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All Eyes On Whitney During Clive Bash
April 12, 2000

A smiling Whitney Houston showed up at L.A.'s Shrine Auditorium amid heavy media scrutiny Monday night (4/10) at Arista Records' 25th anniversary tribute to her mentor, Clive Davis, scheduled to air as a two-hour special May 15 on NBC. "She looks fabulous," Dionne Warwick, a cousin of Houston's, told the Associated Press before the gala. Indeed, Whitney cut a striking figure in her leopard dress and white fur jacket

Houston came, she sang, and if she didn't exactly conquer, she got through her six-song medley without major incident.

On the other hand, there were enough minor incidents to keep the throng in suspense throughout her 20-minute performance. Houston tripped as she took the stage, struggled vocally at times and asked hubby Bobby Brown to bring her a glass of water before tackling the final chorus of "I Will Always Love You"— he obliged with a smooch and returned for an impromptu dance and a backing vocal on the finale, "My Love Is Your Love," joining a mini-chorale that also included Monica, Deborah Cox, Angie Stone and Faith Evans.

Rumors about Houston have swirled in the wake of drug abuse allegations, a much-discussed absence at last month's Oscars and a disjointed magazine interview. Three weeks before the Oscars, Houston failed to appear at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame dinner, where she'd been scheduled to help induct Davis. And in January, airport security officers in Hawaii claimed to have found a half-ounce of Maui Wowie in Houston's bag. Rather than wait for police to arrive, the 36-year-old Houston boarded her flight and took off leaving the islands and her alleged stash behind. Houston has not been charged in the incident.

Even after she made it through the Arista show, the speculation continued, with whisperings that Houston was on her way to rehab. She has denied abusing drugs in the past.

Oh, yeah, there were other acts as well. In fact, some of the biggest names in the label's history gathered to perform for Arista founder Davis, who signed Houston when she was 19. The looong evening of taping, marked by numerous technical false starts, was enlivened by gratifying mini-sets from comeback king Santana, PoMo avatar Patti Smith and MORman Barry Manilow, while Annie Lennox, Sarah McLachlan and Toni Braxton upped the emotional ante with riveting balladry.

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