*The recent death of Whitney Houston has left many of us in deep sorrow.
In this five part series, “African American Publicists Remember Whitney Houston,” Whitney’s former label [Arista Records] publicists Ken Reynolds, Tracey Jordan, Mary Moore, Jackie Rhinehart and Gwendolyn Quinn recall the genius and brilliance of a one-of-a- kind icon—one of the best voices of all time! (Unfortunately Audrey LaCatis Onyeike was not able to submit an essay at press time.)
RIP Whitney Houston! We miss you and will always love you!
Tracey J. Jordan
I met Whitney backstage at Ron Delsener Presents: Miller Time Concerts at the Pier, a series of summer concerts that took place in NYC. I was working, at the time, for an indie firm that handled PR for the series.
It was 1984 and Whitney was still in the studio recording her debut album, Whitney Houston, for Arista Records. But on this balmy August night, she was just the opening act for Jeffrey Osborne. Still, there was something different about this opening act and everyone knew it. There was lotsa hype around this young singer and Delsener was on our case about securing media coverage for her.
He said “Clive told me this girl is gonna be a huge star, he said she’s got it all; that’s why I booked her — she’s gonna be huge!” Delsener wasn’t one to typically swallow industry hype so when he said that we knew this was really special.
The backstage area was buzzing with family (John & Cissy and the rest of the Houston clan), Clive Davis and other Arista staff and VIP’s. I kind of wondered — who is this girl? And there she was. The first thing I remember seeing was Whitney’s smile, she was sitting on the sideline with her road manager and we just started talking. She was beautiful, warm, friendly, but kind of shy.
Everyone was worried about the weather holding out as it had been an overcast day and the air was thick with humidity and sweat. Delsener, as usual, was pacing back and forth and making us call the weather every 3 minutes! At last: showtime! Whitney stepped out in front of the audience, and though I don’t remember what song it was, I do remember every jaw dropped, men stood at attention and it was as if time was standing still. When she finished her first song you could hear a pin drop, then a thunderous round of applause as well as a thunderous downpour of NYC rain!
I wrote an item about her the next day and sent it along to the NY Post’s Page Six. I titled it Singing in the Rain and the Post ran it the very next day! The following year I was offered a gig at Arista Records as their Director of R&B Artist Development and Publicity. I had the privilege of working for Melani Rogers and Lynne Volkman, Whitney’s longtime PR maven and my longtime friend. They were wonderful years and we had the opportunity to watch Nippy grow from star-to-superstar-to-megastar. I got to attend numerous video tapings, but my personal favorite was “The Greatest Love of All” at the Apollo – WOW! She was stunning and the look in Cissy’s eyes told it all — she was so proud of her little girl!
There will never be another Whitney Houston. She did have it all, the voice, the personality and the beauty! I miss you Nippy. Rest in peace in God’s arms…Always, Trace