A bank foreclosed on his
home over the summer — the property is slated for sheriff’s sale next
month. There’s also an outstanding car loan and a lawsuit by a former
But none of that has squelched a bitter battle over the famed singer’s will.
For months, Pendergrass’ second wife, whom he
married in 2008, has been quietly warring with his son over the
remnants of his estate. Each has produced conflicting wills —
purportedly approved by Pendergrass — that cut the other out.
Together, the documents and interviews suggest a portrait of a renowned R&B artist and
but left without an agreement. One of her attorneys said the dispute
was less about money than about the singer’s legacy. What that legacy
includes — and who deserves to control it — has divided the family.
“She was married to my dad for only a year, and she has turned my family upside down,” said Hollerway, a hospital technician in
“To say it’s a money grab is ludicrous — there’s just no money to fight about,” said her attorney
If the root of the dispute isn’t clear, the acrimony is. Three weeks ago, at the
“We simply don’t see eye-to-eye,” the younger
Pendergrass said last Friday. He declined to elaborate, except to say:
“What I do know is my father did what he intended to do — and that is,
put me in charge for the family.”
“She did not and does not understand why someone, anyone, would come
after her for any reason, knowing that she did everything on this earth
to take care of
That anyone would need to take care of
By decade’s end, Pendergrass had become a solo star
and worldwide sex symbol, selling millions of albums and drawing
thousands of swooning fans to his “Ladies Only” concerts. Fame brought
Then came the 1982 car crash that left him paralyzed below the neck.
Three years later, Pendergrass traded his estate for
the four-bedroom home. Though he kept making music, his appearances
dwindled. In 2006, he announced his retirement.
That year, Pendergrass, a divorce, began dating
“She was the best thing that ever happened to him, in terms of his spirit,” said
The couple married in 2008 at the
Theirs was a commuter marriage.
According to her court filings, she and Pendergrass executed a will in
Around the same time, they put the
That May, Pendergrass executed a new will, according to his son. It named Teddy II as executor and sole beneficiary.
Weeks later, doctors diagnosed the singer with colon
cancer. They removed the tumor, but the surgery took a toll on
Pendergrass’ already weak body, friends said. He spent most of his last
eight months in
By that time, the family divide was clear. There
were even two funeral receptions — an invitation-only event organized
by Joan, and a second hosted by his ex-wife, Karen. Pendergrass’
mother, Ida, 91, came to the latter,
Then came the wills.
Unknown to his son, Pendergrass and his wife amended their will last October to completely remove Teddy II from it. This time,
The changes did not sit well with the son.
In court filings,
intellect” and lacked the capacity to approve the changes. He also said
In the interview last Friday, the younger
Pendergrass, a financial adviser, said his father had never mentioned
the March document or any amendment to him. “I don’t believe that those
wills are valid,” he said.
Family friends have chosen camps. “I like Joan, but
I do not believe Teddy would cut his son or his daughters or his mother
totally out of the will,” said
The other side includes radio personality
who declined to discuss the feud, but bristled at the suggestion that
her old friend lacked the capacity to make decisions in his final days.
“I was there a lot — a whole lot,” she said. “Teddy was very lucid, very much of sound mind.”
when the couple executed the October amendment, but that he didn’t know
the details. The pastor said the singer was sharp-witted and conversant
that day — and on the day he died.
“He called for me three times that day, and I talked
to him” about funeral arrangements, Waller said in an interview. “He
did ask me to make sure I was going to be the one preaching the sermon.”
Another cousin agreed that Pendergrass was lucid, but said that he struggled to communicate.
“He talked, but you really could never understand because he had no voice,” said
Pendergrass didn’t write most of his songs, so
there’s not a lucrative royalty stream. A feature film might help
rekindle sales, but there’s no movie deal yet.
(c) 2010, The Philadelphia Inquirer.
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