NEW YORK, N.Y. - Cissy Houston has a few words, and a few more, for Bobby Brown.
In "Remembering Whitney," the mother of the late Whitney Houston writes that from the start she had doubted whether Brown was right for her daughter. And she thinks that Whitney might not have ended up so "deep" into drugs had they not stayed together.
"I do believe her life would have turned out differently," Houston writes. "It would have been easier for her to get sober and stay sober. Instead she was with someone who, like her, wanted to party. To me, he never seemed to be a help to her in the way she needed."
"Remembering Whitney" came out Tuesday, two weeks short of the first anniversary of Houston's death. She drowned in a hotel bathtub in Beverly Hills, California, at age 48. Authorities said her death was complicated by cocaine use and heart disease.
During a recent telephone interview, Houston said she has no contact with Brown and didn't see any reason to, not even concerning her granddaughter, Bobbi Kristina. She reaffirmed her comments in the book that Whitney Houston would have been better off without him. "How would you like it if he had anything to do with your daughter?" she asked.
Houston said she wanted the book published so the world would not believe the worst about her daughter. Cissy Houston, herself an accomplished soul and gospel singer who has performed with Elvis Presley and Aretha Franklin, describes Whitney as a transcendent talent and vivacious and generous person known affectionately by her childhood nickname, "Nippy." But she acknowledges in the book that her daughter could be "mean" and "difficult" and questions at times how well she knew her.
"In my darkest moments, I wonder whether Nippy loved me," she writes. "She always told me she did. But you know, she didn't call me much. She didn't come see me as much as I hoped she would."
But, "almost always," Whitney Houston was "the sweetest, most loving person in the room."
Brown is portrayed as childish and impulsive, hot tempered and jealous of his wife's success. Cissy Houston describes a 1997 incident when Whitney sustained a "deep cut" on her face while on a yacht with Brown in the Mediterranean. Whitney insisted it was an accident; Brown had slammed his hand on a table, breaking a plate. A piece of china flew up and hit Whitney, requiring surgery to cover any possible scar.
The injury was minor, the effects possibly fateful.
"She seemed sadder after that, like something had been taken away from her," Houston writes.
For years, Whitney's drug problems had been only a rumour to her mother, who writes that concerns expressed by record executive Clive Davis were kept from her by her daughter and others. But by 2005 she had seen the worst. Houston remembers a horrifying visit to the Atlanta home of Brown and Houston, where the walls and doors were spray-painted with "big glaring eyes and strange faces." Whitney's face had been cut out from a framed family picture, an image Cissy Houston found "beyond disturbing." The next time Houston came to the house, she was joined by two sheriff's deputies who helped her take Whitney to the hospital.
"She was so angry at me, cursing me and up and down," she writes. "Eventually, after a good long while, Nippy did stop being angry at me. She realized that I did what I did to protect her, and she later told people that I had saved her life."
Brown and Whitney Houston divorced in 2007, after 15 years of marriage. When she learned that her daughter was leaving Brown, Cissy Houston was "extremely relieved" and "thanking God so much I'm sure nobody else could get a prayer in to Him."
Houston has no doubt that if Whitney were alive she would still be singing and making records. Houston said during her interview that she has seen "Sparkle," a remake of the 1970s movie that came out last summer and featured Whitney as the mother of a singing group struggling with addiction. Although Cissy Houston doesn't like movies about "drugs and all that kind of stuff," she was impressed by "Sparkle."
"I thought she was great in it and all the kids were great," says Houston, who adds that the "whole movie was hard to get through."
The book, too, was painful and her grief continues. She writes that sometimes she hears a doorbell ring and thinks it's Whitney, or sees a vase in a different place and wonders if her daughter is around. Some nights, Cissy Houston wakes up crying, not sure at first where she is.
"But then I get up out of bed, wipe my eyes, wash my face, and lie back down to my sleep. Because that is all I can do," she writes. "I am so grateful to God for giving me the gift of 48 years with my daughter. And I accept that He knew when it was time to take her."