Scoop: R&B great Natalie Cole battled health, drug issues

As Robin Roberts, Randy Jackson, Fantasia Barrino, Patti LaBelle, Cher, Arsenio Hall, Montel Williams and Rev. Jesse Jackson lamented the death of R&B singer Natalie Cole, Smokey Robinson said he knew his friend hadn’t been in good health.

Robinson told “Entertainment Tonight” that when he last saw Cole several months ago in Arizona, “she didn’t look good to me. She lost a lot of weight and stuff, and I could tell because I had known her for so long and [we were] so close.”

Cole, a nine-time Grammy-award winner and daughter of jazz legend Nat King Cole, died Dec. 31 at 65 of congestive heart failure associated with complications from ongoing health issues.

In her 2000 autobiography, Cole revealed that she battled heroin, cocaine and alcohol addiction, and was in rehab for six months in 1983.

When she announced in 2008 she had hepatitis C, a liver disease spread through contact with infected blood, she blamed her past intravenous drug use.

She criticized the Recording Academy for giving five Grammys to drug user Amy Winehouse in 2008.

“I’m an ex-drug addict and I don’t take that kind of stuff lightly,” Cole said at the 2009 Grammy Awards. Hepatitis C “stayed in my body for 25 years and it could still happen to this young woman or other addicts who are fooling around with drugs, especially needles.”

Meanwhile, Kenya Moore of “Real Housewives of Atlanta” paid her own odd tribute to Cole by posting a photo of herself next to the late singer on Instagram, noting how the two are lookalikes.

BRITNEY’S UP A TREE

Britney Spears always somehow manages to free herself from sticky situations — most recently, literally from being up a tree in Las Vegas.

Over the weekend, she had mishap with a tree prop during her show at Planet Hollywood.

While performing “Toxic,” her harness got stuck on a fake tree on the stage, cutting short the soar-over-the-crowd portion of her act, TMZ reports. After a member of her production team unhooked the harness, she was able to descend a nearby staircase.

Spears has run into trouble before on her “Piece of Me” residency. In October, she didn’t miss a dance beat when she had wardrobe malfunction with a sheer bodysuit, which came undone.

QUICK TAKES

IHOP is running its “all you can eat” pancakes promotion through Valentine’s Day (purchase required). … Craig Strickland, the country singer who went missing on a hunting trip, has been found dead in Oklahoma.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY

Actress January Jones is 38. … Actor Bradley Cooper is 41. … Singer Marilyn Manson is 47. … Actor Ted Lange is 68. … Actress Diane Keaton is 70. Director Hayao Miyazaki is 75, … Actor Robert Duvall is 85.

— Wire report

Got Bay Area scoops or celebrity gossip? Email scoop@sfexaminer.com.

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