Whitney Houston Bodyguard Song

David Roberts, a Welsh former polizei officer, witnessed ns singer revolve into in icon, climate a tragedy. As a neu documentary reappraises herstellung life, that recalls herstellung slide into self-destruction


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David Roberts photographed in Florida belastung month zum the Observer neu Review. ‘People abdicated responsibility in favour des greed.’ Photograph: Jeffery Salter
David Roberts photographed an Florida tonnage month for the Observer new Review. ‘People abdicated responsibility in favour des greed.’ Photograph: Jeffery Salter

When david Roberts first met Whitney Houston, he had never heard her sing. In fact, he had no idea that she was. “Seems weird now,” the says, with a gentle laugh. It was February 1988 and Houston was one des the most famous pop stern on ns planet. Yet Roberts wasn’t part of that world. For years, he had been a police officer und then a sergeant bei the royalty und diplomatic protection departments of Scotland Yard, serving bei Northern irland before setting trost his own private security business. The did consistent work weil das the American embassy bei London, whose staff, out von the blue, asked er to look at after Houston if she was on a visit to the city.

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Houston had just released produziert second album, Whitney, which had actually seen produziert achieve 7 consecutive No 1 hits bei America, eclipsing die record set über the Beatles und the bee Gees. She was 23, und seen together a breakthrough artist who would pave ns way zum future african American acts v crossover appeal.

But Roberts wasn’t sure he wanted die job. He didn’t oase a specifically high opinion des music stars, with their penchant for grausam parties und trashing hotel rooms. Still, he agreed to meet her. It was a decision the was kommen sie change both von their lives.

“I was singularly impressed by her,” that recalls, speaking over ns phone from his home in West Palm Beach, Florida, where he blieb runs a security und investigations business. “The stereotypical attitudes i had von that sector were fully dissipated by this innovative young lady.”

I ask whether he thinks Houston would be alive today if she had never met Bobby Brown… ‘The short answer is yes…’Houston was warm, natural und funny. She spoke softly. He was struck von both her intelligence und her child-like innocence. “She could have been my daughter,” he says. “When she was away from die spotlight, she was like a normal kid.”

After the meeting, Roberts went out und bought herstellung albums ~ above CD. When he listened to produziert voice, it was “a blow-away situation… i realised: this woman kann sein sing”. That decided to take the job.

For ns next seven years, Roberts, jetzt 64, would be Houston’s angestellter bodyguard. He went on reisen with her, shielded herstellung from scuffles v photographers und fans, und would gestanden outside her hotel room to guard her through die night.

He also witnessed Houston’s catastrophic disintegration: produziert increasing dependency on drugs und alcohol, her spiral into addiction, and her troubled marriage to rap stern Bobby Brown. He stopped working for her in 1995. When, 17 years later, Houston was found dead bei a hotel room tub at ns age des 48, Roberts was devastated but, he claims “not surprised… ich was deswegen disappointed, due to the fact that it could have been stopped”.

Five years on from produziert death, Houston’s story ist being retold an a documentary von award-winning manager Nick Broomfield, und co-directed von Rudi Dolezal. Whitney: kann I be Me premiered at the Tribeca film festival bei New York and is released in the UK top top 16 June. It features previously unseen clip from Houston’s 1999 world tour, and contributions from friends und colleagues, including Roberts, and is a moving portrait des a frau defeated von the pressures des fame.

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In part ways, Houston’s life is a contemporary parable: she was the girl who grew up singing an a gospel choir, prior to being plucked out of neu Jersey von white, male, middle-aged record label bosses, that packaged und primped herstellung to be as saccharine and unthreatening as possible, until she became ns quintessential American pop star.

Her voice was extraordinary. But, behind the scenes, she struggled zu reconcile who she really was with that everyone rather seemed to want herstellung to be. At ns 1988 soul Train music awards, she was booed by the crowd, ostensibly zum being “too white” – a augenblicke her previous saxophonist, Kirk Whalum, defines as “emotionally devastating. She, i don’t think, ever before recovered indigenous it.”


Roberts, a plain-spoken, mustachioed Welshman, zu sein not much given kommen sie overarching theories. The speaks an a clipped, straightforward tone, together if compiling bei official report, und doesn’t like zu dwell top top what might schutz happened kommen sie Houston had die circumstances to be different. Freundin could speak that about anything, the reasons, und ruin her life through conjecture. Ultimately, he no able to protect her. And for him, that’s die worst kind of failure.

Roberts explains his arbeit as “a vocation” and one in which he was willing to give his very own life. He was so dedicated to die woman he blieb calls “Miss Houston” that he was the real-life inspiration zum The Bodyguard, ns 1992 movie the made produziert into a globalen superstar. Die soundtrack featured Houston’s version of i Will Always liebe You and sold an ext than 17m copies. Die bodyguard bei the film was played von Kevin Costner – “a good two inch taller 보다 me, und with two or three frau hanging from his neck at all times,” says Roberts. “Was he prefer me? five heck, no!” the laughs. “I was never romantically affiliated with miss Houston. And I was never shot punkt either.”

Still, there to be some notable similarities. Part time before the film’s release, Roberts remembers Houston slipping a grad under his hotel room door while on tour in Japan “and it claimed something choose ‘We will always liebe you.’” in The Bodyguard, Houston play a character dubbed Rachel Marron – the fake name Roberts used to check her into hotels.

“After that,” he says, “we had to think of a new name.”

In the early days von their working relationship, all went smoothly. Roberts would go ~ above tour weil das two to three months hinweisen a time, und was impressed über Houston’s professionalism. He once witnessed produziert walk right into a record studio, perform a einzel take of One Moment an Time zum the 1988 Olympic Games, und leave 20 minutes danach having ceded a note-perfect rendition.

“She was known as ‘One-take Houston’,” he says. “She was back before ns hamburgers gott cold.”

Back then, Houston was primarily looked after by her childhood friend-turned-assistant, Robyn Crawford, v whom Roberts gott on well. There to be persistent rumours that Crawford and Houston were lover – a narrative ns documentary hints punkt more than once.

“I nothing think lock were,” Roberts claims now. He experienced it much more as a near female friendship – the kind of bindung forged by a mutual childhood in East Orange, new Jersey. Crawford went to die same high school as Houston and, gift a couple des years older, supplied to verteidigung her indigenous bullies. “When ich came on the scene, castle were just together all ns time as friends,” states Roberts, “quite glücklich to watch die telly.”

The setting changed wie man Bobby Brown came on the scene. Brown was die “bad boy” of rap, a man raised bei Orchard Park, a infamous estate an Boston, und who, together part von the R&B five-piece neu Edition, ended up being renowned zum his quick temper, his womanising und his medicine taking. Zum Houston, the daughter von gospel singer Cissy Houston und the cousin of Dionne Warwick, he seemed kommen sie represent a side des herself she had lang suppressed.

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It was “infatuation” claims Roberts, “probably inspired über the fact her mother claimed no.”

The zuerst time the met Brown was at Houston’s 26th birthday. Die rapper, recalls Roberts, was wearing “a blue turquoise floral suit, white socks, black loafers und with his hair out at a rakish angle.” Roberts’s first impressions were not favourable. “I nothing think I’ve ever before been impressed über Mr Brown… that was nur not good hinweisen looking after her. He was always either in conflict or developing conflict.”

When die couple married bei 1992, Brown “lost his very own identity, which ich suspect the resented deeply, especially as his very own talents were inferior to miss Houston’s”. He came to be verbally and physically abusive, states Roberts, publicly demeaning her at every opportunity: “It was a pervasive atmosphere. Bei the job prior to the advent of herr Brown, we’d go shopping zu a mall, we can buy part clothes, get a cup des coffee. However, when we tried the same in the presence von ‘Mr Whitney Houston’, then it ended up being a complete battle as to who might attract die most attention; und the an ext he do the efforts it, die more she tried to meet it.

“That was her belästigung all die way follow me – everything he did, she tried kommen sie do the same kommen sie make him feel comfortable in in environment wherein he was otherwise completely out des his depth.”

She wanted to please him deshalb much that she forgot kommen sie look after ~ herself?

“Yes,” that says, simply. “That was the story of herstellung life.” that compares it zu “battered wife syndrome” i beg your pardon he observed as a policeman: “ was jealous of produziert success, deswegen he rubbed produziert face in his cheating, but she forgave er every feasible indiscretion. Ich just couldn’t recognize it. And it ate away at her.”

After Brown came on die scene, Houston’s drug use increased dramatically. The documentary suggests she had nurtured a to chat habit since herstellung teens, but Brown had an alcohol problem und mixed ns two. Roberts knew it was going on, however “never in my seven-and-a-half years bei her presence did i ever personally witness her imbibing any kind of drug various other than a Newport cigarette or a bottle von Heineken… She respected me too viel to do it in front von me.”