Cash strapped Whitney sells pants and piano

Rarely in the long line of celebrities who have fallen on their luck can there have been anything quite so publicly humiliating as yesterday's sale of Whitney Houston's knickers.

Rarely in the long line of celebrities who have fallen on their luck can there have been anything quite so publicly humiliating as yesterday's sale of Whitney Houston's knickers.

The lot, auctioned off in New Jersey as part of a warehouse-full of musty clothes, instruments and touring stage sets, included hundreds of items bought from the chain store TJ Maxx. Andrea Peyser, of the New York Post, examined them before the sale and described them as "underthings you would not want to touch without preventive medication".

The sale, ordered by a local judge after the singer failed to pay up to $150,000 (£77,000) in storage fees, marked the nadir of a once promising career. Steeped in the gospel tradition and with a thoroughbred soul pedigree - her mother is Cissy Houston, her cousin Dionne Warwick, and godmother Aretha Franklin - she is one of the most successful artists ever, with more than 145m albums sold.

But a stormy 14-year marriage to the R&B singer Bobby Brown, and a slide into alleged alcoholism, drugs and eating disorders, have taken their toll. Public performances dwindled after several cancellations and peculiar displays on stage.

Then last year Houston almost lost her $5.6m New Jersey mansion because of debts after filing for divorce.

Yesterday's auction, where potential buyers had to carry at least $100 each in cash to enter, was forced by her failure to pay the storage company for keeping her belongings from tours dating back to 1994. The items ranged from the sublime - a see-through grand piano, 335 stage costumes and professional drum kits and sound equipment - to the ridiculous, including herbal teas and foot spray.


Ed Pilkington in New York

The GuardianTramp

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