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Category: Deaths

Nancy Grace defends her Whitney Houston death speculation [Poll]

Nancy Grace and Whitney Houston

Nancy Grace didn't apologize Thursday for her speculation earlier in the week regarding what Whitney Houston's autopsy might show -- rather, speaking on "Good Morning America," the HLN personality and "Dancing With the Stars" alum vigorously defended herself and her words.

"I'd like to know who was around her," Grace had said Monday on CNN, "who if anyone gave her drugs following alcohol and drugs, and who let her slip or pushed her underneath that water. Apparently no signs of force or trauma to the body; who let Whitney go under her water?"

Thusly -- after invoking the deaths of Michael Jackson and Anna Nicole Smith -- did she stir up a hornet's nest, as folks wondered how in the world she'd opted to stretch toward the notion that Houston had possibly been murdered.

Grace saw it Thursday as a matter of semantics, saying that in "the real world," autopsies are about determining cause of death.

"I understand that some people would consider that jarring or harsh, but there is nothing delicate or nice about a murder, a death, an unexpected death, or an autopsy and that is what autopsies are for.

She dismissed the notion that wondering who "pushed her underneath that water" was speculation, noting that "in the same breath" she'd mentioned that there were no signs of force or trauma.

"You're arguing with me over semantics. ... It would have been true to say that they're looking for cause of death ... [but] what that means in the real world ... of an autopsy, of why her body was transported to the coroner's office, is to determine cause of death. ...

"It is not a homicide and I'm thankful for that," Grace said, "but I still want the truth."

Check out Nancy Grace on "GMA," below, and vote in the poll, then feel free to speculate in comments.

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— Christie D'Zurilla

Twitter.com/dzurillaville
Christie D'Zurilla on Google+

Left photo: Nancy Grace. Credit: Reed Saxon / Associated Press

Right photo: Whitney Houston. Credit: Tibrina Hobson / WireImage



Whitney Houston: Radio, flag controversies precede funeral

Whitney Houston: A man signs a condolence book outside the Whigham Funeral Home

With Whitney Houston's funeral looming Saturday in her home state, controversies surrounding her death bubbled up on both coasts, one involving New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and the other involving Los Angeles talk-radio hosts John Kobylt and Ken Chiampiou, who were suspended Thursday after insensitive comments about the dead singer.

Christie found himself defending his Tuesday decision to have state government buildings' flags lowered to half-staff on the day of Houston's funeral.

"I am disturbed by people who believe that because her ultimate demise — and we don't know what is the cause of her death yet — but because of her history of substance abuse that somehow she's forfeited the good things that she did in her life," the governor said at a news briefing Thursday. "I just reject that on a human level."

On Twitter, he pointed out, "Flag being lowered for her cultural contributions as an artist & New Jerseyan. Her struggles w/substance abuse r a diff topic." He also noted that during his time in office flags had also been lowered for 31 fallen soldiers from the state as well as all fallen police officers.

Meanwhile, radio station KFI hosts Kobylt and Chiampou were suspended "for making insensitive and inappropriate comments about the late Whitney Houston," KFI said in a statement on its website. "KFI AM 640 Management does not condone, support or tolerate statements of this kind."

The DJs on Wednesday had called Houston a "crack ho" and referred to her as "cracked out for 20 years" — she'd publicly denied smoking crack — with Kobylt saying, "Then you find out she's dead and it's like, really, it took this long?'" Additional slams can be heard in audio from the show, posted by Urban Informer.

"We made a mistake, and we accept the station's decision," Kobylt said in the statement. '"We used language that was inappropriate, and we sincerely apologize to our listeners and to the family of Ms. Houston.'"

KFI host Tim Conway Jr. also was joking about Houston's death during his 7-10 p.m. show Wednesday. Jon and Ken were expected to be back on the air Monday, according to L.A. Now.

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— Christie D'Zurilla

Twitter.com/dzurillaville
Christie D'Zurilla on Google+

Photo: A man signs a condolence book for singer Whitney Houston outside the Whigham Funeral Home in Newark, N.J., on Friday. Credit: Stan Honda / AFP / Getty Images.


Whitney Houston's funeral will stream online and may be broadcast

Whitney Houston's childhood church is the site of a memorial to the singer

Whitney Houston's funeral may be invitation-only when it comes to getting a seat in the church, but the world has been invited to watch it online and perhaps on TV.

Though there will be no large public memorial like the one held for Michael Jackson, the Saturday funeral at New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, N.J., Houston's childhood church, is expected to be made available for television and Web streaming, Houston's publicist told CNN Wednesday.

The "I Will Always Love You" singer's body arrived in New Jersey late Monday after her death Saturday at age 48 in Beverly Hills, and her autopsy Sunday. Houston's death certificate indicates she will be buried at Fairview Cemetery in Westfield, N.J., where her father was interred.

PHOTOS: Whitney Houston, 1963-2012

Reflecting Houston's gospel roots, the service will include a eulogy from gospel singer and Pastor Marvin L. Winans, and will have BeBe and CeCe Winans, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Bishop T.D. Jakes, Chaka Khan, Diane Warren, cousin Dionne Warwick, Antonio "L.A." Reid, and Ray J and his sister Brandy in attendance, according to CNN.

(The church reportedly seats up to 2,000 people; for context, the Cathedral of our Lady of Angels in downtown L.A. seats around 3,000, and seating capacity at Westminster Abbey currently runs around 2,000.)

Whether ex-husband Bobby Brown, who some blame for Houston's slide into addiction, will attend the funeral is a matter of some debate. Fox News reported Thursday that he would be performing with New Edition in Connecticut on Saturday night. Brown flew to L.A. on Sunday and reportedly tried unsuccessfully to get in touch with daughter Bobbi Kristina, according to TMZ, but ABC News talked to sources close to Brown on Wednesday who said that reports of tension between Brown and the Houston family were inaccurate. 

FULL COVERAGE: Whitney Houston | 1963-2012

"My daughter Bobbi Kristina is doing much better," Brown said via email to ABCNews.com Tuesday. "We continue to provide love and support to Bobbi Kristina. She is dealing with the tragedy of her mother's death and would prefer to do it outside of the public eye. I ask again that our privacy be respected."

Meanwhile, back in Los Angeles as part of the coroner's death investigation, authorities were sending out subpoenas to gather information on what drugs Houston had been prescribed, by whom and in what quantities, according to L.A. Now.

Authorities collected several bottles of drugs from Houston's suite at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, but officials told L.A. Now that the amounts of drugs did not seem unusually large. Officials are waiting for the results of toxicology tests before determining an official cause of death, and have not ruled out death by natural causes.

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— Christie D'Zurilla
Twitter.com/dzurillaville
Christie D'Zurilla on Google+

Photo: Amanda Kweku, left, and Latisha Watkins pray Thursday in front of a makeshift memorial for singer Whitney Houston at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, N.J. Credit: Stan Honda / AFP/Getty Images


Bobbi Kristina offered coping advice by Janet Jackson [Video]

Bobbi Kristina Brown, right, with mom Whitney Houston

As Bobbi Kristina Brown survives the significant loss of her mother, Whitney Houston, she can count the support of millions of fans worldwide -- and a few showbiz types like Janet Jackson.

No stranger to tragedy herself, Jackson stopped by Anderson Cooper's daytime talk show Tuesday and offered thoughts for the grief-stricken Bobbi Kristina, whose recent ordeal saw her hospitalized, reportedly for stress.

"I didn't want to accept it. It's very difficult. You have to come to terms at some point; you have to give it up to God," Jackson said of losing her brother Michael.

"It sounds so mean but you have to move on. You can't hold on to that because it can be very devastating. And sometimes therapy can be the best thing."

Cooper, who lost a brother to suicide, weighed in on coping with loss over a lifetime. 

"TV people always use that word 'closure' when they're talking about loss. I don't think there is such a thing as closure. I think that's a made-up TV word," he said.

Jackson agreed, adding, "You figure out a way to move on with life but ... there's never a day, not one day has gone by where I don't think about my brother."  

 

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-- Matt Donnelly
twitter.com/MattDonnelly

Photo: Whitney Houston, left, and daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown at last year's Clive Davis pre-Grammys party in Beverly Hills. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times


Whitney Houston funeral: Invite-only, with no public memorial

A Whitney Houston fan waits for the body to arrive in Newark

Whitney Houston's funeral will be held Saturday in New Jersey, but the singer will not be mourned at a large public memorial, it was revealed Tuesday. 

Houston's body arrived at the Whigham Funeral Home in Newark under heavy police escort on Monday, the Associated Press reported. About 40 fans who were gathered nearby to catch a glimpse of the hearse sang and applauded, the New Jersey Star-Ledger said, and mother Cissy Houston was photographed arriving by car at the same time.

Entry to the funeral service -- to be held at noon Saturday at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark -- will be by invitation only, the funeral home's owner, Carolyn Whigham, told the Star-Ledger, with no wake or public viewing at the Prudential Center, as had been previously reported.

Whitney Houston's body arrives at Whigham Funeral HomeIt was the family that put the kibosh on a public memorial, a rep for Newark Mayor Cory Booker told TMZ. "In compliance with the family’s wishes the city is not moving forward with any public ceremony," the rep said.

"The Bodyguard" star honed her singing skills in the gospel choir at New Hope as a child.

"The family has made it very clear there is going to be a strong musical celebration of her life," with star voices expected but as yet unnamed, Pastor Joe Carter told the New York Daily News.

Houston died Saturday afternoon in Beverly Hills, hours before she was to attend a pre-Grammy Awards function. Though she was found submerged in a bathtub at the Beverly Hilton, the investigation into her death has turned to focus on what prescription drugs the singer had been taking, and how much. An official cause of death is on hold pending results of toxicology tests.

Authorities collected several bottles of drugs from the suite, law enforcement sources told L.A. Now, but the sources said the amounts of drugs left it unclear whether the medications had been a factor in the singer's death. Various media outlets have reported bottles of Xanax, Valium, Lorazepam and other medications were found.

"No matter what medication they may be taking, until we do a toxicology test and see the levels, we are not going to speculate," said Ed Winter, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County coroner's office. The coroner had not ruled out death from natural causes.

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— Christie D'Zurilla
Twitter.com/dzurillaville

Photos, from top: A fan awaits the arrival of Whitney Houston's body near the Whigham Funeral Home in Newark, N.J., on Monday night; the hearse carrying Houston's body arrives at the funeral home. Credits: D Dipasupil / Getty Images; Rich Schulz / Associated Press



Leslie Carter, sis of Nick and Aaron, may have OD'd, report says

Leslie Carter

Leslie Carter, the sister of singers Nick and Aaron, likely overdosed on prescription drugs, according to a police report released Thursday.

The one-time "House of Carters" reality TV star, whose married name was Leslie Ashton, was found Tuesday at her father's home and later declared dead at Westfield Memorial Hospital in New York, the Buffalo News reported. 

Estranged from Mike Ashton, her husband of three years, Carter had recently moved in with family in an attempt to kick an addiction to prescription drugs, sources told TMZ.

Though an official cause of death won't be decided until toxicology results come through in four to six weeks, authorities found bottles of a muscle relaxant (cyclobenzaprine/Flexeril) and drugs to treat anxiety (alprazolam/Xanax) and bipolar disorder (olanzapine/Zyprexa) near Carter's unresponsive body, according to a police report obtained by E! News.

Stepmother Ginger Carter, who found Leslie and called 911, told authorities that the 25-year-old had fallen in the shower earlier in the day and had been sleeping while Ginger was caring for her 10-month-old daughter. Leslie "seemed OK in the morning but at times seemed depressed just by the way she was talking," Ginger Carter said in the report. 

Nick Carter is a member of the Backstreet Boys; "House of Carters," which ran for one season on E!, followed Nick and his four siblings as they planned for the future and he tried to restart his career. Aaron Carter is taking a few days off from an off-Broadway production of "The Fantasticks" to deal with the death.

A funeral for Leslie Carter is being planned for next week, the Chautauqua County coroner told ABC News.

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— Christie D'Zurilla
twitter.com/dzurillaville

Photo: Leslie Carter in 2006. Credit: Frazer Harrison / Getty Images 

 

 


James Farentino dead at 73; Tina Sinatra woes hurt long TV career

James Farentino

James Farentino, a veteran TV actor whose career was undone a bit at the end by his personal life, is dead at age 73.

Farentino, who was one of Universal Studios' last contract players in the 1960s and notched nearly 100 TV roles, including recurring appearances in series such as "Police Story," "Dynasty" and the original "Melrose Place," was married four times. He played George Clooney's character's estranged father on "ER," and was also known for the fallout from a turbulent relationship with Frank Sinatra's youngest daughter, Tina.

After a five-year, on-and-off relationship with Tina Sinatra, Farentino in 1994 pleaded no contest to stalking her after being charged with 24 misdemeanor counts of stalking, making harassing phone calls and violating a restraining order.

PHOTOS: Notable deaths of 2011

"My behavior was appalling — feeling so hurt and rejected that I was the victim when I really wasn't," he told The Times in a 2003 interview. "So you inflict your pain on someone else to make them identify with you."

Sentenced to 36 months' probation plus psychological and alcohol counseling, Farentino said some in the industry treated him differently after the incident.

Farentino died Tuesday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center after a long illness, his family's spokesman told The Times. He is survived by his fourth wife, Stella, whom he married in 1994, and sons David and Saverio. Actress Michelle Lee is David's mother.

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-- Christie D'Zurilla
Twitter.com/dzurillaville

Photo: James Farentino at home in 2003, when he was starring in "Boy Gets Girl" at the Geffen Playhouse. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times.

 


Etta James: Beyonce, Roseanne Barr, more celebs note her passing

Etta James died Friday at age 73.

In the wake of Etta James' death Friday at age 73, Beyonce and other celebrities expressed their sympathies over the singer's passing. 

"This is a huge loss," Beyonce, who played James in the movie "Cadillac Records," said in a statement on her website. "Etta James was one of the greatest vocalists of our time. I am so fortunate to have met such a queen. Her musical contributions will last a lifetime."

Beyonce said James' music inspired her to be a stronger artist.

OBITUARY: Etta James dies at 73

"When she effortlessly opened her mouth, you could hear her pain and triumph. Her deeply emotional way of delivering a song told her story with no filter. She was fearless, and had guts. She will be missed."

James, whose condition was pronounced terminal in December, succumbed to complications of leukemia Friday morning at a hospital in Riverside, according to her son Donto and her personal doctor. Best known for the song "At Last," she had battled serious infections for years and also suffered from dementia.

Beyonce was far from alone in expressing herself.

PHOTOS:  Etta James | 1938-2012

"Some of you young'ns may not be too familiar with Etta James but ... many of you are definitely familiar with her biggest hit song At Last (which Beyoncé performed at the inauguration of President Obama back in 2009)," Pink explained Friday on her website.

"Though she's gone, her classic songs and undeniable influence on the music world will live on," said "America's Got Talent" host Nick Cannon, recently out of the hospital himself. Wife Mariah Carey added on Twitter, "Rest in peace to one of the world's most influential singers Etta James, you will be missed."

Continue reading »

Blake Shelton, Miranda Lambert move shows after his dad's death

Blake Shelton's father died Tuesday.

Blake Shelton and wife Miranda Lambert have rescheduled concert dates after the death of Shelton's father on Tuesday.

Dick Shelton passed away in Oklahoma "surrounded by loved ones" after a year of declining health, "The Voice" star said Wednesday on his website. No specific cause of death was given, though at last month's American Country Awards, Shelton dedicated his win to his father, who was hospitalized with pneumonia.

"I appreciate your understanding during this difficult time and thank you for all your prayers. Your support means the world to me," Shelton said in the statement. "I love you guys."

"This is a really difficult time for our family and the most important thing is being together," Lambert said in a separate statement. "Tell your loved ones you love them."

Shelton moved shows in South Dakota, North Dakota and Montana from Jan. 19-22 to March 20-23. He'll resume touring Thursday in Georgia. Lambert rescheduled a Charlotte, N.C., show to Wednesday, and pushed weekend shows in Kentucky and Greenville, N.C., to February. 

A photograph of Shelton and his dad was posted to the singer's website Wednesday, in memoriam, and was accompanied by comments from fans expressing condolences.

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-- Christie D'Zurilla
Twitter.com/dzurillaville

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Photo: Blake Shelton speaks during a panel discussion Jan. 6 for the reality series "The Voice" at the TV critics' winter press tour in Pasadena. Credit: Dan Steinberg / Associated Press



Heavy D dead at 44; 'the only rapper everybody always loved'

Heavy D dead at 44

Hip-hop artist Heavy D died Tuesday after collapsing outside his condo in Beverly Hills, and as the music community and other fans offered condolences, an autopsy was on tap to pin down the 44-year-old's cause of death.

Power producer Russell Simmons on Wednesday remembered his friend, saying in part on the Global Grind, "Rest in peace Heavy, you were the only rapper everybody always loved. You never rapped a mean word about anybody ... you only spread love.  You were truly the overweight lover. You will be greatly, greatly missed."

Heavy D, real name Dwight Arrington Myers, had trouble breathing when he arrived home after a shopping trip, L.A. Now reported. He was conscious when authorities arrived, but died later at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Authorities said that he may have died from complications of pneumonia, with a source telling The Times' Andrew Blankstein the rapper had seen a doctor for a cough in recent days.

PHOTOS: Heavy D | 1967-2011

Toxicology test results related to autopsy will likely come in six weeks, coroner's spokesman Ed Winter said. Though no illegal drugs were found at Myers' condo, he had been prescribed medication recently and "We need to see what's in his system," Winter said.

Beverly Hills police said in a statement that "there are no obvious signs of foul play, and at this time his death is believed to be medically related." Heavy D, who was 6-foot-4, weighed more than 300 pounds when he died, TMZ reported.

News reached the Twittersphere via Grand Master Flash, who wrote "I was just told Heavy D passed away." LL Cool J on Wednesday posted a picture of himself, Simmons and Jalil of Whodini with Myers, when they were "still teenagers on the grind." Lenny Kravitz, Timbaland, Rob Thomas, Flo Rida, MC Hammer and Kerry Washington were only a few of the celebs noting Heavy D's passing.

The Ministry also liked this tweet, from writer Jamilah Lemieux: "Few rappers have been so LOVING in their references to women as Heavy D. Maybe even less so today than ever. That made me love him."

Pop & Hiss has a rundown on Heavy's claims to fame, which began in the 1980s when he headed up hip-hop group Heavy D & the Boyz and later included the song "Now That We Found Love" (hear it below) and, recently, an appearance in the new Brett Ratner film "Tower Heist." He also wrote the theme songs to "MADtv" and "In Living Color," and performed at the Michael Jackson tribute concert in the UK in October.

Heavy D's last message on Twitter? "BE INSPIRED."

 

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Photo: Heavy D, real name Dwight Arrington Myers, performs at the BET Hip Hop Awards in Atlanta on Oct. 1. Credit: David Goldman / Associated Press

 


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