Whitney & Bobby: A love story
By Margena A. Christian
The history books will forever show Whitney and Bobby as one of the entertainment’s most well-known couples. She was the music industry’s darling from Newark, N.J. He was the music industry’s bad boy from Boston. Right from the onset of their relationship in 1989, people wondered what could have led to such an old union.
“They don’t know Bobby and me,” Whitney told EBONY in 1993, “So they’re looking at the image and they go, ‘What are they doing together?’ But they don’t know the real people we are. Bobby comes from the same kind of family I come from. If you know Bobby’s mother and his father, and you know my mother and my father, then you would understand why Bobby and I are together.”
By the time they wed in 1992, people were taking bets at their wedding on just how long they would stay together. They vowed to fight hard for love, and in fact, proved everyone wrong. Through bouts with each other’s substance abuse and his arrest for lack of child support payments from a previous relationship, “Nippy” and Bobby stood the rain and weathered the storm for 15 years until their final separation in 2006 and subsequent divorce in 2007.
Was Bobby the love of her life?
“(He was) the first, the second, the third and the fourth (love of her life),” said singer Cherrelle, Whitney’s best friend. “She was a normal person. He was just a normal guy. They married very young. They were both homebodies. They would play basketball in the middle of the night. You only saw them out together at events. He took care of his wife, his household and his children.”
The couple offered a glimpse into their private lives on the 2005 Bravo reality series,
Being Bobby Brown. The show did little to diffuse they dysfunctional perceptions many already held about the duo as they argued incessantly - with Houston often using famous “hell to the no” phrase - and showed Bobbi Kristina stuck in the middle of the crossfire. The show seemed like a collision course toward their final days as a married couple.
“One thing I can tell you about my friend is that she never, ever let what people said about them bother her,” said Cherrelle. “It amazed me. She would say, ‘All I can do is pray for them. They yet not know.’ She never took offense. If you never walked in Whitney’s shoes, you could never understand it. The things people would come to her and say were mean.”
Whitney and Booby were often the butt of jokes. Some called them the new Ike and Tina. Anytime Whitney said something in support of her man, people dismissed it and laughed; such as the time she introduced Bobby as “the original R&B King.”
When the pair met for the first time during the 1989 Soul Train Awards, Bobby was ruling the music industry as a solo artist with sold-out concerts, a Grammy, three American Music Awards and a Soul Train Award. Music Legend Dionne Warwick, Whitney’s cousin, took the stage that night and introduced him by saying “It’s not hard to figure out who the hottest young soul male artist is.”
Bobby sat with his former New Edition group members and witnessed Whitney getting booed for what the audience considered a soul-deficient-performance. To say the least, the youngsters were a bit amused by the audience’s response. Whitney especially noticed Bobby, five years her junior, laughing silly.
“When she first laid eyes on him, she said, ‘That’s gonna be my husband,” recalled Cherrelle, who met the singer through R&B artist Teddy Pendergrass when he and Whitney recorded the 1984 song “Hold Me.”
“She looked beyond the things Bobby did. His soul was good. He had a good spirit. He wasn’t what he was portrayed to be, the bad boy. He was a good guy. They both experienced success at a young age and sold millions of records. What they had in common was the pressure, the expectations. She dressed up as the princess. He was supposed to be the bad boy. People thought she would have married Prince Charming, and he should have married Ugly Betty.”
Teddy Riley, who helped perfect Bobby’s new jack swing sound, was around during the height of his red-hot career, which spawned the 7 times platinum album Don’t Be Cruel.
“Trust, he was that man, but when he got with Whitney, he really exclusively gave his heart, life and soul to her,” said Riley.
“They were so lovable. He would watch her or stand behind her while she was singing or vice versa. One time we did a session, and he asked her if she could stay on the phone while he sang his parts. ‘I just need your presence,’ he told her.”
Riley remembers asking Bobby if he really wanted to get married, because when other male solo artists with large female fan bases strolled down the aisle, album sales slumped severely. Marriage for a male singer could mean career suicide, which is why talk of personal life is off limits for many performers.
“Bobby told me, ‘I’m going to sell records anyway,’ recalled Riley. “When I saw them together, they were affectionate beyond measure in the studio. They convinced me. I told him I would stand up at his wedding. They were really in love. In the beginning, their life was amazing.”
In 1992, Riley produced and co-wrote their up-tempo duet “Something In Common.” Whitney and Bobby changed their lyrics to suit their relationship. She encouraged Bobby to release the song as a single and was eager for them to do a music video together. Bobbi Kristina made a cameo at the end of the video with Whitney bottle-feeding her as Bobby plants a kiss on their infant daughter’s forehand.
“At some point, when they were single, they were a bad boy and bad girl,” said Riley. “They realized they had something in common. Whitney was a diva and a strong-minded woman who didn’t take no mess. If you didn’t have your (shit) together, she would tell you to get out of her face. She would tell you in a minute. She looked for real people. I (overheard) them talk about certain things. Things they’ve been through and how they felt it was time to settle down and give their lives to each other.”
But even the seemingly strongest of relationships have not gone the distance managed by Whitney and Bobby. During a 2009 interview with Oprah, Whitney revealed her alleged abuse at the hand of her husband and the alleged jealousy Bobby felt as his skyrocketing career slowed to a standstill while she continued to make music at a dizzying pace.
“I felt they could have kept their relationship private,” said Riley. “With all family, things can be fixed in your home. (But) the people around you are trying to earn dollar, so they put out your laundry.”
It should come as no surprise that many are blaming Bobby for her addiction. The truth is that Whitney started using drugs long before he entered her life. By her own admission, during the 2009 Oprah interview, Whitney said her drug use became “heavy” after filming 1992’s The Bodyguard. Others are even going so far as to hold Bobby, now clean and sober, responsible for her death.
“Bobby ain’t do no shit! “They weren’t even together anymore.”
Drugs weren’t the only source of the couple’s strife. According to some, Whitney’s
“secrets” played a major role. Allegations of her bisexuality were gaining momentum by the late ‘80s. Details of the secret life she reportedly shared for numerous years with longtime friend Robyn Crawford, a former All-State basketball star (and at one time Whitney’s executive assistant) who served as the maid of honour at her wedding, had started to surface.
“She got talked about so bad. Is that kind? If the tabloids didn’t talk about her as bad, maybe she’d still be here,” said Cherrelle. “ Maybe she wouldn’t have tried to escape with a pill or a drug. At the end of the day, did you help her or did you talk about her? Those that did (talk about her) make sure you understand the blood is on (your) hands, too.”
In the entertainment industry, where bisexuality is more commonplace than most are willing to admit, could it have been that the pressure on Whitney to live a lie was greater than the desire to walk in her own truth?
In Brown’s 2008 autobiography, Bobby Brown: The Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing But…, he said their marriage was “doomed from the very beginning.” He stated, “I think we got married for all the wrong reasons. 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.”
They certainly had their share of ups and downs. Some thought the duo would ride it out for the long haul.
“Sometimes things don’t work out well as we plan. Life goes on,” said Cherrelle. “She divorced the marriage, but she never divorced him as a friend. She was a Bible girl. She went by the word. Before she would ever have been an adulteress or disloyal and make a mockery out of something. (She felt that divorce) was the right thing to do. Did they still have the greatest love for each other? Yes. My words to her were always, ‘Y’all gonna be back together.”
Early last year Bobby lost his beloved mother, Carole Brown. Whitney attended the funeral and sang at the service. “Once a Brown, always a Brown,” she would often say.
Life is strange. Just as he met the woman who would later become his life surrounded by his New Edition brotherhood, Bobby, now reunited with the group, learned of Whitney’s death shortly before one of their performances in Mississippi on February 11.
Overcome with emotion several times during the concert, he broke down into tears and had to stop singing to compose himself. At one point the grief-stricken Bobby looked above, and said, “I love you, Whitney.”
Sometimes the truth isn’t as sensational as we’d hope. Could it all be so simple? Perhaps the bond Whitney Elizabeth Houston and Robert Barisford Brown had was genuine love.
“Who cares what the thoughtless think,” said Cherrelle. “There is no heaven or hell the world, the fans or friends can put them in. Whatever they had and shared was between Whitney, Bobby and God.”
Lessons mom taught me – Bobbi Kristina
Whitney Houston’s family laughed and cried remembering the iconic singer during Oprah Winfrey’s OWN special Sunday night.
“I’m doing as good as I possibly can,” Houston’s only daughter, Bobbi Kristina, told Winfrey. “Just trying to keep going.”
Winfrey descended on the Atlanta, Ga. home of Houston’s sister-in-law and manager, Patricia (Pat) Houston, to talk with Bobbi Kristina and more of Houston’s closest family members. Poised and professional beyond her 19 years, Bobbi Kristina talked about how her mother continues to have a presence in her life.
“I can hear her voice and her spirit talking to me telling me keep moving, baby. I can always feel her with me,” she said. “She humbles me. I remember what she told me, I remember what she taught me...She was a sister, a comforter. The spirit that she had — no matter where she was ... she touched everyone.”
Though she’s mourning, Bobbi Kristina said she’s “accepted” that her mother is gone, saying, “I’ve got to keep moving. I’ve got to carry on her legacy.”
Bobbi Kristina revealed fairly extensive plans to follow in her parent’s footsteps. We are going to do the singing thing, the acting thing, the dancing thing. It’s a lot of pressure but she prepared me for it,” she said.
Along with Bobbi Kristina, Winfrey interviewed Houston’s brother Gary and his wife Patricia. It was the family’s first sit-down interview since Houston’s sudden death on Feb. 11.
The Day Whitney Died
Pat Houston gave the first account by the family about what went on in the singer’s room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel the day she died.
After running errands on Feb. 11, Pat returned to the hotel and visited a room where Whitney was set to film an infomercial. A few minutes later she went to Whitney’s room. “I heard screaming,” Pat told Winfrey and recounted that she saw Whitney’s hair stylist “fall to her knees, saying oh my God, oh my God.” When Pat saw a woman open her door to see what was going on she immediately told her to call 911.
A tearful Pat then told Winfrey that as she entered Whitney’s room she saw her brother Ray, the singer’s security guard, trying to revive Whitney “to the point of exhaustion. I told him let it go, I’m sorry.” She added that when she finally saw Whitney “she had a peacefulness on her face.”
Pat described her sense of shock and inability to leave Whitney’s side even after the paramedics asked her to. She’s always telling me, ‘I got you,’” she told Winfrey. “I still have to stand, even with her being gone, I still have to stand for her.”
Pat admitted that the “handwriting was on the wall” with her sister-in-law. Pat Houston said she knew Whitney was in trouble at the “end of the ‘90s.”
She said that Bobby Brown, Houston’s ex-husband, wasn’t necessarily the cause. “I can’t say that he introduced drugs to her,” she said. “I don’t think that’s true.”
She also didn’t think that the star’s problems in her final days involved substance abuse.
She said it was more of a lifestyle change where she saw Whitney “chasing a dream...looking for comfort, love...and it was younger.”
She said that Whitney was chasing someone “that would ultimately hurt her.”
While admitting she was concerned about Whitney’s behavior at a party two nights before her death, because she told Winfrey, Whitney wanted “to party,” Pat said she didn’t think the star was abusing drugs in the days before her death but couldn’t be certain what happened on that fateful day.
Both Pat and her husband Gary, Whitney’s big brother insisted to Winfrey that nobody tried to keep the star’s ex-husband, Bobby Brown, from attending Houston’s funeral and played down reports of any tensions between him and the Houston family.
Gary Houston admitted to Oprah that his mother, Cissy, is having a hard time with the death of her only daughter but revealed that his mother seemed to know that her life would be cut short. “Whitney is not going to be with us too long my mother would say.... she’s an angel.”
Bobbi Kristina broke down the weekend Houston died and had to be taken to the hospital twice for stress and anxiety. Still, she maintains nothing but a positive outlook on her mother and her legacy, Bobbi Kristina told Winfrey. “All that negativity, it’s garbage,” she said of rumors surrounding her mother’s death. “That’s not my mother. That’s not who she is.”