For decades, Robyn Crawford has been tight-lipped about her relationship with superstar singer Whitney Houston.
Last month, she finally broke her silence with the tell-all book, “A Song For You: My Life with Whitney Houston.”
“I was comforted in my silence and protecting our friendship and never felt that [speaking out] was necessary till I kept hearing people saying all these things that weren’t true, that Whitney would never have approved of,” says Crawford, who appears at the Commonwealth Club Tuesday.
Houston had skyrocketed to fame with 11 chart-topping singles, including “How Will I Know,” “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” and a cover of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” for 1992’s “The Bodyguard” soundtrack.
But in her later years, the singer became better known for her addiction to drugs, turbulent 15-year marriage to R&B vocalist Bobby Brown and the couple’s train-wreck reality show “Being Bobby Brown.” Her accidental death from drowning in 2012 became tabloid fodder for months after.
“All of that I saw as smothering her legacy, like laying on top of it like it was blanketed,” says Crawford.
So when she began working on her memoir in 2017, it was important to her to peel back the layers and give readers a look at the beautiful, kind-hearted and generous woman behind the public persona.
Still, Crawford — who first met Houston in 1980, when they were teenage counselors at a summer camp in their hometown of East Orange, New Jersey — delves into the singer’s cocaine abuse, starting in her early teens, and her tempestuous relationships with her mother, acclaimed singer Cissy Houston, former boyfriend Eddie Murphy and husband Bobby Brown, whom she eventually divorced in 2007.
One of the most gratifying revelations in the book is that Crawford and Houston, long rumored to be lovers, were, in fact, once involved romantically.
The singer, mindful of her then-burgeoning career and staunch in her Christian beliefs, had called the romance off after only two years, but she kept Crawford close as both a friend and executive assistant until the two eventually parted ways in 2000.
Crawford, who went on to marry entertainment executive Lisa Hintelmann and adopt twins, says that writing the book has helped her reconnect with her old friend again.
“I’m moving all that guck so I can see that young teenager I met that day beneath all the hair, makeup, gowns and everything,” she says. “I’m starting to see the person who I was friends with on the way up and rode with as her career exploded. So [the process] is working.”
A Song for You: My Life with Whitney Houston
Written by: Robyn Crawford
Published by: Dutton
Note: Crawford appears at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Commonwealth Club, 110 The Embarcadero, S.F., tickets are $10; visit commonwealthclub.org/events/