After a lot of build-up, Robyn Crawford’s book, A Song for You: My Life With Whitney Houston, is out — and it’s just as dishy as promised.
You’re probably somewhat familiar with their story: Throughout the iconic singer’s career, she was plagued with rumors that she was having a sexual relationship with Crawford, her best friend, assistant and the gatekeeper to all things Houston. In the book, Crawford acknowledges a romance, which they both initially denied back in the day.
After meeting at a summer camp in 1980, when Crawford was 19 and “Nippy” was not yet 17, they became best friends and lovers. While the sex stopped in 1982 when Houston got her dream recording contract with Arista — she told Crawford that public knowledge of her same-sex relationship would hurt her career — the intimacy between them continued. Crawford was by Houston’s side as she rose to superstardom, working for her, touring with her, using cocaine with her and still often sharing a bed with her.
Crawford was there as Houston’s famously rocky relationship with Bobby Brown began — and, from the get-go, was not a fan. She helped Houston recover after she was so deeply rejected by Eddie Murphy that she disappeared on a two-day cocaine bender. She blew off Robert De Niro, on Houston’s orders, as he persistently pursued the songstress. She accompanied Houston to Neverland for lunch with Michael Jackson and Bubbles. And she tried — and failed — to get Houston help as her cocaine addiction spiraled, ultimately leading to the star’s 2012 drug-related drowning.
While there are many stories in the book that will leave you wide-eyed, here are some of Crawford’s biggest revelations:
Nippy and Robyn had a sexual relationship.
After all these years — and denials — Crawford admits that after they met as teens, they had a sexual relationship. After sharing kisses, including at a gay bar and during a nude make-out session in a car that got the attention of police, they spent the night together for the first time. They were at a friend’s apartment, he was out, and — after Houston read the bible to Crawford — they “took off our clothes and for the first time we touched each other.”
Houston signed her record deal — and told Crawford no more sex.
In 1982, Houston’s dream came true when she signed with Arista. Immediately after, she went to Crawford, with a Bible in hand, and said they could no longer be together sexually. It was the ‘80s and Houston felt it would hurt her career. It also went against God — and the deeply religious Houston didn’t want them to “go to hell.” Crawford said Houston told her, “You know what we shared. You know how I feel about you and we will always have that.” They did more Bible reading and wrote letters inside the book to “leave our past there,” Crawford wrote. “It would be our secret.” Crawford said she was OK with leaving the sex part behind as they agreed their relationship would otherwise remain the same and she was just wildly in love with the singer. They soon moved into their first apartment together and Crawford recalled putting the Bible gift over her bed’s headboard to “embrace God” as well as “honor” her love for Houston.
Drugs were a problem long before Bobby Brown.
Houston told Crawford she first tried cocaine at age 14. Crawford got her first taste at 19 at Houston’s house — given to her from a friend of Houston’s half-brother, Gary Garland. Soon the women were driving all over NYC —in Dee Dee Warwick’s Cadillac — to buy coke, sometimes using all day long. Houston would often say, “Cocaine can't go where we're going” — meaning she couldn’t do it and sustain a professional singing career — but she couldn’t stay true to her word. Crawford recalled one point, early in their friendship, being really skinny and strung out from continued coke use. Crawford’s mother pried out of her they were using cocaine and marijuana and called Cissy Houston to tell her what their daughters had been up to. While Crawford was temporarily kicked out of the house as a lesson, Houston faced no consequences at home — other than Cissy’s growing dislike of Crawford. Crawford wrote that Houston’s first tour, The Greatest Love, was dubbed “The Greatest Drug” tour because there was cocaine everywhere. She said Houston’s brother, Michael Houston, often procured it and used with his sister — and Gary had drug struggles, as well. When that tour ended, Houston’s drug problem escalated — she’d lock herself away in her bedroom and use — because idle time was not her friend. Crawford finally mostly kicked her habit, but every time she tried to help Houston — including turning to her parents and to Arista’s Clive Davis — nothing happened, she wrote. Houston getting together with bad boy Brown was like the perfect storm, and they’d spend days locked away in their bedroom suite.
Rumors about Houston and Crawford started immediately — and never stopped.
Houston worried that her sexual relationship with Crawford would hurt her career — and it did, in a lot of ways, despite it ending. The singer was constantly asked about her relationship with Crawford — because they lived together, worked together and were inseparable — leading both women to deny it in interviews. But the constant scrutiny weighed on Houston, Crawford said, and Houston’s family made things worse. Cissy disapproved of their closeness early on, calling it unnatural between two women. The tension between the women escalated to Cissy once hitting Crawford in the face. Crawford recalled a tabloid story that suggested Houston’s father and manager, John, considered paying someone to break Crawford’s kneecaps over her closeness to Houston. John once told the women to stage having fake boyfriends to get the press off Houston’s back. While Crawford constantly traveled with Houston in the beginning — toured with her, went to the studio and awards shows — they were advised to start traveling everywhere separately. They could no longer travel in the same car or walk side by side. Crawford recalled she was hurt by some of Houston’s harsher denials to the press.
Whitney hooked up with a married Jermaine Jackson.
After Houston and Crawford ended their sexual relationship, Houston started dating men — and marital status apparently wasn’t important, because one of the first, Crawford wrote, was a married Jermaine of Jackson 5 fame. Houston went to L.A. for a recording session with “Ji” and Crawford knew right away that “more than just recording was going on.” She recalled crying at home in their N.J. apartment over it. Crawford wrote that Houston, a fierce woman even as a teen, lost herself in relationships with men and quickly had a “fixation” with Michael’s brother. However, it wasn’t meant to be. First, their duet fizzled when Jackson opted not to put it on his record. Crawford, who worked at Houston’s company Nippy Inc, heard he was concerned a young Houston was trying to “ride his coattails” to stardom. But the end came after Jackson told Houston he’d set her up with tickets during the NYC stop of the Jackson brothers’s 1984 Victory tour — and never did. Crawford recalled Jackson calling shortly after — after Houston went off on a solo vacation — and refusing to give him Houston’s number, and that was the end of it.
Houston made Crawford buy her condoms before her first date with Brown.
Even though Houston knew Crawford still had feelings for her, Houston sent her to a store to buy condoms for her prior to her first date with Brown, whom she’d met at the 1989 Soul Train Awards. The next day, Houston gleefully reported that she didn’t even bother using the protection, making Crawford immediately worry about Houston latest untethered romantic pursuit. Crawford didn’t like Brown — he was involved with another woman initially, and that woman became pregnant again while he was seeing Houston — and that never changed. She wrote about their drug problems — finding spoons in their kitchen with black spots from heating drugs on them — as well as the violence. She said Houston returned home from their Italian honeymoon in 1992 with a cut across her face and that was just the start of physical altercations. Years later, Crawford said Houston surprised Brown on tour only to have him say she wasn’t welcome, spit in her face, throw a glass at her and hit a phone into her head when she tried to call for help. She also detailed incidents in which Brown allegedly smashed several of Houston’s cars during disputes and allegedly dragged Houston through the yard of their NJ estate. The drama and drugs continued after the birth of Bobbi Kristina. Crawford also recalled Houston hiring a private investigator to follow Brown, and allegedly catching him with another woman, but doing nothing about it. “It was difficult and frustrating to see my friend allow herself to be disrespected, demeaned and then discouraged from doing what she knew was best for herself and her baby: leaving a fool,” Crawford wrote.
Whitney may have been engaged to Eddie Murphy.
Houston was seeing the comedian at around the same time she met Brown. Again, Crawford saw Houston being over-invested in a romance and said the comedian, who would meanly make fun of Houston, “did a number on Nip’s self-worth.” Crawford recalled Houston once excitedly planned dinner for Murphy and got dressed to the nines only for him not to show. While he later gave Houston a large diamond ring that Crawford said looked a lot like an engagement ring, Houston never explicitly say they were engaged and Murphy typically told people he and Houston were “just friends.” Despite the mistreatment, Houston made another play for Murphy by showing up at the front gate of his NJ. estate on his birthday while dressed in lingerie and a fur coat only and holding a birthday cake. She was turned away, which sent her into a spiral. Crawford said she disappeared for two day on a cocaine bender, returning home shaken and broken. Crawford said that while it was clear Houston was more interest in Murphy, she eventually settled for Brown — but on Houston’s 1992 wedding day, Murphy called her on her private line and said marrying Brown was a “mistake.” Houston, who obviously didn’t listen, later had her jewelry appraised, after the wedding, and learned that the diamond Murphy had given her was worth more than the engagement ring from Brown. Houston had Murphy’s ring made into earrings.
Robert De Niro was interested in Houston.
Crawford handled Houston’s calls and one persistent caller, as she soared up the charts, was De Niro. Crawford called him an “admirer of Whitney’s... she had trouble shaking” as he called multiple times. “He must be crazy,” Crawford remembered Houston saying. After putting De Niro off several times, Houston finally spoke to him and “let him down gently.”
Whitney was jealous of Crawford’s romances.
While Houston moved on, Crawford did, too — unleashing her best friend’s jealous side. One of the biggest instances was when Crawford went sightseeing with one of Houston’s female backup dancers, Joy, during a day off on tour. When Houston woke up and Silvia — her assistant after Crawford was promoted — wasn’t there, and Crawford wasn’t either, drama ensued. This enraged Cissy, who claimed Crawford wasn’t fulfilling her duties — and even slapped Crawford. Later. Houston grilled Crawford about her outing with Joy and asked if they slept together. When Crawford revealed that they had kissed, Houston slapped her and promptly fired her from the tour. Back at home, after the tour ended, Crawford and Joy agreed to meet to talk about what happened. Crawford mentioned the upcoming conversation to Houston, who showed up. Houston demanded to know if the women slept together. Crawford, who said they didn’t, said Houston went into such a frenzy that she found the Bible she’d gifted Crawford and ripped out the pages in a fury. Crawford never saw Joy again.
Whitney told Bobby about her sexual relationship with Crawford.
Crawford said she wasn’t sure what circumstances led to Houston telling Brown about her sexual relationship with Crawford, but that she did so during a vacation in Bali. Silvia, Houston’s next assistant, recounted how on the trip, a “fuming” Brown came to her demanding his passport so he could leave. “You knew about this all this time?” he asked Silvia, who didn’t know about the women’s romance. “You knew about Robyn and Whitney?” When they returned home, Brown’s already frosty relationship with Crawford grew colder.
Crawford doesn’t think Whitney was molested by Dee Dee.
While Gary claimed in the 2018 documentary Whitney that their cousin Dee Dee, the sister of Dionne, sexually molested him, and thought she had molested Houston, too, Crawford wrote in her book that if it happened, she would have known about it, and she didn’t. She said that she and Houston talked about everything — including deeply personal stories about their families — and that she wouldn’t have kept it from her. She also wrote in her book about going with Houston to visit Dee Dee’s house and using drugs with her. Houston seemingly had a good relationship with her — and gave the women her Cadillac to use for a while because, an addict herself, she kept getting tickets for leaving it parked outside her NYC apartment when she was holed up using drugs for days.
Whitney and Robyn had lunch at Neverland with Bubbles and Michael.
Crawford talked about accompanying Houston to Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch, where the singer had to present him with a World Music Award in 1989. They toured the estate, including his “doll room,” jumped on Jackson’s trampoline, and had lunch with Bubbles and Jackson. The chimp was seated in an elevated spot at the table, next to Houston, and ate finger foods. Crawford felt like she was being watched the whole time they were there, but it reached peak levels during the awards presentation. She said Jackson stared “directly at me for minutes on end,” making her uncomfortable. Crawford also wrote that Houston was later deeply hurt by Jackson when he snubbed her request to record a song with him.
Whitney was considered for a role in in Silence of the Lambs.
Crawford wrote about Houston’s foray into films, including the megahit The Bodyguard, for which Kevin Costner pursued her “for years” before she said yes. Later films, Waiting to Exhale and The Preacher’s Wife, were plagued by Houston’s drug use, which led to trouble on the set. However, one film Houston could have been in but wasn’t was Silence of the Lambs. She met with Jonathan Demme to discuss playing Jodie Foster’s roommate, a role that went to Kasi Lemmons, but ended up not even reading for the part because Demme thought she was “too nice.”
Bobby Brown’s jealousy of George Michael led to Crawford finally quitting her job with Houston.
Crawford attempts at getting Houston sober failed, and she felt Brown was driving a wedge between them. Houston was constantly canceling appearances and, after canceling twice in one week with George Michael, Arista head Clive Davis, who had requested the studio session, told Crawford to buy Michael a gift from Houston — he recommended a black shirt — to make things right. Crawford did what she was told, giving Michael the shirt from Fred Segal, which he liked, and she thought that was it. However, when Brown learned that Crawford gifted Michael a shirt as an apology from Houston, he “lost it.” He told Crawford, “You don’t buy a man a shirt from my wife! Are you crazy?” Houston joined in, yelling, “Apology for what?” as she was oblivious to how her drug use was making her miss scheduled events. Crawford said she had finally had enough. “I understood exactly why I was getting blasted. They were strung out and out of their minds,” she wrote. “For the first time, I realized that I needed to save myself.” She tendered her resignation, but they agreed to remain friends. Now and then, she’d hear from Houston — more often from Houston’s assistant (at Houston’s request).
Crawford said Houston was behind her losing another job.
Crawford stopped working for Houston and dropped out of her circle, and to really get away from the drama, moved across the country to Los Angeles, not long after losing her mother and brother to AIDS; as a result, she had to care for her only remaining sibling, who had bipolar disorder. That meant Crawford needed a job, and eventually landed one as VP of marketing at Arista under L.A. Reid. The gig, based in New York City, came with a great salary and a two-year contract, so she packed up her West Coast digs and drove back to NYC, with her sister in tow, to start the job. However, when she got there, she was told the offer had been rescinded. Broke, with no place to live and no job, it took Crawford a long time to get her life back on track. She later bumped into Reid at an event, with her new partner Lisa Hintelmann, with whom she shares two kids, and asked him what had happened with the job. “Whitney wasn’t comfortable bringing you in,” she said Reid told her.
Of course, Houston and Brown split in 2006. And Houston died in 2012.
A Song for You: My Life With Whitney Houston by Robyn Crawford is out now.
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