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I'm Your Baby Tonight

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Houston's Cool - Sales Are Hot hide



Whitney Houston has just come from a luncheon at her record company's headquarters, and she's ebullient at what she heard there.

"The man who sat next to me said 'I'm so-and-so from the sales department, and if you want to know about figures, just come to me,'" the 27-year-old singer says by telephone. "So I asked him how my single ('I'm Your Baby Tonight') was doing, and he told me it's almost gold (a million copies sold). I said, 'Are you serious?!' I mean, that's great, isn't it?"

Those are formidable sales for sure - piquing expectations for her just-released third album, also titled I'm Your Baby Tonight - but Houston shouldn't exactly be surprised. Consider her achievements since the performer, the daughter of Cissy Houston and cousin of Dionne Warwick, began releasing albums in 1985:

- A debut album, Whitney Houston, that's the best-selling debut record by a solo performer.

- A 1987 follow-up, Whitney, was only the fourth album by a solo artist - and the first by a female - to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard charts.

- Sales of 31 million records and a record-setting string of seven consecutive No. 1 singles, better than the Beatles, Elvis Presley or Michael Jackson.

Houston has become a denizen of pop's super-strata, picking up along the way a multimillion-dollar endorsement deal from Coca-Cola. Her sleek and suave image is on enough magazine covers to paper the walls of her 20,000-square-foot home in Mendham, N.J.

The ascent, however, has left Houston decidedly undizzy.

"I can honestly tell you that I'm comfortable with (stardom)," she says. "I've seen so many heavies who I consider to be real stars - such as my cousin and my mom and (family friends) Aretha (Franklin) and Diahann Carroll and Lena Horne, and they carry themselves in a manner you know goes along with this business.

"They deal with the ups, they deal with the downs, they deal with the criticisms ... and somehow you try to remain one person, one whole person who has a foundation and a goal. You don't get caught up in other things. You keep a focus and follow it."

But sometimes fame can have drawbacks. One has only had to look at supermarket tabloids or read gossip columns during the past few years to note a fixation on Houston's romantic life, which the singer keeps intensely guarded. Reports have alleged everything from homosexuality to clandestine affairs with other stars - including Eddie Murphy. Houston describes that relationship as a budding romance.

Of the other tales, Houston simply sighs and offers an unconvincing attempt to shrug off the frustration.

"The thing that hurts me most is that people automatically will assume that these are true. I'm tired of it now, tired of dignifying the dumbness with answers ... so I have learned to laugh with it."

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