When record companies throw ”listening parties” to promote new releases, the disc being feted usually spins in the background, obscured by the hubbub of schmoozing. That arrangement works just fine, because anyone interested in a closer audition can always check out the album later at home. Arista Records, however, thought Whitney Houston’s new album demanded a much more elaborate debut. So when 200 guests filled the Grand Ballroom of New York’s Regency Hotel on Oct. 18 to celebrate the new release, they were unexpectedly seated in folding chairs and actually forced to listen to the extra-important new platter track by track.
Arista President Clive Davis insisted there be no conversation while the record played, and he introduced each song with a string of superlatives, as if he were unveiling ten hitherto unknown commandments. While everyone else had to remain obediently seated, Davis alone was able to ”get into it” by swaying, grinning, and clapping his hands to the funky beat. The ovation that followed might almost have been part of the script: Even as the partygoers stood to applaud, their feet were pointing toward the open bar.