February 17, 2012

Stars, fans and cameras set for Whitney Houston's funeral (VIDEO | 18 PICS)

Los Angeles - Whitney Houston's funeral is fast shaping up to become one of the most-widely watched celebrity funerals ever.

While the family of the soul diva had originally announced the funeral as a private service, they have now allowed TV cameras to offer live coverage of the Saturday event, which will showcase some legendary names paying tribute to the chart-topping singer.

Large screen will portray the funeral at the singer's childhood church to thousands expected to converge outside the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey, to pay their respect to Houston.

Soul greats Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin, her godmother, will sing, while Kevin Costner, her co-star in the hit film The Bodyguard, will address the mourners, People.com reported Thursday. Other stars expected to attend include Chaka Khan, record producer Antonio LA Reid, Houston's cousin Dione Warwick, and music mogul Clive Davis who mentored the star.

Houston died last weekend in a bathtub at a Beverly Hills hotel a day before the Grammy Awards. The coroner is awaiting results of a toxicology report before announcing the cause of the 48-year-old star's her death. Once known as America's golden girl during the peak of her success for a decade from 1985, Houston later battled addictions to alcohol and drugs but claimed to have conquered her demons in 2009.

Houston's body has been flown by private jet from Los Angeles to Whigham Funeral Home in Newark, which has become a shrine to the pop icon. Her funeral will take place on Saturday at noon (1700 GMT) and will be broadcast live on television and the internet.

Flags on state government buildings will fly at half mast in her honour on her funeral day, a decision that has provoked controversy because of her alleged years as a drug abuser.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie defended the decision, calling Houston 'a daughter of New Jersey,' the New York Daily News reported.

'I am disturbed by people who believe that because her ultimate demise - and we don't know what is the cause of her death yet - but because of her history of substance abuse that somehow she's forfeited the good things that she did in her life,' Christie said. 'I just reject that on a human level.'

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