Gospel singer BeBe Winans' memoir based on his friendship with Whitney Houston, The Whitney I Knew, is out today. Winans stole the show at Whitney's funeral with his tale of "crazy Whitney" (as much as a funeral is a show that can be stolen), and he expands on his point further in Knew's Crazy Whitney chapter. He writes about Whitney's tendency to talk through movies and details a spat she had during a showing of The Prince of Tides. This excerpt from it made me laugh harder than anything I've read all month:
Near the end of the movie the woman sitting in front of Whitney turned around and said emphatically, "Can you just shut up! Please! Just shut up!" and then turned around and sat back down.
I watched Whitney lean up to whisper something in her ear, and the whole time I'm praying that "Jersey Whitney" doesn't come out. After Whitney whispered in her ear, the woman turned around again and said, "Just shut up! You're talking too muich."
"Lord, keep ‘Jersey Whitney' away. Save this poor woman."
For a moment, it seemed like my prayers were getting through. But then Whitney leaned up again, grabbed the woman's blond ponytail and said, "Am I talking too much? Am I?" Then she pushed her head forward by the ponytail!
Robin [Crawford] said, "BeBe, get her outta here! Go!"
I grabbed Whitney and we bolted from the theater. CeCe [Winans] and Robin caught up, and we ran for the car. Once we piled into the car, trying to grab our breath, Whitney blurted, "That was so much fun!" grinning from ear to ear.
That all of this happened during the ultra-somber melodrama of The Prince of Tides makes the story infinitely funnier. Lowenstein, Lowenstein!
The Whitney I Knew has a lot of these kind of anecdotes — mirthful stunts Whitney would pull and get away with because she was charming and, oh yeah, Whitney Houston. She sounds like a lot of fun. Winans writes about her interrupting his brother Pastor Marvin Winans' sermon to give him a hug. He recalls when she scolded him onstage for showing up late to one of her concerts at the same time she was singing "How Will I Know" ("There's a boy I know, he's the one I dream of…missed your plane, missed your plane…Looks into my eyes, takes me to the clouds above."). He discusses her irrepressible talkativeness, her adoration of pop music and open support of so many women that came along after her (in so many cases, they were touched by her influence — it's hard to sing R&B and not be).
And then there's this amazing quote from rapper Bow Wow that heads a chapter: "She lived right around the corner from me. Every time Ms. Whitney saw me, she would go, ‘Ruff ruff ruff.'"
The Whitney I Knew is full of mundane details, like the time in 1989 that the superstar stayed on the Winans' couch and woke up with her hair sticking up in all directions. But they're humanizing details. The book proposes to show a different side of Whitney and it accomplishes that without much vanity on Winans' part. (Also, given that it's coming from a Christian publisher, it focuses a lot on Whitney's faith, but then, she was focused on her faith and, besides, the book rarely proselytizes.)
"…In this book, you're getting my Whitney highlights and insights, but the exclusively private and personal stuff stays where it's always been: in a safe place, honoring The Pact [of devotion the Winans and Houston shared]...honoring the family," writes Winans, who elsewhere says the book was therapeutic to him. He ends up coming off like a really good friend.
[Image via Getty]