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Caresse Henry, one of America’s leading entertainment managers, died aged 44 on March 31st, 2010. Her body was found in Irvine, California, where she lived. According to the Orange County Coroner’s office, Ms Henry died of a self-inflicted gunshot. However, ‘despite rumours to the contrary, the cause of death has not been determined and is currently under investigation,’ as Liz Rosenberg, publicist to Caresse Henry’s former client, Madonna, confirmed in a statement to CNN on April 2nd.

From 1991-2004, Caresse Henry worked for Madonna, initially as a secretary and personal assistant, later replacing Freddy DeMann as the star’s sole manager. Their partnership covered the most critically acclaimed phase of Madonna’s career, including her Golden Globe-winning performance in Evita (1996) and the 1998 album, Ray of Light, which garnered four Grammy awards.

Caresse in Germany with Madonna and Tom Jones, 1995

One of Ms Henry’s subsequent clients, Ricky Martin, recorded a duet with Madonna, Be Careful, for his self-entitled 1999 album. Though intended as a single, Madonna was unavailable at the time to film a promotional video but spoke often of her fondness for Martin.

Little is known publically of Caresse Henry’s personal relationship with Madonna, though it appeared to have soured by the mid-2000s. In 2001, Henry was credited as artistic manager and executive producer on the TV special, Madonna: Drowned World Tour. Caresse can also be glimpsed in footage from behind the scenes of Madonna’s 2002 video for ‘Die Another Day’.

Madonnas daughter Lourdes (left) and Honour Norman, 2003

During Madonna’s iconic performance with Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Missy Elliott at the MTV Awards in 2003, Caresse’s daughter, Honour Norman, joined Madonna’s daughter Lourdes onstage as ‘bridesmaids.’ Caresse also appears in the documentary I’m Going to Tell You a Secret, filmed during 2004’s Reinvention tour.

Caresse with Guy Ritchie and Michael Moore

In her 2007 biography, Madonna: Like an Icon, author Lucy O’Brien speculated that during this period, Madonna ‘hired female managers…whom she felt were more sympathetic to her needs.’ And Madonna has said that ‘I like to keep people around me that I’ve known for a long time. I have lots of surrogate mothers!’

After Ms Henry’s departure, Madonna was briefly managed by Angela Becker. Since 2005 Madonna has been represented by Guy Oseary, previously her chairman at Maverick Records (sold to Warner Brothers in 2004.)

Caresse Henry with Madonna in January 2004

Friends have described Caresse Henry as a vivacious, energetic and nurturing woman. Singer Jimmy Demers wrote in last week’s Huffington Post of his shock at hearing of his former manager’s sudden death.  On March 31st, he had contacted Caresse by text and arranged to spend Easter Sunday with her.

Demers also recalled that when his record company refused to finance a video for ‘There She Goes’, a single from his 2008 album, Dream a Little, Caresse insisted on subsidising it herself.

“My Easter Sunday with Caresse was not meant to be, but whenever I see the sacred glow of the moon, or listen to the words of “There She Goes”, I will remember her smile. And I will remember the tenderness of a fragile heart, that for whatever reason to be determined, no longer continues to beat in a sometimes lonely world, where too many, too often forget why they came in the first place….”

Caresse Henry was reportedly buried at St Paul’s Church in Westwood, Los Angeles, on April 9th, and is survived by her two children.

From I’m Going to Tell You a Secret (Caresse at left)