Return to Transcripts main page

CNN BREAKING NEWS

Whitney Houston Dead at 48; Investigation as to Cause of Death Under Way

Aired February 11, 2012 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


LT. MARK ROSEN, BEVERLY HILLS POLICE DEPARTMENT: She has been positively identified by friends, family and co-workers that were with her at the hotel. And the next of kin have already been notified. There were no obvious signs of any criminal intent at this time, and it's currently being investigated by the Beverly Hills Police detectives. And that's all I have right now for a prepared state.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Was she in a room?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Was she a guest here at the hotel or was she here for the party?

ROSEN: She was a guest here at the hotel.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Was she alone?

ROSEN: She had an entourage with her. But I don't know if she was alone at the time she --

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Was she in the room?

ROSEN: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Any kind of signs of drug use or drug overdose?

ROSEN: It's still under investigation. We have no obvious signs of anything at this time. They're still too fresh and it's currently being investigated. Our detectives are upstairs right now.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And hotel security already were trying to resuscitate her?

ROSEN: They did initially begin life-saving resuscitation measure but they were not successful.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Who made the call?

ROSEN: Somebody in her entourage. It came from somebody in her party. I don't have any --

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Was she staying with Ray J? Was she staying with (INAUDIBLE) of the hotel, the rapper?

ROSEN: I do not know that.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What happens at this point?

ROSEN: At this point in time it's currently under investigation. Our detectives are going to follow up on this. And the first thing to determine is whether or not it was natural causes or some other cause of death. Eventually it will be turned over to the coroner's office for investigation also.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: For the record, could you spell your first name?

ROSEN: First name is Mark, M-A-R-K, last name is Rosen, R-O-S-E- N, and I'm a lieutenant with Beverly Hills Police Department.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Will you give us an update later?

ROSEN: I'll be happy to give you an update, give you more information as it becomes available.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You were saying she was -- let me get it straight. She's on the fourth floor in her room?

ROSEN: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And there are investigators up there right now investigating the scene?

ROSEN: Yes. We brought in detectives from home on Saturday, they are currently investigating this and we'll give more information to you as it becomes available.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Her body is still there in the hotel?

ROSEN: She's still in the hotel. Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Will this affect the night's events?

ROSEN: I couldn't comment on that.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Thank you for having us.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Thank you.

ROSEN: Any other questions? Thank you.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: All right. You were just looking at a live briefing there from the Beverly Hills Police Department, Lt. Mark Rosen, Lt. Mark Rosen, with the Beverly Hills Police Department. Here's what he said. At 3:23 the Beverly Hills Police got a 911 call that came in, emergency call that came in, and from the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

They said they arrived within just two minutes and there were already people on the scene when they got to the fourth floor. There were members of the hotel staff, emergency workers, fire department trying to revive someone in a hotel room -- in a room on the fourth floor at the Beverly Hilton. And that person, as they said, turned out to be Whitney Houston, friends, family, co-workers have identified her positively as Whitney Houston.

At 3:55 this evening, L.A. time, Whitney Houston pronounced dead at the age of 48.

There you go. Can you believe it? Howard Bragman, you still there?

HOWARD BRAGMAN, PUBLICIST: Yes, Don.

LEMON: Yes. Sad, huh?

BRAGMAN: Let me sort of tell you what's going on tonight now.

LEMON: Yes, go ahead.

BRAGMAN: Behind the scenes in Hollywood. There's a lot of scrambling. Clive Davis, music impresario, who discovered Whitney, is having a big pre-Grammy party tonight, which is one reason she was in town. So they're deciding to go ahead with the tenor of the party is, and obviously tomorrow are the Grammys, and you can't just go on with the show. You got to -- you got to respect what happened. And I think there's a lot of people who are going to have an all-nighter tonight pulling this together.

LEMON: Yes. Howard, thank you. We appreciate your expertise. And we know that you are -- you'll be on this and you'll get some more information. Can you stand by? Because I want to bring in now HLN's Jane Velez-Mitchell.

Jane, you and I talk all the time. And we are very open and honest with each other. And again we don't know the cause of death. You heard the lieutenant there.

JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST, HLN'S "ISSUES WITH JANE VELEZ- MITCHELL": Right.

LEMON: But, Jane, you are a recovering addict. And you know the issues that Whitney Houston had.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Yes.

LEMON: Talk to us.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I think we have to be very careful because the first rule of journalism is to never assume of course.

LEMON: Right. Right.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: But the fact that she's in a hotel and that she has this history of drug abuse is certainly something that is going to immediately come to people's mind as a possibility. And alcohol and drugs are cunning, baffling and powerful, and they will wait and do pushups, your disease is doing pushups.

And she had said to Oprah in 2010, I believe, that she had conquered her demons but you never conquer them. You are never cured of a drug addiction or alcoholism. It -- all you have is one day. You have a daily reprieve and you have to work a program very, very hard, especially if you have the kind of drug abuse history that Whitney Houston has.

She's confessed to abusing cocaine, marijuana, pills. It's sad to say but her most infamous comment of course was, "Crack is whack."

LEMON: Right.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And so that is something that is always a threat. There are people with 20, 30 years of sobriety who have gone out for whatever reason, sometimes it's a crisis, and sometimes it's just that they're not working their program of sobriety and this is a disease of amnesia and we forget what we were like. That's why we have to constantly talk to other addicts and alcoholics and remind ourselves of what we were like so that we don't forget because it's almost like you have an angel on one side and a devil on the other shoulder, and that devil is constantly beckoning to you.

And drug addiction is the only real problem that presents itself as the solution. And that's why it is so cunning because there are many times when you have a crisis or you're nervous or you're facing a stressful time and this is Grammy time that maybe that presents itself in one's mind as a solution when it really is of course the problem.

LEMON: Yes.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: And this is a woman of incredible, this was a woman of incredible talent we all know.

LEMON: Incredible talent.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: We all know.

LEMON: Incredible talent.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Incredible talent.

LEMON: And you heard, you heard, you heard this --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Lots of addicts are incredibly talented.

LEMON: Yes, I said that, and I said, it seems like, it seems, and when you look throughout history, and you look back and, you know -- just any time throughout history, the most incredible artists, painters, writers, singers, or what have you, have been people who have had issues, or people who are -- who they say aren't manageable, or hard to get along. It's those talented people who face those demons.

And you know, they say sometimes there's a fine line honestly between being someone who's, you know, a genius and going over the line and being something else. And I think it all goes together, Jane. Sometimes.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: It certainly does. And it is tough when somebody tries to get sober. She had been in rehab numerous times, and it doesn't take. And sometimes there are those who we call chronic slippers and they just can't seem to get it or they get it for a little while and then they lose it again, and they go out again. It's almost like a blow to your confidence and your ability to remain sober.

The more times you go out, the more you doubt that you can do it and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

LEMON: Yes.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: So she sort of fit that criteria.

LEMON: Yes.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: At least in the sense that she had tried numerous times. And again, in 2010 she said to Oprah, my understanding is that she had conquered her demons but it's not something that you ever conquer.

LEMON: Hey, Jane, stand by. And we want to say this as when anyone of note or prominence dies, Whitney Houston has died. We have learned that from the -- from the Beverly Hills Police Department. We don't know the cause of death. The lieutenant said there's no sign of criminal intent, which doesn't -- which still doesn't say what the cause of death was.

And we don't know what happened. We're not saying that it was drug related, what have you, but when you look at the --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Absolutely not.

LEMON: -- totality or the entirety of Whitney Houston's life, that is part of it. And we have to report on that part just as when Michael Jackson died. We had to talk about the child molestation allegations. That's all part of it.

So we're not sitting here saying that Whitney Houston died because it was drugs or addiction, what have you, we're just talking about a facet of her life that was very public.

Stand by, please, Jane. I want to -- I want -- I'm going to get to our Dr. Drew in a second. But I just want to get to what some of the stars are saying. We've been talking about some of the reaction on Twitter. Malcolm Jamal Warner saying, "Rest in peace, Whitney."

There is now more information coming in from people, from stars all over the world. We're hearing from La Toya Jackson now as well. La Toya says, "I can't fathom the fact that Whitney Houston has died. My heart goes out to her mother, daughter and her loved ones. Whitney, you will be missed," and we can all second that emotion as well. Whitney grew up as a native of Newark, New Jersey. The mayor of Newark, New Jersey, as you know, Cory Booker, who is very famous for turning that around, turning that city around. And here's what he is saying. He said, "A legend has died. As the world mourns the loss of one of the all-time greats, we in Newark feel an especially deep sadness. She went from a Newark church to the global stage but she's always remained a deep part of our pride and collective heart. She will be missed. Our prayers are with her family."

That is from Cory Booker, the mayor.

I'm being told by my producers now I'm getting a statement from Quincy Jones. Let's -- let me get it. Sorry, I'm doing all of this on my BlackBerry so, let's see here. Quincy Jones is saying, "I am absolutely heartbroken at the news of Whitney Houston's passing. Ashford and Simpson first made me aware of Whitney when she was just 16 and I always regretted not having had the opportunity to work with her. She was a true original and a talent beyond compare. I will miss her terribly."

That's coming in tonight from Quincy Jones.

And we're getting information from a lot of stars. Bret Michaels tweeting, "My deepest condolences to Whitney Houston's family and friends. I first met Whitney when we were in Rome," and then he has a link to something for that.

But again, coming in from all over the world. And you know, when they told me that Whitney Houston had died, and I ran up here right after the show, I was on my way down, and they said do you need -- do you need any information? I said, I don't need any information, I don't need any wire copy, I don't need anything. As much as with Michael Jackson, I grew up with Whitney Houston, I know all about Whitney Houston, and believe you me, anyone who is this age, from 25 on up to 55 or 65 years old, you are saddened and you don't need a dictionary or an encyclopedia or a WikiPedia to tell you about Whitney Houston.

You know all about Whitney Houston. You know when you hear her voice on the radio. And you know when you see her. You know when she is not doing well when you see her on television, you go, Whitney, you need to pull it together, what have you. Just being honest. Whitney Houston fan. I love Whitney Houston. I think she has -- one of the best voices of all times, one of the most talented singers of all times.

She opened her mouth and music would come out and she did not need a band or anyone behind her. She had an amazing, amazing instrument, and it will be missed.

Dr. Drew Pinsky, what can you tell us?

DR. DREW PINSKY, HOST, HLN'S "DR. DREW": Well, I mean, you know, obviously I was just thinking to myself that we've all lost something great, that the people that really lose in these situations are the people that just see her as mom or sister or wife or, you know, whatever. These are the folks who suffer, and we have to keep that in mind tonight. You have to keep in mind that we are sitting here having conversations where we speculate but we know nothing at this point.

But Jane and I both, I love what Jane was saying. Just can't resist bringing up the topic, at least if those people are out there suffering, it is a reminder that this thing is cunning and powerful, and it may contribute -- it may have contributed here.

A couple of things I want to say, though, is -- as I was listening to the reports, we are learning a little something here. The fact that they aborted the resuscitation attempt in the hotel room after only about 20 minutes tells you that she was down for quite a while probably.

LEMON: Yes.

PINSKY: She was not transported, they didn't continue CPR. That's kind of a tell that this is something that was already fruitless once they had started with resuscitation attempts. There's something in the story there that needs to be understood. And then, number two, you and Jane mentioned that she was in treatment several times and people that have chronic conditions like addiction like this that have been troubling and in danger for so many years, then you said her last treatment was in May of 2011, if I were treating her, I would ask her to sit out a year or two and not work and focus on her treatment.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Jane, you're still on, by the way.

PINSKY: The fact that she's back at work making a movie, you know, the play this spring or the winter or fall, that's not a good sign. That's a sign that that may have been what, you know, contributed to this unraveling.

LEMON: Yes. And you know, it's interesting, Dr. Drew, because I knew that because I was just the other night I was telling Larry -- it wasn't just the other night, it was last night as a matter of fact, I saw a promo for Adele and I think as Anderson is going to be interviewing Adele on "60 Minutes," and they mentioned somehow, somewhere the surgery that Adele had to have on her -- for nodes on her throat. And a number of people, Keith Richards, I think, and a number of singers have had to have that same surgery.

And it just got me looking on the Internet and I wonder, I said, Whitney Houston, what has happened to her voice, could she have, you know, nodes, or whatever, could she have this surgery? Could it -- just going on, I was just sort of rambling because I was dealing with a cold and I couldn't sleep.

And I just got all this information about Whitney Houston and I'm sitting here on this anchor desk tonight, it's surreal, reporting on information that I just read last night, as I was on the Internet and, you know, talking about singers as they get older and how their range changes and their voice and, just all of this led just from seeing a promo that Anderson was interviewing Adele. And then it led me to Whitney Houston. Just amazing.

But the interesting thing --

PINSKY: But then I tell you --

LEMON: Go ahead.

PINSKY: I tell you what it says to me, Don, I say to myself, yes, and of course, you know, a singer like Adele would take the time necessary for her voice to heal.

LEMON: There you go.

PINSKY: But when people have addiction or substance problems, they don't take the time necessary to heal. They jump right back to work. And as Jane says, it's a condition that presents itself as -- the problem as the solution.

LEMON: Yes.

PINSKY: It's the only disease you have to convince people they have.

LEMON: Yes. Well, the interesting thing is that I said Adele immediately when she -- I think she was bleeding from her nodes or bleeding from her vocal cords or something, and she stopped, right? And he got the treatment that she needed.

PINSKY: Yes.

LEMON: And I thought, you know, I wonder if that -- what happened to Whitney, because they were saying, Adele, one of the greatest voices of all time, and of course we think of Whitney as one of the greatest voices of all time. And I wonder if Whitney had stopped, right, and just said, I'm going to do this, you know, where would she be today? But I don't know. I'm only speculating here. And --

PINSKY: We're -- yes, we're way out of school again.

LEMON: We're way out of school but here's the thing --

PINSKY: We know nothing.

LEMON: We know nothing. But --

PINSKY: Hopefully we'll know something in a few days.

LEMON: But what we -- what we do know is that we love Whitney Houston. And you cannot take that voice from her, you cannot take that talent from her. And we're going to get --

PINSKY: And -- yes. And you mentioned also what rich humans are afflicted -- even if she has died of natural causes, a hemorrhage or something, I mean people die of natural caucuses. It happens.

LEMON: We have that's it.

PINSKY: But you did make the point that people that struggle with the kinds of things she struggled with are the richest sorts of human beings. They're deeply loved, not just by those that are enriched by their talents, but the people around them. They -- you know, you'll see that the outpouring of the family is just going to be -- it just breaks my heart.

LEMON: It does. Dr. Drew, stand by. I want to read this statement from Reverend Al Sharpton. He is saying, "I am stunned at the passing of Whitney Houston whom I have known since the late 1980s. I have known her mother, a great gospel singer, Sissy, and her cousin, Dionne Warwick, down through the years, and the world is saddened by the great loss. Tomorrow morning at Second Baptist Church in Los Angeles, I will call for a national prayer for her family and the memory of Whitney Houston. The morning of the Grammys the world should pause and pray for the memory of a gifted song bird."

We are going to let Whitney Houston sing us to break and we will be back in moments.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN BREAKING NEWS.

LEMON: Hello, everyone. I'm Don Lemon live at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta. You're looking at that picture of Whitney Houston and it does say 1963-2012 because CNN has confirmed that Whitney Houston has died at the age of 48. A Beverly Hills Police Department lieutenant, Mark Rosen, coming out and confirming that information in a live press conference on CNN moments ago.

Here's what they said. They said at 3:23 in the afternoon in Los Angeles, Pacific Time, West Coast Time, they got a call into the Beverly Hills Police Department that someone was unconscious. They arrived within two to three minutes at the Beverly Hilton Hotel up on the fourth floor. When they got to the fourth floor room, the person who was residing in that room was Whitney Houston. She was on the floor. They tried to revive her. They could not.

Friends, family and co-workers confirmed that it was Whitney Houston. They identified her at 3:55 Pacific Tim. Whitney Houston, 48 years old, pronounced dead.

CNN Entertainment producer Alan Duke on the phone with new information.

Alan, what do you have?

ALAN DUKE, CNN ENTERTAINMENT PRODUCER (via phone): I'm clarifying -- I've gotten to the bottom of the confusion over who found her, I do believe. I've just been told by a publicist for Ray J earlier, we -- I reported that a close friend of Ray J said that he was involved but it was another Ray. It was the bodyguard for Whitney Houston whose name happens -- first name happens to be Ray, who discovered her body.

This is according to Courtney Barnes, the publicist for Ray J, a close friend of Whitney Houston. Someone closely associated with her in the last several weeks. And that it was the bodyguard whose name coincidentally is Ray who discovered that she -- discovered her.

LEMON: Yes. OK, thank you, Alan. And you know, I appreciate you coming on and doing that. I don't think we need to go over that again.

DUKE: Right.

LEMON: Because as we know, when we have these situations in the initial reporting there's always things coming in. And as you said, the guy's name is Ray, and Ray, understandable. And you know as when Michael Jackson died, as when any big star dies, there is always conflicting information that comes in. What's important here is that we are mourning the passing of a legendary singer and entertainer, Whitney Houston, and we are celebrating the talent and love and all the goodness that she brought to us because she was so amazing with her singing.

And again, you know, she did have her issues but right now we want to honor her memory and tell you about her and tell you about at least what we know surrounding her death. And let me just read this because we're getting, we're getting feedback from all over, and from entertainers as well.

And I just want to -- Kim Kardashian is tweeting, she said, "Just heard the tragic news that Whitney Houston passed away. I pray for her daughter and loved ones who will always love Whitney."

Ricky Gervais saying, "Rest in peace, Whitney. An amazing talent. A tragic soul. So sad." Irvin Magic Johnson saying, "Cookie and I are shocked and saddened about the news of Whitney Houston, a great friend and one of the most beautiful voices this world has heard."

Wendy Williams, Wendy and Whitney had their moments. That's all I'll say. But Wendy is saying, "My family and I are saddened by the loss of a true icon and legend, Whitney Houston. Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Houston family." On and on, Dwayne Wade also saying, "Rest in peace to a legend. Sad day for music lovers. Whitney Houston should be celebrated for blessings, for us -- for blessing us with her gifts, icon, mother, beautiful."

And of course I read the statement from the Reverend Al Sharpton. He is also tweeting but he also released a statement saying he's going to ask for a special prayer service tomorrow morning in Los Angeles, which is the morning of the Grammys.

On the -- let's go now to Kareen Wynter, who is standing by in Los Angeles or in Hollywood, I should say. Kareen is our entertainment reporter.

And Kareen, you cover Whitney Houston. We have been doing a lot of talking here about the circumstances surrounding but what an amazing talent. And I just got a text from a friend and co-worker now, Holly Hughes, saying, heaven just got another beautiful voice added to the choir there. And what a fitting way to talk about Whitney Houston.

KAREEN WYNTER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Such a sad day.

LEMON: Yes.

WYNTER: And you've been mentioning all the entertainers tweeting. The great Tony Bennett also just tweeted saying, "Whitney Houston was the greatest singer I've ever heard. She will be missed."

You know, It's interesting, Don. I just got a tweet from an artist in the music industry, a close friend of Whitney Houston, who asked to remain anonymous but they mentioned that they were also at that Kelly Price event a couple days ago here in Los Angeles, the Kelly Price Friends and Jam Session event, and that person summed it up this way, that they watched this great, great entertainer perform, Whitney Houston.

They say she looked healthy. Also that she didn't look like she was abusing any sort of drugs and really summed up her performance as just that, a great, a great performance. And you know, this is a -- this is a singer. She's accomplished so much, you know, in her lifetime, in her career but over the last several years, Don, I'm sure you'll agree, she was just battered in the press, you know, one negative story after another, alleging more addiction to drugs, you know, her physical condition.

But she was set to appear in a remake of the 1976 movie "Sparkle," a movie based loosely on the Supremes and that was supposed to take place this year. This was supposed to be a big deal because her last movie role, her one and only was back in 1996, "The Preacher's Wife." And you know we've heard from Dr. Drew talk a lot about the condition of her voice, you know, her battle with drugs, the fact that this wasn't the Whitney Houston that we knew from years ago where she just reigned in the 1990s.

But, Don, just from covering this side of the business, there were so many people really rooting for her, looking for a Whitney Houston comeback, just waiting for her to do incredible and remarkable things again. So this is truly a sad chapter, a final chapter in her life that everyone's just trying to make sense of, to come to terms with.

I'll be at the Grammys tomorrow. And you can just imagine what the reaction will be there. So many people will still be numb from this breaking news happening the day before the Grammys.

LEMON: And you were talking about "Sparkle" and her other movie roles. And do you remember when she did the "Bodyguard" back in 1992? And she and Kevin Costner -- you know, it was one of those movies that people thought were kind of hokey, but it was a great movie and number hit from it, and the video she's pregnant, she was beautiful. And then after that she did "Waiting to Exhale," in 1995, a great role she played in that, and then "The Preacher's Wife."

WYNTER: But do you remember --

LEMON: Go ahead.

WYNTER: Don, do you remember how she blew everyone away? Everyone knows Whitney Houston as this talented, phenomenal singer who just blows other artists out the water, and you said it. When she appeared at this movie, people thought, wow, not only is she a talented singer but this woman can act.

LEMON: Yes.

WYNTER: And, you know, she wasn't just standing next to any actor. We're talking Kevin Costner.

LEMON: Right.

WYNTER: And she really stole the show, she really stole the spotlight. So it was just, you know, a glimmer, a glimpse of what she could accomplish in life.

LEMON: Listen, if you were -- Kareen, stand by. If you were a singer and you had to perform with Whitney Houston, much like if you have to get on a stage and sing next to Patti Labelle.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: You better bring it. A number of singers. If you have to sing with them, you're like, oh my gosh, I'm going to have to get up there with Whitney Houston.

Reverend Al Sharpton, you there?

REV. AL SHARPTON, REACTING TO DEATH OF WHITNEY HOUSTON: Yes, I'm here.

LEMON: What a voice. What a loss.

SHARPTON: She was a great voice, Don. And she -- I knew her over 20 years. I don't know anyone that had the voice she had and the sense of humanity. And I think that all of us were rooting for her to rebound and I believe that she was on the rebound.

I saw her last year and she looked healthy. I would talk to her mother all the time. And she comes from a great family. Dionne, her aunt. And I think that what we are doing -- I'm in Los Angeles ironically and we're doing at church tomorrow morning a prayer for her family and her daughter.

And I'm still numb and shocked. I'm here in Beverly Hills. I know a lot of the pre-Grammy festivities going on and people are just walking around in a stupor. But I would hope that we remember the gifts she had and what she shared with so many and that we all pause in prayer for her daughter and her family, her mom and so many, because God gave Whitney a voice that she shared with the world. And I would hope that all the negative press and the battering would take a pause and remember this great talent that really brought music to another level.

LEMON: Hey, Reverend, you know what I have to say, it's just, it's odd. Do you remember you and I back in 2009 during Michael Jackson when you became the representative of the Jackson family and you text -- you called me and you said, Don, I know it all, what do you need, what information do you need?

And then now we are here almost three years later talking about Whitney Houston, another death, another celebrity that -- who you knew personally as you knew Michael Jackson and his family.

SHARPTON: Yes. And I -- you're right. I was there, I knew Michael very well but Whitney I think -- I mean, Whitney was the diva that brought music to a whole other level. And then she transitioned and did acting well. She was a beautiful person. She was one of the most beautiful women you would see. She was one that didn't need make-up to look beautiful.

LEMON: Right.

SHARPTON: And her talent is what we ought to remember and her sense of real, real excellence in music. She could sing with the best and outsing them. She was just an excellent person in her artistry. And yes, she had trials, yes, she had struggled, but I hope we remember not what the scandal writers would write. I hope we remember this beautiful person that came out of a stable, gospel background, and was able to become the queen of pop and did it like no one else. There will never be another Whitney Houston, not like Whitney was.

LEMON: Here's the thing, Reverend. We all have issues. It just that most people's don't end up being the -- being front page news.

SHARPTON: All of us have had battles in life. All of us have had issues to overcome. Because of who she was they were front page. And I think that we should look at the ups and downs in her life and think of the ups and downs in our life and realize that she never gave up and she would always try to turn a tragedy into triumph. And as we face this hour numb, we ought to seek the best.

I remember one of her last hits that she sang was, "I Look to You."

LEMON: Yes.

SHARPTON: And all I could think of tonight is Whitney singing that song, "I Look to You," and I believe that at this point that's what we'll be doing here tomorrow and tonight, looking to God to make sense out of the loss of this great songsters, a song bird if there ever was one.

LEMON: Yes.

SHARPTON: As Whitney Houston. LEMON: Hey, Reverend, as I said to you, and I said to all of the Jackson family, to La Toya, every time I get to speak to Jermaine, when -- something like this happens, when Michael died I think about the mother, Katherine, who just happens to be my mother's name, Katherine. And now that Whitney has passed, I'm thinking about her mother Sissy. Can you imagine Sissy Houston? I don't -- I doubt that you've had a moment to reach out to her but our thoughts and prayers are with Sissy Houston.

(CROSSTALK)

SHARPTON: Well, our prayers must be with Sissy. I'm reaching out to her now. And through it all Sissy Houston had communities praying for Whitney and she saw her daughter struggle like a lot of children that face challenges in life. And at this hour my heart certainly goes out to her and her daughter and her family and Dionne Warwick. She was just a person that (INAUDIBLE) our heart and I hope that would be remembered by her and the whole industry, remember one who did so much and did so much in such a great way.

LEMON: And since we have the reverend on and let the church say, as they say, amen, Reverend. Thank you, Reverend Al Sharpton. We appreciate it.

SHARPTON: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: More celebrity reaction pouring in, more right after the break, on the death of Whitney Houston at the age of 48.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN BREAKING NEWS.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Whitney Houston passed away.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She did?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What? You're kidding me?

ROTH: No. Just happened.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, that is extraordinarily sad.

ROTH: News just broke. It's not-so good news. Whitney Houston has died.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my god. Are you serious?

ROTH: Any reactions or remembrances of her work?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My god. This is ridiculous. Oh my god. Yes, I mean, I'm a huge fan, obviously. She's made her mark on music. But that's just really discerning. Wow.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What a shame. Whitney Houston passed away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. We're in shock. Totally.

ROTH: Any particular remembrances or favorite songs or anything that you --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When she was in the movie with Kevin Costner, that was great.

ROTH: That's what people seem to be remembering the most, "The Bodyguard."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. "The Bodyguard." What a shame.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I will always remember her performance of the national anthem the year after 9/11. I mean it made the radio, it was so good. So that was awesome.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I remember the '80s songs like, you know, "Want to Dance with Somebody," when she married Bobby Brown, had that reality show.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. She's an icon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Well, if anybody could turn the national anthem into a hit that they played on the radio, as you heard one of the viewers there say, one of the people in that interview, it was Whitney Houston.

And we have gotten word now from the Beverly Hills Police Department that Whitney Houston is dead at the age of 48. There you see, 1963 to 2012. Of course she is a native of Newark, New Jersey. The mayor, Cory Booker, sending out a statement tonight. Also celebrities are -- reaction are pouring in.

Whitney Houston was really -- when we song bird, a songstress, I mean her voice really went beyond that. She was the first black person on the cover of "Seventeen" magazine. Imagine that. And she did movies, and she sang. And she became famous for many things.

I wanted to -- Chaka Khan is saying, "I'm speechless tonight." Our Jacqui Jeras has some tweets as well but -- but I want to -- all right, stand by. I'm getting information from my producers. Sorry to change thoughts like that. But I want to go to Nischelle Turner who's an entertainment producer. We'll get celebrity reaction right after that.

Nischelle, what do you have? The information on the Grammys tomorrow night, I'm hearing? Nischelle?

OK, when you guys get Nischelle, let me know. I'll continue on.

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Don, can you hear me? LEMON: Yes. Go ahead, Nischelle.

TURNER: I'm sorry about that.

LEMON: You're getting information about the Grammys tomorrow night? What do you know?

TURNER: Yes, I do spoke with Jimmy Jam, who is chairman emeritus of the Recording Academy. And what he told me is that he believes the show will change drastically tonight. I know he was waiting to hear from Ken Ehrlich who is producing the show. But he said that there will be Whitney tributes, there will be major changes to the show.

He said if he could think like Ken, and what he probably believes will happen is that there will be a tribute possibly involving Jennifer Hudson. Jennifer is here. She was doing some things with the Recording Academy. She has said that her biggest thrill was receiving her Grammy from Whitney who she looked up to immensely as not only a singer but, you know, as a person. And so he believes that that could a change to the Grammys tomorrow. We could see Jennifer Hudson doing some sort of tribute to Whitney Houston.

LEMON: Now, Nischelle, you know, we were -- Beverly Hills Police came on live, press conference here on CNN a short while ago, and sad Whitney Houston was found on the fourth floor on a hotel room at f the Beverly Hilton Hotel, 3:55 Pacific Time, she was pronounced dead. You're at the Beverly Hilton. What is the reaction there? Paint scene for us.

TURNER: Well, you know, it's a little bit of a mad house here right now because there's such a heavy media presence. There's a heavy, you know, event presence. But then you can tell, Don, that there are just a lot of fans here. It seems that there are people that are just coming who are interested to see what exactly is going on, what happened, and to kind of see what they can see for lack of a better word.

You know the event hasn't yet officially kicked off but there are a lot of people milling around. I've been here about 15 minutes trying to get a feel of what's going on. The security is very tight, I will say that. They're being, you know, really stringent with who they let inside the hotel, when they let you in, where you can go. So it's pretty locked down here. But the event will be going on as planned.

Now will they change the -- will Clive Davis change his event at any point in time as they go forward remains to be seen but it still will go on tonight.

LEMON: And this is a Clive Davis party that's held annually before the Grammy each year, correct?

TURNER: Yes. Yes. And, you know, scheduled to perform tonight, Brandi and Monica were scheduled to perform. They have a new song that's coming out there collaborating again. And every year Clive has a lot of performances. They -- some of the people that's scheduled to perform that we spoke with earlier this week, and they were talking about how excited they were for this event.

It's kind of the big event right before the Grammys. I mean the Clive Davis party is the who's who of the music industry before the Grammys. So it will be very interesting to see who comes tonight, what their reaction is and, you know, what they have to say about this just immense tragedy that we've heard with Whitney Houston's passing.

LEMON: Nischelle, stand by. Nischelle Turner, CNN entertainment correspondent, at the Beverly Hilton where Whitney Houston dies. Stand by, Nischelle.

I want to -- there's some reaction coming in, and I'm going to get to our Jacqui Jeras who is getting some celebrity reaction but these are coming in to my mailbox. This one is from Christina Aguilera. It says -- this is from her Twitter account, she says, "I have lost another -- we have lost another legend. Love and prayers to Whitney's family. She will be missed."

Dolly Parton, of course, "I Will Always Love You" is a Dolly Parton song, and Whitney Houston did the remake, made it her own. Dolly says, "Mine is only one of the millions of hearts broken over the death of Whitney Houston. I will always be grateful and in awe of the wonderful performance she did on my song, and I can truly say from the bottom of my heart, Whitney, I will always love you, you will be missed," signed Dolly Parton.

One more before I get to Jacqui. Mariah Carey tweeting in tonight, responding, and Mariah says, "I am so sad." Let me make sure this is the right now. I have the wrong one up. But again, Mariah Carey also -- here she is, she says, she says, "Heartbroken and in tears over the shocking death of my friend, the incomparable Miss Whitney Houston. My heartfelt condolences to Whitney's family and to all of her millions of fans throughout the world. She will never be forgotten and is one of the greatest voices to ever grace the earth."

That is from Mariah Carey. And again, pardon me, I'm reading this, this is just coming in. Some of it I'm reading very small type there off my BlackBerry. This one is coming from the Recording Academy. The Recording Academy is saying here, "Six-time Grammy winner Whitney Houston was one of the word's greatest pop singers of all time who leaves behind a robust musical soundtrack spanning the past three decades. Her powerful voice graced many memorable and award-winning songs. A light has been dimmed in our music community today and we extend our deepest condolences to her family, friends, fans, and all who have been touched by her beautiful voice."

And that is from Neil Portnow, the president and CEO of the Recording Academy.

Jacqui Jeras, more celebrity reaction streaming in. Twitter is -- my Twitter stream is going crazy and --

JACQUI JERAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

LEMON: And Whitney Houston is trending on Twitter world wide now. JERAS: Yes, it is. I think several of the top trend hash tags are related to Whitney Houston. The number one right now is hash tag, RIP, Whitney Houston. The outpouring is incredible, from celebrities, from the public, it seems everyone has a story and feel so saddened by this tragic loss.

Gloria Estefan here tweeting that, "Whitney Houston always so sweet to me, was rooting for her through her struggles. Such a shame, I'm truly saddened by this news."

Ricky Martin tweets, "RIP Whitney Houston, sending my love and deepest condolences to her family and friends, fly, Whitney, fly."

Bret Michaels, "My thoughts and prayers and condolences to her family at this sad time." Chilli from the music group, TLC, "I can't believe this news about Whitney Houston. I am so upset. I loved her very much and I'll never forget her. Another angel gone too soon."

L.A. Reid, the music producer,. "I'm completely devastated by the loss of the greatest voice of all time. RIP, Whitney Houston. I will always love you." And Toni Braxton, we know from the '80s, too, "She's paved the way for every single singer in the music industry, iconic, legendary, innovating, amazing, humble. One of the best in the world."

And Mariah Carey, you mentioned that one, Don, she had several tweets tonight. The one I had up there, "She will never be forgotten as one of the greatest voices to ever grace the earth."

So celebrities are talking. We're all talking about it here at CNN. You might grow up on Whitney Houston. She had one of those amazing voices.

I remember, Don, I'd crank up the music to her in my car and I sing of course when nobody else was around because nobody could touch that voice.

LEMON: Yes. It's -- talent. Talent is always appreciated, Jacqui. And as I was saying to Larry King, it's interesting when, you know, people now you need auto tune and a whole host of computers, and everything.

JERAS: Yes.

LEMON: Anybody can pretty much, if you have the right people behind you, have a music career. But not everybody has talent like Whitney Houston.

JERAS: No.

LEMON: She needed none of that. An amazing voice.

So, listen, I want to say, Jacqui, as you've been reading the responses from Twitter there, out of 10 -- out of the 10 trending topics on Twitter right now, Whitney Houston, eight of them. Eight of them. So there -- we have responses coming in, Bruno Mars, Jessica Simpson, NeNe Leakes, Paris Hilton, Ricky Martin, as you said, Melanie Griffith. One, you mentioned Chilli. Chilli who lives in Atlanta, and as a friend says, "I am a mess right now. I knew her. We TLC knew her. I loved her. This takes me back to a sad place with Lisa. So sad."

The death of Whitney Houston, we're going to be back in a moment. Do we have that music queued up for Whitney? "I Will Always Love You."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN BREAKING NEWS.

LEMON: Don Lemon here at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta. CNN has confirmed that entertainer Whitney Houston has died at the age of 48. Beverly Hills Police confirming that a short time ago in a press conference live here on CNN. Whitney Houston was found unresponsive at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, pronounced dead at 3:55 p.m. according to Beverly Hills Police Lieutenant Mark Rosen.

She was identified by friends, family and co-workers as being Whitney Houston. That police lieutenant said he got a call, they got an emergency call, a 911 call around 3:23 into the Beverly Hills Police Department. When they arrived two to three minutes later, there were members of the fire department, hotel staff, emergency workers working on the person in that fourth floor room.

That person never regained consciousness. They said there was no sign of any criminal intent, and at this point, there is no word on the cause of death of Whitney Houston.

CNN's Piers Morgan live for us now live in Los Angeles.

Piers, what a sad evening. What a sad story to have to report to our viewers.

PIERS MORGAN, HOST, "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT": It's absolutely shocking, Don. I was due to go to the big Clive Davis pre-Grammys party tonight. I talked to him on my show last night. He was the great mentor who discovered Whitney Houston. And we were talking about her possibly having the greatest voice of them all. And I know he was excited about the thought of Whitney being at the party.

She was possibly going to perform apparently. She went to an event last night and was singing there, is what I'm hearing. I'm told the party is going ahead tonight. It will obviously be now more like sort of a memoriam to Whitney. But I think on the phone now I have Simon Cowell, who has worked with Whitney Houston in recent years on "X Factor" and "American Idol."

And Simon, are you there?

SIMON COWELL, "X FACTOR": Yes, I'm here, Piers. How are you?

MORGAN: Simon, obviously I know you're back in Britain. This is a tragic, a tragic turn of events.

COWELL: It's just -- you know what, this is going to be one of these times, Piers, where you're going to remember where you were when you heard the news, it's that significant. I mean my -- I must have had 100 text messages already.

I am absolutely devastated by this news. I'm so sad for her. She was, I mean, undoubtedly one of the greatest superstars of all time. One of the greatest voices, you know, in our lifetime we're likely ever to hear. And to hear this news, it's really, really upset me. It really has.

MORGAN: Simon, where do you think Whitney Houston will rank? Tony Bennett come out tonight, he's tweeted that for him, she was the greatest singer that he'd ever heard. What do you think?

COWELL: You know I always looked at Whitney and Mariah, you know, they had this sort of fantastic rivalry, you know, but massive respect for each other. But you know, for me, Whitney, Mariah -- Whitney, you know, ever since I've been doing this job, particularly doing, you know, talent shows, you know, over the last 10 years, that the number one singer anyone wanted to emulate, if they really wanted to be a superstar, it was always Whitney. We would hear Whitney songs over and over again. And she was the benchmark, she truly was.

MORGAN: When you know about her stories, Simon, and you know, you've known the stories of many pop singers over the years, the ups and downs they suffer, but Whitney's descent into drugs and into self- abuse and so on was particularly sharp. And I know that you knew her well. What did you make of what happened to her? Because that's the real tragedy here, isn't it?

COWELL: The last time I met her was about three years ago when she came on the "X Factor" in London to sing a track from her new album. I mean there was more excitement about Whitney performing than any other artist we've ever had before. She was charming. She was fun.

You know, you could tell even on that night that there was certain issues. But she was professional. The crowd went crazy. I spoke to her before and after and like I said, I mean there were always reports of her behavior, but you know, that's what we loved about her, about the fact that she was a diva. But I have to tell you that night she was gracious, she was charming. She delivered the performance and, you know, you heard, you know, at times during that performance just what a brilliant, brilliant singer she is.

But you know she was more than that.

MORGAN: I mean --

COWELL: She is -- was a legend. You know? And you know these people don't come along very often, Piers.

MORGAN: Well, they don't. I mean we lost Michael Jackson recently. He was the king of pop. Many are saying tonight Whitney Houston was the queen of pop. She's been taken at 48 years old. I mean it's a desperately young age. It seems wrong to say it's a waste of her life because she had such an extraordinary life, but 48 is just no age for a woman of this incredible ability to die, is it?

COWELL: Absolutely not. I always got the impression, I know that she went through some really, really hard times, and I think she came out publicly and spoke about them. But you always had the feeling and the hope that one day she was going to pull it together and she was going to come back on top, because any TV show across the world, you know, would drop anything to book Whitney Houston. She was the ultimate booking.

And you know, I'm watching the news now and I know there's a lot of speculation about what happened, why it happened, that it's important to know that.