By MARK SEAL, VANITY FAIR, June 2012 -- Stevie Wonder eventually suggested that Whitney enlist the help of the famous voice coach Gary Catona, whose clientele has included Andrea Bocelli, Sade, Seal, Liza Minnelli, and Muhammad Ali.
“I was told, ‘Whitney is beginning her so-called comeback, and without her voice there is no comeback,’ ” Catona tells me over coffee in Los Angeles.
He met her in her home in Alpharetta, in the final days of her marriage. Her image was shot, her career was in the toilet, and Gary and Pat Houston, her brother and sister-in-law, were hovering around like nurses in an emergency ward. “My voice is stuck in my throat,” Whitney told Catona. “I try to sing, and nothing comes out.”
“She looked thin. Her hair was a little messy,” he says. “She looked like someone who had gone through some kind of emotional trauma.”
Yet, there was a spark. Singing was in her bloodline. The great Aretha had told her, “I’m passing the baton on to you.” Catona continues: “Everyone was relying on her to make a comeback, not just for financial reasons but for her well-being.”
Catona demanded her full commitment, and she agreed. “She wasn’t a crooner,” he explains. “She had to sing at the very top of the capacity of the human voice. She was also an alpha female, domineering, commanding, and people were scared of her.”
After a few months of Catona’s daily exercises, Whitney rented a house in Orange County, California, determined to live with her daughter and without her husband. “She blossomed,” says Catona. “She was the most devoted student I ever had.”
She focused on her health and tried her best to quit smoking. “Once, I forgot my keyboard, and she thought I had left,” says Catona. “I went back in, and she started coming to the door with a cigarette in her hand. She hugged me, and I saw her flick the cigarette over her shoulder.”
In September 2006 she had Bobby served with divorce papers. He was in Los Angeles, occasionally staying with Karrine Steffans, a video dancer turned author whose sexual encounters with celebrities fueled her series of erotic Vixen books. When Whitney and Bobby fought, and they frequently did, Brown would sometimes head for L.A. and Steffans. “Bob’s big thing was everyone blamed him for her downfall, but when he met her she was already using drugs,” Steffans tells me. “He always felt very angry about that. He told me, ‘What everybody saw wasn’t the real Whitney.’ He always said her private persona—which you saw on Being Bobby Brown—was who she really was.”
All of Brown’s credit cards were in the name of Nippy, Inc., according to Steffans, and each time Whitney ordered him out, she would cancel them. During one separation, Brown, Steffans, and Brown’s brother checked into the Ritz-Carlton in Marina del Rey, using Houston’s credit card. “They kicked us out of the hotel,” says Steffans, and Bobby had to wait in Los Angeles until Whitney was ready to allow him to return to Atlanta.
Steffans was also friends with Ray J. In an interview with Oprah in March of this year, Pat Houston obliquely referred to Whitney’s relationship with Ray J: “I saw her chasing a dream. Looking for love in all the wrong places. The dream she was chasing was younger She was chasing something that would ultimately hurt her.” Ray J is as famous for his sexual escapades as for his five albums and short-lived reality show, For the Love of Ray J, on which he chooses partners from among a bevy of women. When he was seen out with Whitney during Grammy week, he was promoting his book, Death of the Cheating Man: What Every Woman Must Know About Men Who Stray. Described in the book’s promotional material as “a celebrity addicted to infidelity,” Ray J had first encountered Whitney when he was a teenager, about the time she co-starred with his sister Brandy in Cinderella.
Steffans was having lunch with Bobby in Encino the day he was served with divorce papers. She says the process server told him that he was giving him a residual check from Bravo for his work on Being Bobby Brown. One evening soon after that, while Brown was licking his wounds in Steffans’s home, the phone rang. It was Ray J. “He said, ‘Is Bob still staying with you?,’ ” Steffans tells me. “I said, ‘Yeah, he’s right here.’ And Ray said, ‘Tell him I fucked both of his chicks, you and now his wife.’ ”
“Around about July of 2006, Whitney took Bobbi Kris without my prior knowledge or consent, and moved to Orange County, California, where Whitney received treatment for her drug addiction,” Brown says in court documents. “Although I was having severe financial problems, I did all I could to see my daughter. I came to California to be near Bobbi Kris. I also paid approximately $10,000 for Whitney and Bobbi Kris to live in a nice hotel while Whitney was going through rehab I love Bobbi Kris dearly However, since Whitney has been awarded sole legal and physical custody of Bobbi Kris, she has attempted to eliminate me from Bobbi Kris’ life.”
Posted By: Richard Kigel
Sunday, June 3rd 2012 at 9:40PM