Gospel singer Cissy Houston is battling dementia, according to sources close to the Grammy winner.
“She’s in the early stages of dementia,” a source told Radar. “She repeats herself a lot and doesn’t remember what she says. She just says she’s getting old.”
This follows reports that the 84-year-old family matriarch had no idea that daughter, Whitney Houston, and son Gary Houston were molested as children by their cousin, Dee Dee Warwick, sister of singer Dionne Warwick. Gary shared the secret for the first time in the documentary Whitney.
“The family is already fractured enough,” said the source, “but she has had enough clarity to know what’s going on with these claims and is very upset.”
Cissy and Dionne released a joint statement about the revelation, calling Gary’s claims “unfathomable.”
Read their full statement below.
“My niece Dionne Warwick and I make this statement to raise our voices above the din surrounding the release of the film, Whitney. Although the film is marketed as a Houston Family approved/endorsed project, neither my son, Michael, Dionne nor I knew of the allegations of abuse, the direction the film would take, until two days before the screening at Cannes.
“To begin we want to state clearly that the horror of what victims of sexual abuse experience is unimaginable. We make no attempt to minimize the pain, the trauma and perhaps lifelong damage to the psyche of abuse victims. We understand and acknowledge that there are no rules governing a person’s reaction to trauma and every person reacts differently. By this statement we do not intend to defend, condone or excuse the crime of molestation.
“We cannot, however, overstate the shock and horror we feel and the difficulty we have believing that my niece Dee Dee Warwick (Dionne’s sister) molested two of my three children.
“I’ve been told—as justification for the invasive theme of this film—that Whitney was a public person and therefore the public has a right to know any and everything about her. I say, NO, she was a famous person … a singer, an actress, a quiet but generous philanthropist. She wasn’t running for office, asking for money or trying to win the right to run anyone’s life. Her job does not entitle the “public” to know every intimate detail of her life beyond what she herself revealed during her lifetime. Although she spoke about her struggle with drugs, the interventions, her daughter Krissi and issues in her marriage, she never PUBLICLY spoke about her father’s stealing from her or revealed any claim that she had been molested. IF she was molested I do not believe she would have wanted it to be revealed for the first time to thousands, maybe millions of people in a film.
“I know the woman who was identified as Whitney’s “close confidante”. If she was my daughter’s “close confidante” it would seem she chose to betray Whitney’s confidence by publicizing rumors and hearsay. In any case Dionne, Michael and I do not know her the way we knew and loved Dee Dee Warwick. Dee Dee may have had her personal challenges but the idea that she would have molested my children is overwhelming and for us unfathomable. We cannot reconcile the Public’s need to know about Whitney’s life as justification for invasion of her privacy or the charge against Dee Dee, a charge which neither Whitney nor Dee Dee is here to deny, refute or affirm. Neither I, Dionne, nor my son Michael who was very close to his sister, and in the film is VERY candid about their drug use, has ever heard these allegations; we have never heard anything remotely connected to the crimes charged against Dee Dee in the film. How can that be fair to my daughter, to Dee Dee, or to our family?
“I spent many years in recording studios (sometimes with Dionne and/or Dee Dee) where I earned my living. I also went “on the road” with my group The Sweet Inspirations to try to help provide a good life for my family BUT my children always came first in my heart and in my life. When I was away they did not stay with four or five different families; they stayed at home where their longtime babysitter, Phyllis, or my dear friend Bae or their father took care of them. In all the years I traveled Dee Dee, who was 21 years older than Whitney, NEVER BABYSAT for them.
“Dionne’s mom, my oldest sister Lee, was there for me after my mother died when I was eight years old, and during some of the darkest times of my young life. Lee died several years ago and although I miss her every day I am comforted by the knowledge that she is not here to live this experience
“How I wish I could ask Dee Dee and Nippy what happened, but this film distinguishes itself from the other films about her by spreading rumor, innuendo and hearsay; leaving questions to which I’ll never have the answers.
“Dionne and I are part of a family whose members have always worked hard for themselves and their children to be successful. The goal of most parents is to help their children achieve more than they did. The film treats my family’s aspirations with the heavy handedness of people who are viewing an African American family through a lens lacking in cultural sensibilities. Like most parents we gave our children names we liked … Gary Joseph, Michael Blair and our longed-for baby girl, Whitney Elizabeth, not for any other reason. We did not name our daughter because it was the name of a character in a “WHITE SITCOM” or because we were striving to be considered middle class as alleged in the film. I loved the name Whitney and Elizabeth was her grandmother’s name.
“I am heartbroken that despite all she accomplished fans and haters alike are left with the notion that she lived her life as a victim. She made mistakes and in the last few years she did live her life in the grip of the drugs that drove her and all the consequences of that, both as a woman and as a mother. She loved Krissi with all her heart and she did the best she could as Krissi’s mother, but being in a struggle with drugs is inconsistent with being a great mother. She faced challenges in her life, exacerbated by fame, divorce and family issues but she was not a victim.
“After people have seen the film they will draw their own conclusions and we are not trying to change that. We just want people to know there is another side. While the filmmakers certainly had the legal right to make this film, I wonder at the moral right.”
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Born and raised in Compton, California, Jessica Bennett began her career as an intern at The Oakland Post, and later, The Source Magazine. She went on to write for respected hip hop publications such as DJ Booth and Hip Hop DX before becoming the Urban Editor of pop culture website, Wetpaint.com. She joined Ebony as the Entertainment Editor August 2017. Bennett has interviewed such names as Vanessa Williams, Spike Lee, Tyra Banks, Forest Whitaker, Magic & Cookie Johnson and several others.