The news of 48-year-old superstar Whitney Houston’s death has rocked and saddened the music world as well as the singer’s legions of fans.
Houston, who had struggled to revive a once stellar career following years of depression and drug abuse, had been poised for a comeback—and not on the billboard charts this time, but at the movies. In November, Houston wrapped the movie “Sparkle,” a remake of the 1976 film about a group of singers from Harlem New York who in their rise to fame and fortune are torn apart by drugs, crime and death. In the new version, Houston plays the mother of three girls who seed the beginnings of a music career while singing in the church choir.
Howard Rosenman, a producer on the film, said he had just seen a rough cut of the film on Friday and was “devastated, shocked, saddened” by news of her death.
“I don’t know what to do with myself,” Rosenman said when reached by The Journal Sunday morning. He had last seen Houston at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Wednesday, and said she seemed as healthy and spirited as she was on the set in November.
“She is just incandescent and brilliant [in the film] and was on her way to make this huge comeback,” Rosenman said. “She was fabulous on the set, she was beloved by the crew, she was a total professional.”
In addition to her starring role in “Sparkle,” Houston also served as one of the film’s executive producers. In fact, it was she who had purchased the film rights to remake “Sparkle” which deals thematically with both religion and music, two subjects that were dear to her. Although the film is not yet complete, Rosenman said Houston’s work on it was finished, and Sony studios announced this morning that they plan to release the film in August.
Rosenman also said he did not detect signs of the private turmoil that has plagued Houston over the last decade.
“She was totally not into that mode,” he said, referring to her history of drug abuse. “She was totally into a ‘pro’ mode. She knew her lines, she was always on time, she was very motherly. She [seemed to be] in incredible health and had an incredible attitude and this is such a shock. I doubt very, very much that [the cause of her death] was drugs.”
Rosenman, who first met Houston around 30 years ago, said he attended Clive Davis’s pre-Grammy extravaganza party at the Beverly Hilton last night, where the mood was fraught, surreal.
“Everybody was totally flipped out; everybody sang for her,” Rosenman said. “Clive [Davis, the record producer and party’s host] was brilliant about her. He said, ‘The show must go on – Whitney would have wanted that.”