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Whitney Houston fans to follow funeral on Internet

- Associated Press - Thursday, February 16, 2012

NEW YORK — They won't be there in person, but Whitney Houston's millions of fans worldwide will be able to share in her homecoming service Saturday as they watch her private funeral on the Internet and elsewhere.

Houston's publicist, Kristen Foster, announced Wednesday that the Associated Press will be the only video camera allowed inside at Saturday's funeral in Newark. The AP will stream the service on http://livestream.com/aplive. The event also will be available to broadcasters via satellite.

It will provide a much-needed connection for fans who have lacked a formal place to eulogize Houston, one of the world's best-selling artists who died in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Saturday at the age of 48.

Some have gathered and placed flowers outside the Newark, N.J., church where the funeral will be held by invitation-only at the request of Houston's family, who wish to maintain some privacy. Others have stopped by the funeral home. But many have longed to share more fully in commemorating the superstar's life, and have shown their grief in one of the few ways available to them — by buying her music.

Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder will sing in what promises to be a very musical service.

Publicist Kristen Foster also confirms that invitations went out to Houston's ex-husband, Bobby Brown; her co-star in "The Bodyguard," Kevin Costner; and Oprah Winfrey.

Houston's longtime musical mentor, Clive Davis, will speak at the funeral. The eulogy will be given by gospel singer and longtime family friend Marvin Winans.

Others who will be part of the program include Donnie McClurkin, Tyler Perry, Kim Burrell, Rickey Minor, Alicia Keys, Dionne Warwick and Cece Winans, Foster said.

The Queen of Soul was a close family friend and considered Houston her goddaughter; she said in an email Thursday that Houston used to call her "Aunt Ree."

Organizers were getting the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark ready Thursday for the funeral. Drums and speakers, which were to be part of the musical service, were in the aisles.

Fans without invitations will be kept far away. Newark police say streets will be shut down for six square blocks around the church.

But on Thursday, there were several dozen fans outside, contributing to and taking pictures of the makeshift memorial to the superstar outside the church. Media were also outside of the venue.

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, investigators for the coroner's office have subpoenaed records from the singer's doctors and pharmacies who dispensed medication found in the hotel room where she died.

Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter said such inquiries are routine in virtually all death investigations.

Investigators have not said what medications they have recovered from Houston's room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. The singer was found underwater in a bathtub by a member of her staff hours before she planned to attend her mentor Clive Davis' swank pre-Grammy gala. Police have said there were no signs of foul play and Winter said there were no signs of trauma on her body when an autopsy was conducted on Sunday.

It will be weeks before toxicology results reveal the medications and quantities, if any, that were in Houston's system when she died. The Grammy winner's history of substance abuse has added to the speculation that her death may have been caused by prescription drugs.

In a 2009 interview with Oprah Winfrey, Houston talked about how she was deeply shaken by the death of Michael Jackson. Jackson died at age 50 that year from an overdose of the anesthetic propofol.

Houston recalled taping a show celebrating Jackson's 30th anniversary celebration in 2001. Houston was strikingly thin — so much so that rumors spread soon after that she had died. Jackson was also frail.

"I was getting scared," she told Winfrey. "I was looking at myself going, 'No, I don't want this to be like this. This can't happen. Not both of us.'"

Like Jackson, Houston was on the verge of a career comeback before her death on Feb. 11. And, like Jackson, sales of her recordings have soared since her passing as fans try to recapture her glory days in the 1980s and 1990s. Old recordings have been propelled to the top of sales charts on iTunes and Amazon.com.

Associated Press entertainment writer Anthony McCartney in Los Angeles contributed to this story.

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