Whitney Houston comes from a pretty talented gene pool, but for some reason she missed the funeral yesterday of her aunt, who was considered the matriarch and icon of the family.
Whitney was noticeably absent from the service for Lee Warrick, beloved mother of both superstar Dionne Warwick and her sister, the phenomenal singer Dee Dee Warwick (who did the original version of "You're No Good" long before either Betty Everett or Linda Ronstadt).
Lee — whose full name was Arthur Lee Drinkard Warrick — passed away last week, two months shy of her 85th birthday.
The Drinkard family is like a mini-R&B dynasty, consisting not only of Dionne, Dee Dee and Whitney, but also Whitney's mother, Cissy Houston, and Dionne's sons Damon Elliott — a hot, young record producer who's worked with Beyoncé, Mya, Pink and Jessica Simpson — and David Elliott, who wrote Luther Vandross' "Here and Now" and played Sam Cooke in the movie "Ali."
A scholarship at the Juilliard School of Music was created in Mrs. Warrick's name several years ago. Without her influence, there would have been a lot less great music in the world.
Nevertheless, Whitney was a no-show at New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, N.J., where her mother has been a deacon.
Whitney similarly missed her own father's funeral a couple of years ago. And two weeks ago, Whitney also stayed away from Vandross' funeral at Riverside Church in New York.
Cissy Houston was spine-tingling as she led a gospel choir at Vandross' funeral. But Whitney's absence that day did not go down too well, considering Vandross was one of the producer-writers who helped establish her career.
Lee Warrick was Cissy Houston's eldest sister and raised her when their mother died. Lee was also the leader of the family gospel group, called the Drinkards, and was an important member of New Hope Church since 1955.
Whitney may not have had made it, but her brothers Gary and Michael, along with the Elliotts, served as pallbearers. Plenty of other singers paid their respects to Lee Warrick as well, including Chuck Jackson and members of the Shirelles.
I am told Whitney may be keeping her distance from Cissy since the famed gospel and R&B star forced her daughter into rehab earlier this year.
The word is that it was Cissy who finally took a stand about Whitney's self-confessed drug habit. The result was the removal of Whitney and hubby Bobby Brown's daughter, Bobbi Kristina, from the couple's custody until Whitney sought serious help.
More recently, Whitney's been seen in Bobby Brown's, shall we say, eccentric and not particularly likeable reality TV show.
It hasn't been an easy month for Dionne, whom I just spoke with at Vandross' funeral. Nevertheless, next Tuesday she's due to perform at BB King's in New York, a rare show indeed, and one that is highly anticipated.
I have no doubt that Dionne will dedicate the show to her mother's sterling memory.
Get ready for a unique tie-in between a TV star and a product.
Lorraine Bracco, who plays Dr. Melfi on "The Sopranos," is getting her own wine.
Bracco Estates is the name of an Italian vintage that will have its debut in October. Made in Tuscany, Bracco Estates will offer at the very least a tasty Brunello.
More details will follow this fall, after Lorraine gets back from meeting the owners of the winery where Bracco Estates will be bottled.
Bracco told me on Sunday at the premiere of Curtis Hanson 's new movie, "In Her Shoes" — which she attended with her brother Sal, family friends and sports equipment guru Jeffrey Modell — that she's in the middle of filming episode six of the new "Sopranos" season.
But no one's mentioned the possibility of a seventh season yet, even though this column reported some months ago that there have been recent rumblings from creator David Chase.
"From your lips to God's ear," Bracco said. "No one wants it to end."
Chase is probably in that category himself. According to the New York Post, he just signed a lease on an $18,000-a-month apartment on the Upper West Side.
He also owns a home in the south of France. I'm told some incentive for a seventh season might be private plane rides back and forth from New York.
Sounds worth it to me.
What a summer: Brad Pitt appears to have left his wife, TV star Jennifer Aniston, for Angelina Jolie. Jude Law cheated on fiancée Sienna Miller with his nanny. Colin Farrell is the star of a sex tape. Tom Cruise claimed to fall in love at first sight. Josh Hartnett hooked up with Scarlett Johansson.
All of a sudden, Hollywood's leading men are on the move. It's a supermarket tabloid's wildest dream come true.
Of them all, I am most surprised by Law. After all, it was only on July 2 that I ran into Jude and Sienna partying late at night at the new private Grill on Regent St. in London. The pair was very much together, dancing up a storm and hanging out with their pal Dominic West and his girlfriend.
Apparently, Sienna had no idea what was about to happen. But the owner of the Grill told me that the couple came in often and particularly liked to dress up for a regular '30s night at the club in formal wear of the period. Go figure.
Now it turns out that Jude's affair with the nanny happened in March, while he was filming "All the King's Men" in New Orleans.
But when this column reported seeing Sienna in Los Angeles during Oscar week, she was on her way down to New Orleans to visit Law on the set.
Only a few months earlier, she had surprised him in New York, flying in from the Venice set of "Casanova" when Law hosted "Saturday Night Live."
Of course, it cannot be easy being Law. He's in his early 30s, divorced and seemingly desired by every woman around.
And yet, his scandal is so typically British. The nanny kept a diary, of course. Nearly every sex scandal in the U.K. involves a diary that's revealed in the press. Even the most illiterate paramour knows enough to jot the whole adventure down and date the pages for future reference.
Lucky for Brad, Americans aren't much for journal-keeping.