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UPDATE: Hundreds of mourners gathered at New Hope Baptist Church in Newark Saturday to remember Whitney Houston for what was described as a “home going celebration.” Any dry eyes that may have been left in the church after 16 speakers and singers paid tribute to the singer were surely tearing up by the end of the three-and-a-half hour service when I Will Always Love You played as her casket left her hometown church.
“Her mother, gospel singer Cissy Houston, walked right behind her, sobbing, ‘My baby,’” reports the Associated Press.
“You wait for a voice like that for a lifetime,” music mogul Clive Davis, who was Houston’s mentor, said during the service. Stevie Wonder told mourners that he “had a little crush on Whitney." For his part, Kevin Costner spoke of how Houston constantly doubted herself despite her incredible talent. “You were a beautiful as a woman could be,” said Houston’s co-star in the 1992 movie The Bodyguard.
The service did have one controversial moment when Bobby Brown left 10 minutes into the service. According to TMZ, Brown “showed up with an entourage of nine people” even though he had been told he could only take two people with him. Brown later released a statement saying that he went with his children, and security asked them “to move on three separate occasions.” Then security wouldn’t let him see Bobbi Kristina. “I gave a kiss to the casket of my ex-wife and departed as I refused to create a scene,” he said.
Saturday, 1:02 p.m.: Fans began arriving early Saturday to the area surrounding Newark’s New Hope Baptist Church in hopes of getting as close as possible to Whitney Houston’s funeral. Shortly before noon, celebrities, friends and family members began streaming into the church where an 11-year-old Houston once sang solos in front of the congregation. Oprah Winfrey, Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey, Kevin Costner and Bobby Brown, were only a few of the big names spotted entering the funeral for the 48-year-old singer who died suddenly last week in Los Angeles.
Aretha Franklin was scheduled to perform at the service that is being broadcast around the world, but had to cancel because she was too ill, reports CNN. Stevie Wonder, R. Kelly and Alicia Keys are still set to pay tribute to Houston. On Sunday, Houston will be buried at the Fairview Cemetery in Westfield, which is south of Newark.
The Los Angeles Times and New York Times both talk to fans outside but their reporters appear to have run into very different people. While the LAT’s fans seem happy just to be there—“I don’t mind being four blocks back. I don’t mind being six blocks back.”—the NYT’s fans express lots of disappointment that they can't get closer to the church. “I kind of feel like, left out,” says one woman whose 13-year-old daughter was named after the singer.