The Dallas Examiner
During Whitney Houston’s 30-year career the singer earned numerous Grammy awards, an Emmy and took home multiple platinum albums. Her path from being a backup singer for Lou Rawls and Chaka Kahn to stardom was boosted by her upbeat personality and youthful beauty – timely assets in a period when the visual appeal of music videos made them the latest form of mainstream entertainment. By the time the entertainer died in 2012 at the age of 48 she left behind a worldwide fanbase and a vast array of personal property.
Yet just as the talents of Jimi Hendrix and Michael Jackson carried their artistry beyond their foreshortened lives, so too did Houston in the hearts of many. So much so that locally based Heritage Auctions has been tasked by the Houston family to represent her distinctive items in their current auction, The Whitney Houston Collection, explained consignment director Garry Shrum.
“It was the family and one of the friends that we’ve worked with before, David Guest, that contacted the president of the company,” he explained.
Soon after, Shrum and a colleague flew to California to meet the family.
“We saw what they had and what their ideas were and right away we were just going, ‘My gosh, these people really have it. They’re really together, they’re really smart, they have an array of things. It’s not all clumped into one era,’” he stressed. “It told a story.”
Amid the collection are items both iconic and unique to the performer, with artifacts as varied as the United States Marine cap she wore during the 1991 HBO special Welcome Home Heroes, her 1998 MasterCard or her Marc Bouwer wedding gown.
“It’s a story and a tribute of her career and her life,” Shrum noted. “It can make you smile and it can make you cry; just going through there is so moving.”
In all, 120 pieces of memorabilia that were owned, worn or otherwise in the songstress’ possession are in the auction. A bidder could choose from her personal Waiting to Exhale script or the Herve Ledger dress she wore on the cover of her final album, I Look to You.
The lots can be viewed on http://www.ha.com, and those interested in participating can bid as long as they have registered for free with the auction house online or by calling their customer service department.
Shrum found it difficult to choose the auction’s singular highlight. He did note that a pair of Michael Jordan game-worn shoes, owned by Houston and displayed with a photo of the singer and the athlete, was especially unique.
“She was always mentioned on the news ‘There’s Whitney Houston. There’s Whitney Houston on the floor,’” he recalled about her love of basketball and her court-side seats.
“I think that’s such a personal thing, and so cool, and so intimate and different,” he remarked on the Nike display. “With the photo of them together, you can tell, the love they have in their eyes for each other is just so cool because they’re such good friends.”
On the other hand, a passport Houston used during her first world tour revealed a hidden depth about the entertainer’s existence.
“It tells her touring career,” he said as he pointed out that pages had to be added to the document and unfolded accordion-style to contain the customs stamps of all the nations she visited.
“You start looking at the dates and go, ‘She was one busy girl. Jump on the plane, get off, go to the hotel, change, go to the concert, get on another plane, go to another country, go to another city; whatever it may be.’”
The director admitted that the passport conveyed the high-pressure lifestyle that may have helped lead to the singer’s drug-related demise.
“It gives you an idea of the intensity of what happened early on in her career, and continued to go on because she kept putting out such great material,” he offered.
By print deadline, bidding on the passport had reached $2,800.
Shum reflected on how the various material possessions – such as the AMA, People’s Choice and Billboard statuettes on the auction block – underscored the significance Houston had as a performing artist.
“… Some of the achievement awards – the golds and the platinums and the crystals, and the MTV awards – all that stuff is an intricate part of music history, whether you were listening to her music at the time or you caught on to her music later on,” he commented.
Shrum also acknowledged that there was a strong possibility of more items belonging to the singer-actress coming into the market in the future.
“I imagine we’ll have some other people that maybe were connected with Whitney. The family may down the road decide to put more stuff in – that’s entirely up to them,” he said. “I generally see more things come up because of the publicity this will bring and people will just say, ‘Gosh, I’ve had this, I’ve enjoyed it; now it’s time to share it with someone else. And quite frankly I would enjoy having that money right now because I’m downsizing, I’ve just retired, I used to work in the record business’ – and we know how the record business went.”
The collection bidding is running concurrently with the company’s Entertainment & Music Memorabilia Signature Auction, which features other relics related to memorable African American performers, including a rare Billie Holiday concert poster.
“There’s actually an image of her on the poster. Generally, in the 40s and 50s you didn’t get images of the Black artists because of the stupid thinking,” he remarked candidly. “It would be in print but there wouldn’t be an image. This has an unbelievable image of her and I think this is going to break some records, too.”
“We have Prince’s guitar; we have one of his first demo tapes [on which] he hand-drew the box for it, it’s a reel-to-reel tape. We’ve got some wild stuff in the auction.”
A portion of the collection’s proceeds will be donated to the Marion P. Foundation, a youth organization headed by Houston’s manager and sister-in-law, Pat Houston.
Bids can be submitted online, via telephone or in person June 24 at the Heritage Auction location in Beverly Hills. The auction ends June 25.