"It's hard to think of an artist who had such an incredible instrument, not to mention beauty, which made her difficulties in recent years even harder to accept," Ehrlich said.
Ehrlich recalled one shaky night in New York when word of Houston's behavior leading up to the awards show spurred him to visit her dressing room at Madison Square Garden to gauge her ability to perform — and he marveled to find that she had already pulled herself together.
A fonder memory was, in the 1980s, watching Grammy director Walter Miller show the young singer how to walk down a set of "TV stairs" — the first ones she had ever navigated.
"She was like a young filly about to head out on the track for her first race, a race you knew she was not only going to win, but would set any number of records," Ehrlich said.
FULL COVERAGE: Whitney Houston | 1963-2012
Los Angeles Times staff writers John Hoeffel, Randy Lewis, Gerrick Kennedy and Andrew Blankstein contributed to this report.