(South Orange, New Jersey) 72-year-old singing legend, Dionne Warwick—who filed for bankruptcy protection on March 21st—slammed the door of a Town Car on PIX 11, when we tried to ask her Tuesday about her recent Chapter 7 court filing, outside her South Orange Home.
Born in East Orange—and the winner of five Grammy Awards, in a career that spans more than five decades–Warwick was testy, when we approached her getting into the car, parked in the driveway outside her rental home. “I don’t want to say anything to anybody,” she retorted, before slamming the car door on PIX. Warwick is the cousin of the late pop sensation, Whitney Houston, who died of a cocaine-induced drowning last year in California. Warwick spoke at Houston’s New Jersey funeral in February 2012.
Warwick’s attorney, Daniel Stolz, filed the papers last Thursday at U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Newark, New Jersey. He told PIX 11 the Internal Revenue Service “was hounding her” for years. “She’s a very honorable person, a very philanthropic person, and she didn’t want to do this,” Stolz added. The papers indicate that Warwick’s tax liability to the IRS and the state of California was 10.7 million dollars. Stolz listed her assets as only $25,500. “She made over a million dollars in payments,” Stolz told PIX 11, “but that was only applied to penalties.”
Back in 2009, the IRS adjusted Warwick’s bill downward from $2.2 milliion dollars to 1 million. But the interest building up, since the 1980’s and 90’s, made the $1.3 million actually a drop in the bucket.
Warwick’s publicist, Kevin Sasaki, put out a statement saying the personal bankruptcy filing was due to “negligent and gross financial mismanagement” in the late 1980’s through the mid-90’s.
Her lawyer told Rolling Stone, “Ms. Warwick had a business manager who mismanaged her affairs. Before she knew it, she owed a gazillion dollars in taxes.”
Back in the 80’s, Warwick donated her personal proceeds from one of her biggest hits, “That’s What Friends Are For”, to assist in the fight against AIDS, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.
She burst onto the music scene in the 60’s, earning her first Grammy for the 1968 hit, “Do You Know the Way to San Jose.” Other hits included: “Walk on By”, “I Say a Little Prayer,” and “What’s It All About, Alfie?” Her collaboration with the late composer, Burt Bacharach, was hugely successful.
Warwick’s hired car service broke down in the driveway Tuesday, so PIX 11 tried to speak to the singer again, when an Escalade showed up to pick her up in South Orange. When I told her I wasn’t there to agitate her, she replied, “Well, you already have agitated me.” When I asked if she thought everything would work out, she did respond, “Yes, it will.”
Warwick’s attorney told PIX 11 Tuesday once the Chapter 7 filing goes through the courts, Warwick will be debt-free in several months.
A driver for a local pharmacy in South Orange was surprised to hear about the bankruptcy. “Coming from an urban community, and once you get your name out there and become famous, a lot of people look up to you,” Chris Powell said. “And the first thing they say, you know, when you don’t have money is: you messed it up.”
Warwick still performs three to five gigs a month, often at performing arts centers, and takes in about $20,000 a month in income.
One of her fans in the neighborhood, a fellow musician, said to PIX of the IRS troubles, “It’s unfair, first of all.” And then, he referred to Warwick’s distinguished career, adding, “ But I feel that what she has done can never be undone.”