Houston Funeral Program Covers Entertainment Spectrum
By Phil Gast and Ashley Hayes, CNN
The list of those on the program for superstar pop singer Whitney Houston’s funeral covers the spectrum of the entertainment world.
Actor Kevin Costner, who starred with Houston in the 1992 hit movie “The Bodyguard,” will speak at the service on Saturday, according to a source with knowledge of the funeral plans.
Gospel singer Kim Burrell told CNN’s Jason Carroll she will sing, “I Believe in You and Me,” a selection made by the Houston family. The song was included in the soundtrack from “The Preacher’s Wife,” a 1996 film starring Houston.
The ceremony also will feature performances by Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys and Aretha Franklin, who is Houston’s godmother. Singer Roberta Flack will attend, but it was unclear whether she would perform.
Houston’s ex-husband, Bobby Brown, has been officially invited to the funeral, according to Houston representative Kristen Foster.
Brown was openly emotional at a show in Mississippi on Saturday night following news of Houston’s death, then pulled out of a performance in Nashville on Sunday night and flew to Los Angeles.
He will rejoin New Edition Thursday night for a performance in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, according to a New Edition publicist. Brown considers performing as therapy to get him through a difficult time, a source close to Brown said.
Foster said gospel singer Donnie McClurkin, actor-director Tyler Perry, producer Clive Davis, composer and music director Rickey Minor and Houston’s cousin, Dionne Warwick, are among those on the program for the funeral.
Minor, who worked with Houston, told CNN that he will be involved with the funeral’s music and that the New Jersey Mass Choir will perform.
The funeral in Newark will be in a much smaller, more intimate setting than the concert halls and arenas Houston packed during her heyday.
The funeral will be made available for television and web streaming from New Hope Baptist Church, the house of worship where the singer grew up.
There will not be a customary funeral procession, Newark police Director Samuel DiMaio said Thursday. Houston’s family and her body will arrive at an undisclosed time, he said.
“I would advise the public that there really is going to be nothing to see here at the church,” DiMaio said. “The best thing to do would be to stay home and watch the service on television. …. The funeral is not gonna be the traditional procession that we would normally have.”
A perimeter will be set up for four blocks in two directions, and two blocks in the other directions, DiMaio said. The closest the public will be able to get is a staging area two blocks away.
Because of the police perimeter, a large screen will not be erected outside the church for the public to view the service. The church had said earlier it hoped such a screen could be in place.
Authorities have no security concerns, DiMaio said, but the priority is protecting the privacy and safety of the family and invited guests.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced that he plans to have the state’s flags fly at half-staff on Friday.
Since then, Christie has been standing his ground against critics who disagree with his choice to use a tribute typically reserved to honor public officials who have died, or fallen soldiers and first-responders.
One Twitter user weighed in, “Our flag is to be used to honor true American heroes, the ones you just disrespected.”
To that response, Christie seemed to agree to disagree. “Many in the state are mourning the loss of a cultural icon in NJ’s history,” he wrote. “We are recognizing her for those contributions.”
Gospel singer and pastor Marvin L. Winans, a longtime friend of the Houston family, will give the eulogy at New Hope. Winans officiated at Houston’s 1992 marriage to R&B singer Bobby Brown.
Asked why no public memorial service was planned, Winans told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Wednesday night the family didn’t “want to have a parade.”
“I don’t think knowing Cissy (Houston’s mother) and the Houston family … it was a matter of public or private as it was, ‘This is my daughter,’ ‘This is my sister,’ ‘This is my mother,’ ‘This is my friend,’ and we want to do this with dignity.”
The family’s thinking, Winans told “AC360,” is “we loved her when she was Nippy (a nickname) in New Jersey. The world loves her because of her voice. But if Nippy could not sing, the Houston family would love her.”
Although the family is not commenting on Houston’s burial location, her death certificate filed Wednesday in Los Angeles lists it as Fairview Cemetery in Westfield, New Jersey.
The cemetery confirmed that Houston’s father, John Russell Houston, is buried at Fairview.
Publicists and entertainers as of Thursday had confirmed a dozen celebrities and personalities will be in some of the 1,500 coveted, “invitation-only” seats.
Among those on the guest list are singer Chaka Khan, actress Angela Bassett, Bebe & CeCe Winans, songwriter Diane Warren, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, pop singer Darlene Love, Bishop T.D. Jakes, Antonio “L.A.” Reid, hip hop artist Ray J and singer Brandy.
Chaka Khan was a close friend of Houston. Reid produced many of Houston’s songs and Jakes co-produced Houston’s last film, “Sparkle,” which is scheduled to be released this summer. Houston and Jakes are listed as producers.
Jakes will also be speaking at the funeral. He said Thursday, “I think the major focus is to comfort the family and not to try to provide answers for which there are no answers.
“People often try to reconcile in their own minds why did this happen, and I think, sometimes, over the years, I’ve learned that when you really try to over-answer and speak on behalf of God, you get yourself in trouble.”
He said he wants to encourage Houston’s family to “use their faith as a catalyst to continue on their journey, to learn life lessons from the gift of Whitney Houston. Both her strengths and weaknesses teach us something about life and cause us to reflect on ourselves.”
Houston was “a very resilient person who, in spite of personal difficulties and tragedies, was resilient and strong-willed and able to rise above the fray. I think there are lessons to be learned from that.”
Ray J and Houston dated off and on after she was divorced from Brown.
New Hope Pastor Joe Carter said Thursday the service will be personal and dignified.
Asked how Houston’s family is doing, Carter said, “They’re holding strong.”
A steady stream of people drove by the church Thursday, some slowing down to snap pictures and others getting out of their cars to pose in front of memorials.
— CNN’s Jennifer Wolfe, Denise Quan and K.J. Matthews and HLN’s Alicia Henry contributed to this report.