Few people can sing like Whitney Houston. But next week, anyone with some spare cash can dress like the Grammy winner, right down to one of her black velvet bustiers, and croon into one of her microph

Few people can sing like Whitney Houston. But next week, anyone with some spare cash can dress like the Grammy winner, right down to one of her black velvet bustiers, and croon into one of her microphones.

Those items and more than 300 others from a 1999 world tour, including grand pianos, drum kits and a forklift, will be auctioned Jan. 9 in an effort to cover unpaid storage fees on the gear and clothing, said Jeffrey Campisi, a lawyer for Speed of Sound, a company that has been tending to the equipment.

The tour gear, which includes speakers, amplifiers and a vintage barber chair along with designer clothes, has been stored in Irvington, N.J., since the tour, Campisi said.

Speed of Sound went to court in May after not receiving payments from Houston's company, Nippy Inc., for a year. The company is now owed $175,000 to $200,000, Campisi said today. He couldn't estimate what the auction might bring, but said any excess money will go to Nippy.

In recent comments to newspapers, a Houston spokeswoman has said the auction is being held to dispose of outdated equipment and costumes that are no longer needed.

Houston, 43, a Newark native, is divorcing singer Bobby Brown after 14 stormy years of marriage. Some of his music awards will be on the same auction block. The home that Brown, 37, and Houston once shared in Alpharetta, Ga., near Atlanta, went into foreclosure and was sold at a court sale in November.

She avoided a sheriff's sale of her New Jersey mansion after falling more than $1 million behind on the mortgage and accumulating $83,000 in unpaid taxes. A deal has been reached on the mortgage and the taxes on the 10-acre Mendham estate have been paid, Morris County authorities said. Houston has been living in Los Angeles, working on a new studio album.

The auction will be at the Irvington warehouse, but gawkers beware: It will cost $100 to enter the building. Winning bidders must deposit at least 25 percent of the price immediately, with the balance due before 2 p.m. the next day. All payments must be in cash, certified funds, cashier's checks, money orders or business checks accompanied by an irrevocable bank letter of guarantee, according to the auctioneer, A.J. Willner Auctions.

Campisi said that despite spending years in storage, the equipment is in good condition. "It's been cleaned up and tested, and it's ready to go," he said.


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