RED BANK: CELEBRATING CISSY AND WHITNEY

Singer and author Cissy Houston visits Two River Theater Sunday to chat with Gilda Rogers and sign copies of her memoir about her daughter, the late Whitney Houston.

By TOM CHESEK

“Any family has its ups and downs, and we all have people in our lives who struggle. This just happens to be about a family of very talented people, whose musical talent brought them everything.”

The family question is that of native Jerseyan Cissy Houston and her internationally famous daughter, the late Whitney Houston. The speaker is Gilda Rogers — author, activist, adjunct prof at Brookdale Community College, former faculty member at Red Bank Regional High School — and, for several seasons in Red Bank, the proprietor of a delightfully eclectic place called Frank Talk.

The intimately scaled “Art Bistro and Bookstore” on Shrewsbury Avenue hosted an expansive schedule of entertainments and activities that ranged from personal appearances by famous writers, live jazz sets and civic debates to pie-tastings, yoga classes, hair stylings and events in which Rogers invited one and all to share their favorite old record albums and dance. Since closing the storefront space two years ago this month, Rogers has kept the name and spirit alive via Frank Talk Multimedia Network, an umbrella brand for a typically wide-ranging slate of endeavors involving music, video, theater and motivational speaking.

As a Community Affairs liaison at Two River Theater since September 2011, Rogers has worked with the performing arts center’s creative team to bring several special events to the Bridge Avenue venue — including a salute to Red Bank’s fondly recalled “Johnny Jazz,” Ralph Gatta. And this Sunday afternoon — just two days after what would have been Whitney Houston’s 50th birthday — she’ll welcome Cissy Houston to the Rechnitz auditorium stage for an event keyed to the veteran singer’s memoir, Remembering Whitney.

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