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By SHARON FINK

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 15, 2001


HOW RUMORS START: Whitney Houston's problems this month started almost a week before Thursday's gossip that she had died from a drug overdose.

HOW RUMORS START: Whitney Houston's problems this month started almost a week before Thursday's gossip that she had died from a drug overdose.

The singer is so thin, the audience gasped when she took the stage to sing Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' at the Sept. 7 Michael Jackson anniversary concert. She then backed out of Monday's concert.

Houston looked so ill, speculation about her health abounded. The New York Daily News, citing sources it didn't identify, said she has a drug problem and refuses to do anything about it. The New York Post says MTV believes she is close enough to death that it has a life retrospective ready to go.

Houston's spokeswoman,Nancy Seltzer, wouldn't comment to the paper on the drug report. "Whitney has been under stress due to family matters, and when she is under stress, she doesn't eat," Seltzer said.

SOME OF IT CAN KEEP: This is what Janet Jackson requested for her dressing room at the Ice Palace:

Two 1.5-liter bottles of water (room temperature)

Two 1.5-liter bottles of water (chilled)

One pack of pink bubble gum

Two cans diet root beer (room temperature)

Two cans diet orange soda (no temperature specified)

One large bowl of fresh, washed strawberries

One large bowl non-fat sour cream

One $75 flower arrangement, including white flowers, tulips, roses, gardenias and lillies.

Whether some lackey had to compile a complete set for each of the two postponed concerts this week we don't know.

Jackson is due back at the Ice Palace on Oct. 26.

WE WANT CALVIN: Among the lower-tier designers who got to put on a show before New York fashion week was canceled was Ilona Rich, whose primary designing qualification seems to be money. She's the daughter of billionaire fugitive/Clinton Pardongate poster boyMarc Rich and his ex-wife, Democratic big-bucks contributorDenise.

Illona presented her collection in Denise's Fifth Avenue penthouse. The New York Daily News called her offerings "fresh and exuberant." Based on what was shown on TV, it looked like she randomly raided a thrift store.

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