in 2000 af­ter Hous­ton and Brown turned on her for buy­ing Ge­orge Michael a present af­ter Whit­ney failed to turn up to a record­ing ses­sion with him. She left her job, and the singer. They re­mained in spo­radic con­tact.

The singer gave a dis­as­trous in­ter­view in 2002, in which she ad­mit­ted tak­ing co­caine, pills and mar­i­juana but said she didn’t take crack co­caine as it was too ‘cheap’ for her. Five years later, she di­vorced Brown, who sub­se­quently said she only mar­ried him to clean up her im­age.

In 2012, Hous­ton was found dead in a bath at the Bev­erly Hil­ton hotel in LA. She was 48. The cause was ac­ci­den­tal drown­ing, with heart dis­ease and co­caine con­tribut­ing fac­tors.

LAST year, a doc­u­men­tary sanc­tioned by Hous­ton’s fam­ily por­trayed Crawford as the singer’s ‘safety net’. Even Brown be­lieves his ex-wife would be alive today if Crawford had re­mained an im­por­tant part of her life.

Why did Hous­ton self-de­struct so spec­tac­u­larly? Crawford has dis­missed claims by Hous­ton’s brother, Gary, that he and his sis­ter were sex­u­ally abused as chil­dren by their singer cousin, Dee Dee War­wick. ‘If there was any truth to that I would know about it,’ she said on TV.

A men­tal health ex­pert spec­u­lated this week that the tur­moil caused by re­press­ing her gay feel­ings could have sent Hous­ton into her down­ward spi­ral. For Crawford, that would surely be the cru­ellest of blows.

‘She said liv­ing that kind of life meant we would go to Hell’

Tragic: Whit­ney with Robyn Crawford, top, and, in­set, with hus­band Bobby Brown

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