Whitney Houston's 1997: One Baffling News Blip After Another

Also hitting a stretch of pretty bad road this year has been veteran pop diva Whitney Houston, for whom 1997 has been one baffling news blip after another. Most recently, it was revealed that she'd signed up to sing at a mass wedding of followers of the Korean Reverend Sun Myung Moon, whose Unification Church has not infrequently been described by critics as a cult. It's just been that kind of year.

MTV: It's been an... interesting year for uber-diva Whitney Houston. First of all, she only managed to squeeze out one chart smash from "The Preacher's Wife" soundtrack, a far cry from her hit-making heyday. In the spring, Houston suddenly canceled an appearance at the Essence Awards, the first in a series of high profile no-shows. Then, last summer, there were strangely conflicting reports from Houston about how she came to have a slash across her face. At first, she claimed to have hit a rock after diving off a yacht. But, a boat hand said she got the laceration on board. Finally,

Houston settled on the story that she had cut her face on a broken plate. Rumors began to circulate that her husband, fading star Bobby Brown, was somehow implicated in the injury. Brown denied this story and lamented having to deny such rumors to his children.

BOBBY BROWN: It's hard for me to keep having to explain to them what the press is talking about and what this is about and "No, I did not... you know I would never hit Mom."

MTV: There was supposed to be a Whitney Houston "Greatest Hits" album this year with a few new tracks thrown in, but even her boss, Arista Records president Clive Davis couldn't make that happen.

WHITNEY HOUSTON: Oh, Clive is on my case about this greatest hits album. He's like, Whitney, we have to do a greatest hits album, I mean you're far long overdue.

MTV: Houston canceled a Children's Defense Fund grant presentation just a few days before her bizarre benefit performance for that same organization which aired on HBO,

and which saw the singer croaking her way through some hits and launching into long discombobulated monologues between songs.

BOBBY BROWN: For the first time I had seen her perform, she was very nervous. Then there were a lot of people trying to tell her you need to say this, and you need to say that. And finally, she was like, just put a big monitor in the back with some words and what y'all want me to say.

MTV: Houston got the bail-out bug again on October 30th, when she dropped out of the Rosie O'Donnell show just 45 minutes before air-time, prompting the relentlessly nice host to unloose such cracks as "I hope she's very ill" and re-working a Houston classic into "I Will Always Hate You." To make matters worse, after that same day, Houston was apparently well enough to join Bobby Brown for a performance on the David Letterman show.

Given all these problems, Houston must have been extremely happy when a TV version of "Cinderella," a project for which she was the

executive producer, scored major ratings for ABC when it aired in November.

But then, last weekend, Houston bagged out of another event -- although, perhaps more understandably this time, since she was said to have been only sketchily informed about it. It was a mass wedding ceremony conducted by the much-investigated Korean Reverend Sun Myung Moon; and in bowing out of it, Houston claimed to have come down with a "sudden illness."

Houston has since reportedly returned her $1 million fee to the Unification Church.