Whitney Houston's death site added to Hollywood tour itinerary

February 13, 2012|By Christopher Reynolds | Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
  • Whitney Houston died Saturday afternoon at the Beverly Hilton hotel in Beverly Hills.
Whitney Houston died Saturday afternoon at the Beverly Hilton hotel in… (Michael Nelson / EPA )

Monday afternoon, not quite 48 hours after the discovery of her lifeless body in a bathtub at the Beverly Hilton hotel, Whitney Houston and her death site were added to the tour-bus itinerary of Dearly Departed, the Tragical History Tour.

“We didn’t add it yesterday because there was a lot of madness at the hotel,” said Scott Michaels, owner and founder of 7-year-old Dearly Departed. "But this is what we do. And it’s not far off our current route."

Michaels said the hotel, at 9876 Wilshire Blvd. in Beverly Hills, “is not far from Bugsy Siegel’s place. And Ronni Chasen was right there too.”

Siegel, a notorious gangster, was shot to death June 20, 1947, while reading the Los Angeles Times on a couch in the home at 810 Linden Drive, Beverly Hills.

Ronni Chasen, a veteran Hollywood publicist, was shot to death early Nov. 16, 2010, while driving near the intersection of Whittier Drive and Sunset Boulevard in Beverly Hills.

The Dearly Departed tour, a 2½-hour narrated bus ride that usually costs $40 per adult, was scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. Monday at the Hollywood & Highland center in Hollywood. There were six guests booked on the 13-seat bus, which was expected to pass the hotel without stopping at around 2:30 p.m., Michaels said.

The company runs one to five tours daily, depending on the demand, and blustery weather usually hurts business, Michaels noted.

Making the addition is simple, Michaels said: "We’ll be turning onto Wilshire Boulevard and the hotel will be on the left." Guide Richard Sebastian was expected to give the facts of Houston’s death, noting some of the questions that remain unanswered, like the toxicology report.

“When the 911 call becomes available, we’ll use that,” said Michaels. When people hear audio from such cases, it jars them into recognition "that these are genuine individuals."

Since the company started giving death-location tours in early 2005, Michaels said, the tour itinerary has constantly evolved, including recent additions of the death sites of Michael Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor.

Reckoning with such a fresh death "is not a nice situation," Michaels acknowledged. "To some people, there’s just no defending it.… But we’re not jumping on any bandwagon. This is what we do."

In fact, Michaels said, the company has never shied away from any death site for reasons of taste. In large part, he said, the decisions are made according to fame and geography.

"There is certainly a judgment call," said Michaels, recalling rapper Heavy D, who collapsed outside his Beverly Hills home in November 2011, and died soon after. "Heavy D was a block off the tour, and I didn’t go there."

Houston, 48, was known for her commanding voice and had a string of hits in the 1980s and 1990s, but in later years, her career was marred by addiction issues and tumultuous personal relationships. She was expected to attend a party before Sunday's Grammy Awards ceremony, but authorities found her unresponsive in her room’s bathtub at about 3:30 p.m. Saturday. The investigation of her death continues.

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