Whitney Houston's Absences, Cancellations Raising Concerns

R&B singer's replacement by country singer Faith Hill at Oscars telecast latest in recent string of last-minute no-shows.

R&B diva Whitney Houston's absence from Sunday's Oscars show is just the latest in a recent string of cancellations and missed appearances that has raised questions about the singer's behavior and health.

Each time, she blamed throat problems.

Houston was scheduled to sing the Barbra Streisand standard "The Way We Were" and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," from the 1939 film "The Wizard of Oz," in a medley with country singer Garth Brooks, rapper and syndicated talk-show host Queen Latifah and others. Country singer Faith Hill took Houston's place. The schedule change was not announced prior to the awards telecast.

Houston's publicist and a spokesperson for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said Houston canceled because of illness. "She was having dreadful problems singing, and she didn't have her usual range," said Academy spokesperson Jane LaBonte, who said Houston was in the music rehearsal at the Shrine Auditorium on March 24. "The poor woman was in trouble," she said.

According to LaBonte, Oscars musical director Burt Bacharach called a meeting after the rehearsal, and Houston and show producers made what LaBonte called a "mutual decision" that it would be best if Houston stepped out.

Houston's publicist issued a statement Monday saying the singer "regretfully withdrew from the performance" because of a sore throat.

The New York Post reported Tuesday that a frustrated Bacharach yanked Houston from the lineup after she missed cues during Friday's rehearsal, an allegation LaBonte denied and Houston's publicist refused to address.

Whatever the cause, this isn't the first time Houston has canceled a performance in recent months. She was scheduled to perform a song in honor of Arista Records founder Clive Davis at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony March 6. She canceled that performance with less than a day's notice because of what a Hall of Fame spokesperson called "voice problems."

Arista referred all questions to Houston's publicist. The publicist refused to comment beyond the statement released to the press.

Houston also bowed out of an Aug. 1 show in Concord, Calif., 15 minutes before showtime. Officials for the venue asked Houston to reimburse the facility $100,000 for the cancellation, according to Concord Pavilion leisure services director Mark Deven. "No money has been paid yet, and no settlement offer has been extended," Deven said Wednesday. About 8,500 of the 12,500 tickets for the concert had been sold.

Houston canceled a July 4 performance in Washington, D.C., citing swollen vocal cords. A show the following night in Newark, N.J. — Houston's hometown — was called off moments before the show was to begin, with throat problems again cited as the reason. Shows scheduled for later that month in Memphis, Tenn., and St. Louis also were canceled.

Houston is scheduled to perform at Arista's 25th anniversary concert in Los Angeles on April 10. The Post quoted an unnamed source Thursday as saying that Arista was lining up backup performers in case Houston dropped out.

In January, Houston, 35, allegedly was stopped with half an ounce of marijuana by security officers in a Hawaii airport. Houston was not arrested, and no charges were filed. Hawaii County prosecutors couldn't be reached for comment.

Houston's latest album, 1999's My Love Is Your Love (RealAudio excerpt of title track), yielded the hit singles "Heartbreak Hotel," "It's Not Right But It's Okay" (RealAudio excerpt) and "I Learned From the Best," which is at #28 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. Houston's 1992 version of country singer Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You" is one of the most successful pop singles of all time.