Click here for live stream of Whitney's funeral service:http://livestream.com/aplive
R&B queen Whitney Houston will get her official goodbye on Saturday at The New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey. 1,500 are scheduled to attend--the who is who of Hollywood, the music industry and celebrities beyond. No fans are allowed for the family wants to have an intimate farewell as opposed to a mega send-off.
Queen of Soul, Godmother Aretha Franklin, who was supposed to sing would not be attending because of sudden illness. Aunt Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, cousins Cece and Bebe Winans are scheduled to perform. The mayor, Cory Booker, Tyler Perry, Reverend TD Jakes and Jesse Jackson, Kevin Costner among others are scheduled to speak.
Fans say they understand but are clearly disappointed judging by the tears I saw on television; the numerous gifts of flowers, balloons, candles left near the church, her old 'stomping ground,' where it all began. Flags will fly at half-staff in her honor, on the orders of Governor Chris Christie. A decision which caused a bit of controversy for critics felt she didn't deserve it because she wasn't a fallen veteran or State dignitary. But the governor stood by his Executive Order and many others agreed with his kind gesture. They thought she deserved it for despite her personal trials, she was a national 'musical treasure' who gave back plenty to her community. One of her gifts was a school she built in Newark.
She had the voice of an angel--with range and depth beyond this stratosphere. As an adolescent, she sang in her church and from that tender age, everyone who heard her knew they were listening to greatness. Just how great, they had no idea.
She went on to sing back-up for her mom for musical talent ran in the family and mom Cece was a gospel singer with a powerfully beautiful voice. In fact a young Whitney said her dream was to remain a back-up singer but 'Lady Destiny' had other plans.
Fresh-faced, vibrant, exuberant, beautiful, innocent with talent beyond her years, Whitney dabbled in modeling as a teen and was the first person of color to be featured on the cover of Teen magazine. But modelling couldn't hold her for that raw, unharnessed talent needed showcasing.
Destiny was calling, she had to sing and was discovered by Clive Davis while performing at 19 years old. The rest as they day is history. She went on to blow us away and when she sang the National Anthem at Super Bowl 25, America was collectively speechless.
She took a song that was so difficult to sing that it was botched by many a high-profile singer--took it and wrapped it around her remarkable vocal chords and gave us magic. It was done so beautifully, that there was a demand for it to be released as a single. Millions of rushed copies were sold.
Then there was the Bodyguard movie with co-star Kevin Costner. The inter-racial aspect of the love story wasn't even mentioned for Whitney's poignantly powerful rendition of "I'll Always Love You" dominated the entire movie. Took our breath away, literally. I think that was her "moment in time" that will live on forever.
But it wasn't all highs of success, awesome talent and joy. There were some deep, dank lows, lows so thick with darkness, it hijacked her career, stole her talent and eventually abruptly aborted her life.
She married a fellow R&B singer 'bad boy' Bobby Brown in 1992. There was a collective gasp and this time, not in a good way. Many thought that union was odd, dangerous. It proved to be prophetic. There were the public humiliating scenes. The train wreck of a reality show, arrests, drugs, painful interviews and performances. Her famous interview line with Diane Sawyer, "crack is whack," resounded around the viewing audience as the smoking gun--the glaring sign that Whitney was in deep trouble.
Then there was the scary thin body during a concert tribute to Michael Jackson and again we all did a collective gasp. She looked emaciated, skeletal. Through all this, she had a daughter in 1993, little Bobbi Kristina and the viewing public wondered what was going on with her, having two parents who were clearly in trouble.
The Barbara Walters interview showed husband Bobby Brown sweating profusely and Whitney far from Diva looking. Looking at her we all knew something was wrong. She admitted to Diane Sawyer in another interview that she did some of everything. Not "the whack crack" but pills, alcohol, cocaine, marijuana and anything else in between.
She told Sawyer she was her worse enemy, "her devil" and maybe she was right. From intervention by her family, one with armed guards to force her into re-hab, to more re-hab later on, she never quite conquered her demons. She divorced Bobby Brown, tried a comeback--but she didn't re-capture that magic. Her spectacular voice was gone and she was even booed off stage in Europe when fans heard her sing. reports say she was trying one more come-back with the re-make of the movie Sparkle but she didn't live long enough to see it to fruition.
Through it all, she was still Whitney Houston and I suspect her entourage, those closest to her, was in awe of the celebrity and didn't call her on her truths. Push her, challenge her, fight for dear life to make her see her reality.
In that hotel room in Los Angeles California 8 days ago, Whitney drowned in a bathtub, while some of her 'entourage' sat in that same hotel room. The toxicology report is still pending and an official cause of death not yet given. Speculation of drugs and alcohol abuse ran rampant. Prescription drugs were found in her hotel room and in the bathroom where she died.
Oddly, an annual Grammy party which Whitney had to attend in the same Beverly Hills hotel where she died, went on as usual just hours after they found the Star unresponsive under water in her bathtub. Her fellow 'celebrity crowd' danced, drank and made merry while her body was wheeled out of that room a few floors above. Seems nothing can stop a party in Hollywood for if death of one of "their own" can't, what else could?
Her sudden death sent shock-waves throughout and fans wailed at her passing. Many say though it was shocking, it was not surprising. Some say her lifestyle caught up with her--her demons claimed her. Her teenaged daughter collapsed with grieve and shock and had to be hospitalized twice. Ex-husband Bobby Brown reportedly took the news hard, had to suspend his concert.
But many blame him for Whitney's descent into the dark side of drugs and alcohol. There were even rumors that he was originally banned from her funeral. Is the blame justified? Daughter Bobbi Kristina, only 18, was seen on TMZ snorting what looked like cocaine in 2011.
Like a moth to a flame, Whitney flew too close to danger. Like a candle extinguished too soon, she will be laid to rest where it began all those years ago. She sold millions of records, sold out packed stadiums, commanded our attention and received numerous standing ovations and accolades. Sang for presidents and dignitaries. She did it all.
The 48-year-old sensational singer is no more, breath-taking voice silent forever. But she leaves behind a legacy which is her incredible gift of music-- impressive in its timelessness and unique quality.
Rest In Peace Whitney. If you happen to look up at the sky tonight and see an extra bright star among the constellation, it just might be her twinkling brightly.