30 years after Teddy Pendergrass became paralyzed from an accidental car crash, the passenger traveling with the late R&B singer is speaking out on what really happened.
In an interview that will air on “Oprah: Where Are They Now?” Tenika Watson, a nightclub performer and former prostitute, gives her account of the life changing incident as she detailed how she initially thought Pendergrass was a pimp when she first met him after he called her over to his car, a Rolls Royce.
It wasn’t until their second meeting that the pair finally conversed. Pendergrass would later offer a ride home to Watson, a transgender woman who also worked as a model at a popular club in Philadelphia.
“First, the car started speeding up really fast, and I was wondering, ‘Was he driving fast?’ — but he wasn’t. It was out of control,” Watson said of that fateful ride. “Then I noticed he was struggling with the wheel, and all of a sudden I heard this great big bang.”
“The next thing I know, the press was there,” she continued as the next few moments after the crash were blur.
Although the crash left Pendergrass paralyzed, Watson was relatively unhurt with only contusions and a chipped tooth. Watson rode in an ambulance with Pendergrass to the hospital, but didn’t stay long enough to learn the entertainer was paralyzed. She ended up discovering that fact when the newspapers reported it.
Watson’s efforts to touch base with Pendergrass soon after the accident were met with resistance from a woman who was already at the hospital.
“I went to the hospital where he was and there was a woman there. She said, ‘Well, you’re not going to see him before his son does,’ and she caused this big scene,” Watson revealed. “I just left.”
Watson’s past, which included multiple arrests for prostitution and the gender confirmation surgery she’d undergone five years prior, was made known two days after the accident.
“I don’t think Teddy knew about my transition at all,” Watson said.
Needless to say, the rumor mill burned up with talk of Watson and Pendergrass being intimate with each other at the time of the crash, something Watson says never happened.
“The hardest thing for me to read was for them to insinuate that there was a sex act going [on],” she says. “There wasn’t.”
Three decades would pass before Watson and Pendergrass saw each other for the first time since the accident in 2002. Pendergrass would ultimately die of colon cancer in 2010.
“Someone called me that knew Teddy’s mother and they said, ‘Tenika, you have to get here quick because Teddy’s mother wants to see you,’” she recalled. “So I got myself together and went to where his mother was. She said, ‘If you want to talk to Teddy his out in the car.’”
“We didn’t have much to say to each other it… But it was the closure that I needed,” she added. “I had been through a lot and I’m sure he had too. I was clean and sober, and I had me back. I had my strength back.”
“Oprah: Where Are They Now?” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on OWN. To see a clip of Watson’s interview, check out the video below:
(Mystery Passenger Details Pendergrass’ Paralyzing Car Accident )
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