Whitney Houston‘s funeral takes place tomorrow, but friends, fans and family are already choosing to pay their initial respects to the singer tonight, away from the glare of the cameras.
Preparations have been underway all day at both the Whigham Funeral Home and Newark’s New Hope Baptist Church for tomorrow’s noontime service as well as a wake that will be taking place today.
Funeral home where Whitney Houston body is laid
Hundreds of mourners, fans and, yes, media, lined the streets near both locations Friday. Also sprouting up outside the church and funeral home: makeshift, ever-growing shrines with cards, flowers, balloons, photos and handwritten prayers.
Newark police have been trying all day to keep the crowd at bay, arriving in a mobile unit barricading the block in front of the funeral home, in advance of the private viewing, which mother Cissy, daughter Bobbi Kristina and various other family members and close friends are expected to attend.
At the back of the facility, the entrances were covered with a white tent and curtains to provide added privacy. Cops even wrapped the area surrounding the funeral home in tape to prevent the crowd from overwhelming the mourners.
Meanwhile, details continue to emerge about tomorrow’s funeral. BeBe and CeCe Winans are set to sing at the funeral, which will be officiated by their brother Marvin.Among the confirmed attendees: Houston cousin Dionne Warwick, Forest Whitaker,
Chaka Khan, Ray J, Aretha Franklin, Kim Burrell, Kevin Costner
, Clive Davis
, Stevie Wonder, Rickey Minor, Alicia Keys
and Bishop T.D. Jakes,
one of the producers of her final film, Sparkle
Although Oprah Winfrey
was invited, it’s unclear if she’ll attend. There has been speculation that she’ll accompany good friend Tyler Perry, who is attending, to the service (and who provided the private plane to transport Houston’s body from Los Angeles to New Jersey). Though Mel Gibson
was reportedly invited to the funeral, he is not expected to be there.
Photo credits: E Networks
Due to a prior commitment, Dolly Parton will also not be in attendance, though she released a new statement in tribute to the singer:
“My heart is with Whitney and her family as they lay her to rest. I did not know Whitney nor any of her family personally; but she will always be a part of my heart and I will always be grateful for her awesome performance and success with our song ‘I Will Always Love You.’
“Rest in peace, Whitney.”
Following Saturday’s funeral at the New Hope Baptist Church, Houston will be interred on Sunday, laid to rest alongside her father at the Fairview Cemetery in Westfield, N.J.
The Los Angeles times contributed to this report.