November 15, 1984: Before Whitney Was Famous…

Back in the day, one of the guys I assisted quite a bit was Tony Costa, an L.A.-based celebrity photographer who was always coming to New York to shoot for People Magazine. He called me up and said we were gonna be shooting Cissy Houston’s daughter who was getting a lot of notices because she had been recording with Jermaine Jackson. It wasn’t a big deal shoot…just a quick couple of rolls of B&W on seamless in a cheapie midtown rental studio for a one-paragraph mention in the magazine…and then Whitney showed up with a couple of dresses she borrowed for the shoot. No entourage, not even a hair and makeup artist…just a shy 21 year-old girl who was terrified cuz she was gonna be in People magazine. Tony and I were floored! Then she tells us she’s got an album coming out soon and she was signed by Wilhelmina to model and suddenly our quickie shoot had me running out to buy more film cuz we ran out after ten minutes!

And today it’s all so damned sad.


12 thoughts on “November 15, 1984: Before Whitney Was Famous…

  1. Amazing bit of history and truly a sad outcome.

    Just wondering though Brad, did they make glassess any bigger than that ?

  2. Hi Brad.

    It is so sad.

    I forwarded your link to PEOPLE Edit, and to LIFE Books, knowing that they are knee deep in Whitney commemoratives

    Thanks, Bill. I looked at People’s website, and while they have all of the articles archived, they don’t include the photographs for everything. Still…this was the text from the story, December 24, 1984 Vol. 22 No. 27:

    “…Although Whitney Houston’s mother is gospel great Cissy Houston, and pop diva Dionne Warwick her cousin, the 21-year-old singer is now in a position to succeed or fail on her own. Whitney, who began singing backup for her mother at 12 and working part-time as a model when she was 17, was signed by Arista Records last year. That quickly led to two duets with labelmate Jermaine Jackson on his recently released LP, as well as background vocals for hot New York funk artist Kashif. Both gentlemen returned the favor by contributing vocals and production help to her debut LP, Whitney Houston, due in February. A blend of R&B and pop, it may spell the end of her modeling days with the notable Wilhelmina agency. “I like modeling,” says Houston. “But singing was in my blood. There was no way to escape that.” …..”


  3. Thanks for sharing this sweet story, Brad. Our lives are touched in the most unexpected ways, just a moment in time.

  4. wow, touching. and amazing that you kept that little diary for so long.
    then, a gig for theo westenberger – she was a great talent too, or at least i thought so. her work was everywhere… and then off to mexico with al sattewhite, also a prodigious photog. you come by your mad skilz honestly, you trained in the trenches.

  5. The people we get to meet and these types of once in a life time experiences is one of the reasons I think most of us can’t see ourselves doing anything other than photography. Great story, and another reason why we love Polaroids.

  6. Nice to read something about Tony. I was Tony’s assistant in L.A. for 2 or 3 years, 1980 -’82/’83. I have nothing but fun and fond memories of working with Tony. About a year, maybe 2 years ago I learned (maybe it was you who I spoke to?), that Tony had passed away from cancer. I recall the day he came out into the living room, West Hollywood apartment, complaining about a small sore inside his lip… . It was cancer. I thought he had taken care of it and all was well. Nice read your post.

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