For the past year, author Derrick Handspike spent countless hours with R&B’s original bad boy to pen the book “Bobby Brown: The Truth, The Whole Truth and Nothing But….” However, when controversial comments made by Brown about his ex-wife, Whitney Houston, were leaked, the former New Edition member abruptly backed out of the project. Handspike, the CEO of Down South Entertainment Empire and EntertainmentRWe.com, a networking site for entertainment industry professionals and co-owner of the film and record company Xtra Point, put business over friendship to complete the tell-all without him. Although the two haven’t spoken in several months, the Atlanta resident still plans to share a percentage of his profits with the crooner. ESSENCE.com caught up with the Handspike, to discuss Houston’s influence over Brown, why he never had more than a handshake agreement with Brown, and whether or not the R&B singer’s disappearing act ruined their friendship.
Editor’s Note: Calls and e-mails to Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston’s representatives were not returned.
ESSSENCE.COM: How long have you and Bobby known each other?
DERRICK HANDSPIKE: I’ve known Bobby since 1990, when he first came to Atlanta. I met him through his sister. We had been friends since he pretty much came to Atlanta.
ESSSENCE.COM: How did the book come about?
HANDSPIKE: I brought the idea to him because I had written the Andre Rison/Left Eye story. (“Power of Love: The Andre Rison Story That Remembers the Late Lisa “Left-Eye” Lopes” is due out in spring 2009.) He kind of got wind. I heard he was interested probably in doing the book. I stepped to him and told him what I did with the Andre Rison story. I flew out to L.A. and met with him and showed him everything I did. I let him and his brother Tommy read it over. At that point, they were like, man, let’s make it happen.
ESSSENCE.COM: How much time did you spend with Bobby?
HANDSPIKE: We started writing a month after the divorce; I think it was May [April 24, 2007] when the divorce was finalized. I flew out to L.A. and I flew back maybe like three weeks later and we started putting it together. We were down in the Valley at this restaurant and the guy kind of like gave us the back room. Me, him and my assistant went back there and we chatted it up about three hours straight the first time. Every time he came to Atlanta and I would go to L.A. [we’d meet]. He’d come to Atlanta and stay with me.
ESSSENCE.COM: Is it true that you and Bobby only had a handshake agreement and no legal written agreement?
HANDSPIKE: I’ve been known to do handshake deals. I’ve been in the industry for a while, and pretty much with people I consider friends, that’s how we always work. In the music business, we start on an album and nobody really has any paperwork done. We just kind of get started on the project, and once everything gets going, then we do the paperwork. I considered these people my friends. I would just do things like that. I definitely learned a valuable lesson. At this point, I’m still offering Bobby a percentage of the project from [the goodness of] my heart. I just had to move forward with the project.
ESSSENCE.COM: You had pre-sales of 100,000 copies or so, at $25.95 a copy, that’s a lot of money.
HANDSPIKE: That’s what I’m trying to tell you. It was a lot out there. Of course we don’t make the whole $25.95, because that money has to be split up with the wholesalers. There was still a lot of money on the table for him to be paddling around. I knew it had to be something bigger than what we were dealing with.
ESSSENCE.COM: How much do you think Bobby’s bailing on you had to do with the excerpts of the book that were leaked to the media?
HANDSPIKE: I know the story broke in the New York Post and it became a monster from there. There were a couple of people who had access to the manuscript. (Laughs.) Well, that’s when all the pieces of the puzzle, everything started falling apart. Bobby was never straightforward with me. Every time he was on the phone with me, he was like, “We’re going to work everything out. It’s going to be okay.” But when our attorneys got on the phone, his attorney would be saying something totally different to my attorney. It got political. It was like we got out of the way and let them handle everything. It got messy after that point. The next thing you know Whitney got involved.
ESSENCE.COM: How so?
HANDSPIKE: I was starting to hear rumors. It was never anything that he told me, because he was never straightforward with me. When he was on the phone with me it was like, “Everything’s good.” When the attorneys get on the phone it’s a whole other story. We could never get anything worked out. One release date came and we missed that because we never could finalize an agreement. And then another release date came and we missed that. At that point it was almost like, Wow, what’s going on? I put in a final call to him because I got tired of all the attorneys wrestling back and forth. I picked up the phone and called him and told him, “What are we going to do? At this point I’ve been working hard and you know everything I’ve put into this.” He was like, “We’re going to get everything finalized tomorrow. Let’s all get on the phone and work it out.” The next day we all got on the phone and came up to a semi-agreement. Once again, we got off the phone and it all fell apart again. They were doing everything not to get the deal done. I was really pretty much agreeing to all of the terms that they were bringing to us. They were just procrastinating. It became obvious that something else was going on. Actually, me and my attorney got tired of wrestling with the whole situation. We sat down and just came up with a way where we could move forward with the project and still make the project happen without having to keep wrestling.
ESSSENCE.COM: At that point, did you have to interview other people or were all of the interviews done?
HANDSPIKE: Well, no actually. I just revised the book. It’s still everything that Bobby said; it’s still everything that I wrote and that he and I collaborated on, but it’s just been revised. Everything had been said and done so there was nothing else to say.
ESSSENCE.COM: Do you think Whitney forced Bobby to back out?
HANDSPIKE: In my own personal opinion, absolutely. From where we were, you’ve got to understand what happened when the story broke. We had wrote what we thought was a great book. We both agreed. He read the manuscript after I completed everything. We were in love with the book. It wasn’t until the leak came out that it turned into a negative thing. Of course by Whitney not reading the actual manuscript, she doesn’t know what’s in the manuscript. All she knows is there’s a lot of negative publicity. She’s in the middle of making her comeback. At the very beginning, I was very upset to see how things were being put in the media because it’s a great book. He was very open at that time when we were creating the book. I felt like it was a great book that really expressed who he was and told everybody who he was. Of course the media is the media. I think that kind of frightened him. After the [leak] broke, he was thrown off a bit by the whole situation. He couldn’t really understand what was going on. In my opinion, Whitney definitely had a lot to do with it. We had a lot of money on the table. I couldn’t just see him turning around, walking away from the whole situation. We had preorders on the table and everything. How do you just walk away from that after we had already established and worked so hard? Hey, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out.
ESSSENCE.COM: Did you ever hear from anyone on Whitney’s side?
HANDSPIKE: Just Bobby’s side. I never heard from anybody on Whitney’s side. We all pretty much know the same people. I would hear certain little things. She wasn’t happy with the project, once again, because of the media. That’s all she could go by. She really wasn’t happy with the project. So I did know that. She has a real good influence over Bobby. She does have that.
ESSSENCE.COM: Do you think that Whitney was concerned about Bobbi Kristina and how the book might affect her?
HANDSPIKE: Absolutely. When Bobby would come into town, we would take Bobbi Kris to the mall and do things with her. He was excited about the book. The book was a great thing. Whitney knew about the book. She didn’t know what was in it but she knew we were working on the book. It wasn’t until the media broke that everything started to fall apart. It started looking like a scandal-type, tabloid-reading situation.
ESSSENCE.COM: Did Bobby ever tell you, man to man, that he wasn’t going to finish the book?
HANDSPIKE: Uh, the attorney did. It became a very political situation. I guess they said their goodbyes. There was no resistance whatsoever. It was like, “All right, bye.” At that point I had pretty much told Bobby I was going to keep it moving with the situation and I just had to do what I had to do. That was basically my last conversation with him personally. Outside of that, the lawyers, they talked and they said their goodbyes. We never heard back from them.
ESSSENCE.COM: Where do things stand with you and Bobby now?
HANDSPIKE: I haven’t spoken with Bobby since a few months back. My last conversation with him, it was a pretty decent conversation. We never left on bad terms. It was more so the attorneys. The attorneys said bye. The day before, I told him where my mind was and what my intentions were. He was telling me, “Hey, just got to get it worked out.” It was a whole bunch of jibber -jabber like he had said in the past. It got ridiculous. In a way it seemed like he didn’t want to let me down because he never was straightforward. If he would have came to me and said this is what is going on, whatever, anything. He knew the time, energy and money I had tied up in this project. How could you in the fourth quarter just drop the ball when everything is rolling? I don’t think he really could find the words to tell me what was really going on.
ESSSENCE.COM: Despite all the hoopla, how would you describe the book?
HANDSPIKE: I describe the book as a really open and honest book on Bobby’s life.