Watch Live: Whitney Houston’s Memorial

February 18, 2012 by staff 

Watch Live: Whitney Houston’s Memorial, An invitation-only funeral is to be held at noon for Whitney Houston, who died a week ago in her Beverly Hills hotel room.

Family and friends of the pop diva attended a private viewing at Whigham Funeral Home last night. Rows of curtains outside the building blocked onlookers from seeing most of the arrivals.

As city officials brace for throngs of mourners, celebrities and the media for the funeral, a growing swell of reporters and photographers was camped outside the funeral home and Newark’s New Hope Baptist Church, where Newark police are cordoning off a six-square-block area to keep crowds and media at bay.

Newark Police are providing escorts to the celebrities expected at Saturday’s invitation-only service for 1,500, including Oprah Winfrey, Elton John, Bill Cosby, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, BeyoncĂ© and Houston’s ex-husband, Bobby Brown, who had been estranged from her family.

Houston will be buried next to her father, John Russell Houston Jr., at the Fairview Cemetery in nearby Westfield.

The cause of her death is not expected to be determined for several weeks.

Music producer Clive Davis and actor Kevin Costner, Houston’s co-star in her debut 1992 film The Bodyguard, are expected to speak at the service.

Outside the front entrance of the funeral home Friday, people were snapping photos of a makeshift memorial that included flowers, candles, handwritten signs and balloons with phrases such as “I miss you” and “I love you.”

Inside the entry doors was a large poster of a smiling Houston, and to the left, a long black evening dress and a pair of gold-and-black high-heel shoes. As Houston’s music played, well-wishers lined up to write notes in a book left on a stand outside labeled “friends and relatives.”

Jerry Clark, who stopped by Friday morning, says he plans to stake out a spot outside the church early Saturday. “I know it’s going to be be packed,” says Clark, 49, who knew Houston from her early years growing up in the city.

Scores of brightly colored balloons, bouquets of flowers and handwritten signs of sympathy were already outside the church Friday. So were photographers, manning a nearby rooftop. And on a nearby block, one entrepreneur set up a stand selling long-stem roses for $5 each and small stuffed teddy bears for $2.

Betty Grier came by the funeral home to pay her respects before picking up her 10-year-old granddaughter, Nia Phoenix, who attends the Whitney Houston Academy of Creative and Performing Arts in nearby East Orange. Students there contributed candles and flowers to an informal memorial that sprang up in front of the school. Grier says she cried when she heard a Houston song this week.

Ramona Kelly was also outside the funeral home Friday. “She inspires me,” says Kelly, 28, who sang Houston’s One Moment In Time at the New Hope Church when she graduated high school.

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