Houston was 'acting strangely' in the days before her death
As Grammy awards are overshadowed by singer's death, reports emerge of drugs and a fight
WHITNEY HOUSTON is believed to have drowned in the bath tub of her suite in the Beverly Hilton Hotel after passing out under the influence of prescription drugs, including the "panic attack" pill Xanax, and alcohol.
The gossip site TMZ reported that LA County Coroner Ed Winter had completed an autopsy by the time the curtain rose on the Grammys, and found water in her lungs. But he will not issue a cause of death until he receives a toxicology report, which can take four to six weeks.
Beverly Hills police sealed off the fourth floor suite in the Beverly Hilton and found several bottles of prescription drugs including Xanax, Lorezepam and Valium, all psychiatric drugs Houston had been using following years of drug and alcohol addictions following her troubled marriage to R&B star Bobby Brown.
Initial reports were that no illegal drugs were found, and no alcohol in the bathroom where Houston died.
The Los Angeles Times reported that "drowning is one of several scenarios" and that police are investigating Houston's behavior in the hours before a member of her entourage found her "unresponsive" in the bath tub.
She had been due to perform at music producer Clive Davis's annual pre-Grammy party on Saturday night.
"Over the previous few days," the LA Times reported, "she had made several public appearances. At times, she was said to have been acting strangely, skipping around a ballroom and reportedly doing handstands near the hotel pool. Houston greeted people with a warm smile but at times appeared disheveled in mismatched clothes and with her hair dripping wet."
Houston had also gone to a party on Friday night at the Tru Hollywood nightclub and come close to blows with singer Stacy Francis. Houston became belligerent and her boyfriend Ray J stepped in, defending Francis.
Later, Houston gave what would be her final performance with a one-minute rendering of Jesus Loves Me. Houston was photographed leaving the club apparently drunk and with scratches and blood stains on her legs, although it is unknown where these marks came from.
There was further drama yesterday afternoon when Houston's 18 year-old daughter Bobbi Kristina was taken "hysterical and inconsolable" from the Beverly Hilton on a stretcher and admitted to hospital. Her father, Bobby Brown, cancelled a performance with his band New Edition in Nashville and flew to Los Angeles.
The Grammy ceremony met the shadow cast by Houston's death head-on when host rapper LL Cool J opened the show by saying that "the only thing right for me is to begin with a prayer" - a prayer which began "Heavenly Father, we thank you for sharing our sister Whitney with us."
Later came a tribute as a video of Houston singing her signature song, I will always love you from the film The Bodyguard with Kevin Costner, gave way to Jennifer Hudson singing the same song, solo on stage below an arc light.
There were dozens of tributes from music stars.
Veteran Tony Bennett called for the legalisation of drugs before dedicating a performance at the Davis party to Houston. "First it was Michael Jackson, then Amy Winehouse, now, the magnificent Whitney Houston," he said.
"I'd like every person in this room to campaign to legalise drugs. Let's legalise drugs like they did in Amsterdam. No one's hiding or sneaking around corners to get it. They go to a doctor to get it."
Bennett won in the best pop duo/group category for his Body and Soul duet with Amy Winehouse and, the New York Times reported, "in a bittersweet reminder" Winehouse's parents Mitch and Janis collected the award on her behalf.
"Long live Whitney Houston, long live Etta James, long live Amy Winehouse," said Mitch Winehouse. "There's a beautiful girl group up in heaven."
Houston, who came from musical aristocracy as the daughter of gospel star Cissy Houston and cousin of Dionne Warwick, had been considered a "good girl" as she rose to stardom, but her reputation changed dramatically after she met Bobby Brown in 1989, and married him in 1992.
After divorce and several attempts at rehab, she admitted to Oprah Winfrey that she had been taking drugs daily, mixing cocaine with marijuana.
The New York Post reports that several Houston records had gone to the top of the charts by last night, with The Greatest Hits at No 1 of the Amazon CD bestsellers, and eight of her albums in the top 100 of iTunes.