NELL CARTER DIED BEFORE SHE COULD SAVE WHITNEY

Published on: January 30, 2003

"Gimme a Break" star Nell Carter died before she could see her most heartfelt dream come true -- saving Whitney Houston from the hell of drug and alcohol addiction.

After seeing Whitney's shocking TV interview with Diane Sawyer, a concerned Nell decided to help the troubled songbird get into the Hazelden rehabilitation clinic in Minnesota.

But the Emmy-winning actress -- who'd spoken publicly about her own battle with cocaine addiction -- was found dead in her Beverly Hills home before she could reach Whitney, despite several frantic phone calls to family and friends.

"Nell loved Whitney. Their friendship dates back nearly 20 years -- to when Whitney made a guest appearance on 'Gimme a Break' in 1984," said an insider close to both stars.

"She knew that Whitney had a problem with drugs, but she didn't realize its severity until the TV interview.

"Nell said, 'Whitney's crying out for help.'"

A close family friend added:

"After seeing Whitney on TV, Nell said, 'I'm going to call Whitney's family and see if they can at least get her on a plane. Then we can do the rest on our end.'

"Nell had a serious drug problem in the '80s and says Hazelden was wonderful for her. She felt they could really help Whitney too."

At the time of her death Nell was in rehearsals for a musical version of the movie "A Raisin in the Sun" called "Raisin."

Despite her hectic schedule, Nell -- who'd suffered a string of serious health problems, including a brain aneurysm and diabetes -- called showbiz friends and others who could help her contact Whitney's family, including her father and her cousin Dionne Warwick.

"Nell also left messages with Whitney's people and her record label, but she never heard back from anyone," added a family friend.

"She felt the main focus should be Whitney and her health.

"Nell told me, 'What are they going to say when that poor girl has a heart attack because she's done too much cocaine? Who will take responsibility for that?'"