Whitney Houston found dead in Los Angeles hotel

LOS ANGELES : Whitney Houston, who ruled as pop music's queen until her majestic voice and regal image were ravaged by drug use, erratic behavior and a tumultuous marriage to singer Bobby Brown, died Saturday. She was 48.

Beverly Hills police Lt. Mark Rosen told reporters outside the Beverly Hilton that Houston was pronounced dead at 3:55 p.m. in her room on the fourth floor of the hotel. Her body remained there and Beverly Hills detectives were investigating.

The muck-raking website TMZ reported that "No illegal drugs have been found in the hotel room where Whitney Houston died - at least not yet," but it said prescription drugs were present, and it's possible the singer drowned in the bathtub.

Houston performs in concert at Wembley Stadium in London May 5, 1988. (File photo by Reuters)

The website claimed that when medics arrived, Houston's body had already been removed from the bathtub, "so it will take an autopsy to determine if she OD'd, drowned or died from some other cause."

The Los Angeles Times reported that investigators were trying to determine whether she drowned while in a bathtub at the Beverly Hilton on Saturday shortly before she was set to attend a pre-Grammy Awards gala.

The paper said that investigators still have many unanswered questions, particularly about what Houston was doing in the hours before her death. Investigators are also interviewing family members and friends to determine whether Houston had any underlying medical conditions, a practice common in death investigations.

The Los Angeles County coroner's office is expected to perform an autopsy Sunday, but it's likely that a final cause of death will be deferred until toxicology test results come in. The source said drowning is one of several scenarios that investigators are examining as they gather evidence.

On Sunday morning in Los Angeles, the Beverly Hills Fire Department said it "responded to a medical emergency" involving Bobbi Kristina, Houston's 18-year-old daughter. She was taken to hospital, where sources said she was "hysterical, exhausted and inconsolable" over her mother's death.

Houston's body was removed from the hotel room on a gurney. It will undergo an autopsy to determine cause of death.

Houston's publicist, Kristen Foster, said Saturday that the cause of her death was unknown.

Houston's death came on the eve of music's biggest night - the Grammy Awards. It's a showcase where she once reigned, and her death was sure to cast a heavy pall on Sunday's ceremony.

Her longtime mentor Clive Davis was to hold his annual concert and dinner Saturday, and a representative of the show said it would proceed.

Houston was supposed to appear at the gala, and Davis had said that she would perhaps perform: "It's her favourite night of the year ... [so] who knows by the end of the evening," he said.

Grammy organisers rushed to change Monday morning's (Thailand time) program to honour the singer who sold hundreds of millions of records and enjoyed hits like "I will Always Love You" and "I Wanna Dance with Somebody."

Actress and singer Jennifer Hudson, who won an Oscar for her role in movie musical "Dreamgirls," will perform a medley of songs in tribute to Houston.

"We will do something appropriate tomorrow, and nothing could be more appropriate than having Jennifer Hudson sing on stage for Whitney," Neil Portnow, president of the Recording Academy that gives out the Grammys, said on Saturday night at a pre-Grammy party hosted by music producer Clive Davis.

The music industry's top stars from newcomers like Katy Perry, Rihanna and Adele to veterans such as Bruce Springsteen and the Beach Boys will be on hand at the Grammys to reflect upon and remember Houston's life and music.

Houston had been at rehearsals for the show Thursday, coaching singers Brandy and Monica, according to a person who was at the event but was not authorized to speak publicly about it. The person said Houston looked disheveled, was sweating profusely and liquor and cigarettes could be smelled on her breath.

Two days ago, she performed at a pre-Grammy party with singer Kelly Price.

Rosen said police received a 911 call from hotel security about Houston at 3:43 p.m. Saturday, and paramedics were already at the hotel because of a Grammy party. Paramedics unsuccessfully tried to resuscitate the singer, the lieutenant said.

At her peak, Houston was the golden girl of the music industry. From the middle 1980s to the late 1990s, she was one of the world’s best-selling artists. She wowed audiences with effortless, powerful and peerless vocals that were rooted in the black church but adapted with a pop sheen.