On Monday, the FBI released the file it had kept on the late pop superstar Whitney Houston. The 128 pages of documentation show that her 1992 movie, "The Bodyguard," may have had some basis in reality.
The file detailed not just "crazy fans," but an extortion attempt and perceived threats, as well.
Houston was found dead in 2012 in a Beverly Hilton bathtub. She was 48. Authorities called her death an accidental drowning due to cocaine use and heart disease. Houston had been staying at the hotel ahead of Clive Davis' annual pre-Grammy bash.
One well-documented case showed the obsession a U.S. Army veteran, based in Vermont, had for Houston. The man, who said he fell in love with Houston in March of 1986, the same month she released "The Greatest Love of All," eventually sent Houston 79 letters as well as 16 to her family, friends and business associates. After one final missive, an FBI agent knocked on the door of his “small, cluttered one-room apartment,” according to the files.
One of his letters proved particularly alarming. In it, the then 28-year-old said:
But because I have gotten that desperate and mad and would come up with ideas that that it scares me that I might come up with some crazy or stupid or really dumb idea that might be as bad as that or even worse than that. I might hurt someone with some crazy idea and not realize how stupid an idea it is until after I have done it. That really scares me.
When visited by the FBI, though, the man explained that his reference to doing something “crazy or stupid or really dumb” meant the possibility that he would go on some daytime TV show, such as “The Phil Donahue Show” to talk about his love for Houston.
The FBI concluded he was not a real threat, had broken no laws, and closed the case.
The FBI had initially labeled the case as extortion, due to the "or else" nature of the man's comments. In a 1992 case, though, an alleged $250,000 extortion attempt was brought to the FBI's attention shortly after Houston's marriage to R&B singer Bobby Brown.
It that case, Houston alleged that someone she knew was had threatening to “reveal certain details of her private life” to tabloids unless she paid $250,000 in November of 1992. Houston, in a December 1992 interview with the FBI, said she did talk about personal matters with the person, but was unclear what the person might know.
According to the files, a letter sent to Houston’s father by a lawyer for the person warned that they had “already turned down several offers… which are in the six figures range” for the details. It added,
Therefore, we would expect a similar offer from you with respect to the sale of… exclusive rights.
In addition, the lawyer wrote, her client had “suffered emotional stress” from her dealings with Houston and might sue, and “The fall-out will undoubtedly be negative,” the lawyer warned.
A Nov. 23, 1992 meeting had been scheduled, for a payment to be made. Instead, Houston’s father called the FBI.
However, the FBI and U.S. attorney decided no laws were broken and again, another case was closed.
There was also a Dutch fan who claimed to be the “President of Europe.” In 1999, an FBI agent based in Brussels paid him a visit to discuss about the cassette recordings and letters “of a threatening nature” that he sent to Houston. He insisted he never meant to threaten Houston. The cassette recordings, he said, were songs he’d written for the singer.
Meanwhile, not only was he the “President of Europe,” he had also purchased Brazil for $66 billion. He also claimed credit for the fall of the former South African government and for the election of Nelson Mandela.
In today's era of social media, we'd expect these obsessive behaviors, freaky letters, and crazy items to be sent electronically, via Twitter, Facebook or email. Even the cassette recordings could be sent as MP3s. These FBI files were released through a Freedom of Information Act request, and were heavily redacted.