LOS ANGELES—When Whitney Houston hopped onto the stage of a Hollywood nightclub on Thursday to sing a duet about how Jesus Christ “loves me,” she probably didn’t realize it might be the last time she would sing in public.
That thought ran through the mind of Filipino designer Oliver Tolentino after he heard the news that the former queen of the pop music world was found dead on Saturday in her room at Beverly Hilton Hotel.
Tolentino, shocked by the news, had witnessed what turned out to be the troubled superstar’s final live performance at the Tru Hollywood Club.
The Los Angeles-based hot couturier and his business manager, Andrew Caruthers, were special guests of American singer Kelly Price at her pre-Grammy Awards show that Thursday evening where Houston made a surprise special appearance with her daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown.
Price, who has three nominations in the Grammy Awards show for Sunday (Monday morning, Manila time), had invited Tolentino to “Kelly Price & Friends Unplugged: For the Love of R&B” in Hollywood.
Tolentino, who maintains a shop in Makati City, made two gowns for Price’s red carpet appearance and pretelecast Grammy Awards show performance in the music industry’s biggest night at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
There she was
Tolentino told the Inquirer: “Last Thursday evening, we arrived at the small Hollywood nightclub Tru for Kelly Price’s ‘For the Love of R&B’ event. As we were about to enter the VIP entrance on the side, a black SUV pulled up and the window rolled down and there was Whitney Houston.”
Going ahead to enter the club, Tolentino said he was surprised to see how intimate the party was.
“We were honored to be in a crowd of about 300 people with R. Kelly standing behind us, Brian McKnight, El Debarge, Faith Evans, Kenny Lattimore and other singers surrounding us,” Tolentino said.
Whether right or wrong
He recalled: “Kelly emceed the night and told a great story about how Whitney asked her to sing with her years ago. Kelly joked that often singers ask you to sing with them but they don’t really want you to sing. Kelly said Whitney was different and stopped the studio recording several times to demand Kelly to belt out loud. That’s when Kelly realized that Whitney really wanted Kelly to duet with her in full power voice.
“She said that spoke a lot about who Whitney was and that she wasn’t an insecure performer. In the Thursday show, Whitney hopped up on stage, surprising Kelly, and the two sang a bit of a free form version of ‘Yes, Jesus Loves Me’ to each other. That was probably the last time Whitney sang in public.”
The gospel song was one of Houston’s singles. Its lyrics include the lines: “Yes, Jesus loves me for the Bible tells me … See, I know that He loves me, whether I’m right, whether I’m wrong.”
Tolentino added: “We didn’t learn until the next day, when Kelly came into the boutique, that Whitney had walked the press line, apparently something she rarely did. Kelly joked that everyone was gasping and asking her how in the world she got Whitney to do press at her party.
“Also, Kelly said that Whitney didn’t really go out much and she herself was surprised that Whitney stood stage right the whole night, along with her daughter Bobbi. Kelly said even the celebrities in the audience were surprised by the presence of Whitney, who was just hanging out in the club.”
When Price went to Tolentino’s shop on Melrose Avenue on Friday to try on his two gowns, an Ebony TV crew filmed the proceedings along with GMA 7. A member of the Ebony TV show remarked that she attended Price’s Thursday show and accidentally stepped on Houston’s foot at one point.
Tolentino said: “Kelly joked the next day that someone had indeed accidentally stepped on Whitney’s foot and Whitney called the person out and jokingly said, ‘Hey! You stepped on my foot!’”
The following day came the news that Houston was gone.
“We were so surprised to hear about an hour ago today the sad news because Whitney looked very healthy and happy in person at that pre-Grammy event,” Tolentino said.
“You’ll always remember where you were when you hear about a legend dying. To be a witness to their last public performance makes even more of an imprint in your life.”
Houston was scheduled to perform at her mentor Clive Davis’ annual Grammy Awards eve show at Beverly Hilton on Saturday. Her surprise performance at Price’s show turned out to be her last.
Originally posted: February 12, 2012 | 8:36 pm
The 48-year-old was spotted looking worse for wear last night in Hollywood, California after enjoying a party with friends.
Troubled: Whitney Houston looked worse for wear as she left Tru Hollywood nightclub last night
The superstar singer had been a guest at the Kelly Price & Friends Unplugged: For The Love Of R&B Grammy Party at Tru Hollywood and had even performed during the night.
Dressed all in black, the How Will I Know singer appeared angry and agitated as she left the venue and looked like she had partied a little hard.
Wearing a short black dress the star emerged with her hair messed up and gestured aggressively to the waiting photographers.
A bodyguard: Whitney needed some assistance when leaving the venue last night
Stand by me: The singer was in dire need of some serious aid from her entourage
The queen: Whitney is the most awarded female artist of all time
Whitney had what is believed to be blood dripping down her leg and scratches on her wrist and she had to be escorted from the club to her car by a few people.
Her entourage guided her into the back of a large vehicle as the singer signed some autographs before being driven off.
The Bodyguard actress started off the night well and was cheered when she performed a duet with Kelly Price.
Hanging out: The Grammy winning singer seemed a little out of shape compared to how she used to look
Bad hair day: Whitney seemed to have partied too hard and her weave was a little messed up
Waving away: The superstar singer was surrounded by her fans as she left the club and she acknowledged them
According to recent reports the highly decorated Houston has squandered her fortune and is on the brink of bankruptcy as well as facing mortgage foreclosure.
The Morris County Sheriff's Office recently authorized the mortgage foreclosure sale of her 10-acre New Jersey mansion for over $1million in overdue mortgage payments and taxes.
According to the Daily Record of Parsippany, the $6million estate may be seized and sold as part of proceedings.
Leave on a high: Whitney looked like she had partied too hard at the event and was annoyed when leaving
Star quality: The singer was surrounded by fans and her bodyguards had to rally round her
Goodnight and good luck: Whitney kissed goodbye to her supporters as she jumped into her car
However, Whitney's publicist has claimed that the star's home is not in any danger of mortgage foreclosure and she is up to date with all payments.
Houston, who has overcome crack cocaine addiction, has allegedly spent all of her fortune, including a reported $100million record deal.
She is being financially supported by her record label Arista, which has given her an advance payment on her next album, according to reports.
Easy rider: Miss Houston is reportedly on the brink of bankruptcy but her agent denies the claims
The end of a long night: Whitney looked worse for wear as she sat in the backseat of the car
‘Whitney's fortune is gone. Music industry heavy hitters are supporting her and her label is fronting her cash against her next album, but no one knows when that will be released’ a source told Radaronline.com.
‘She might be homeless if not for people saving her. She is broke as a joke.’
Whitney - whose ex-husband is Bobby Brown - is believed to be in such a dire financial position she has even had to resort to contacting friends for small loans.
In the beginning: Whitney took to the stage with Kelly Price for the Grammy party
The source added: ‘She called someone to ask for $100. It is so sad. She should have Mariah Carey money, and she's flat broke.’
A spokesperson for the singer strongly denied the claims when contacted by MailOnline and said: 'That is ridiculous and not true! She stars in SPARKLE out in August which she also Exec produced. She just wrapped the film.'
In August 2001, Whitney signed the biggest record deal in music history at the time with Arista/BMG, renewing her contract with the label for $100million to deliver six new albums.
She released her last LP I Look to You in August 2009.
Dance with somebody: The songstress enjoyed herself at the party before emerging later looking disheveled