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Houston Family attends wake, awaits burial; service to be broadcast live

February 17, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
The family of Whitney Houston met for a private wake Friday in Newark, N.J., ahead of the singer's funeral Saturday morning.

A police escort arrived at the funeral home bearing Houston's family and their closest friends. Among the mourners were Houston's daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown, and Houston's mother, Cissy Houston, who entered the wake hand-in-hand.

Houston's fans have converged on Newark's central ward, some to pay their respects and sign public condolence books, others to catch a glimpse of the singer's celebrity relatives and friends.

The Newark Police Department, already stretched to the limit by the city's rising crime rate, is deployed like an army. Securing the funeral home and the church.. As well as the streets leading into and out of them.

According to Newark Police Chief Samuel DeMaio, only those invited to Saturday's funeral will be allowed inside the church. The service is expected to draw some of the biggest celebrity names.

Fans will be able to watch her funeral service on television and the Internet, including here on abc7.com, on the ABC7 iPad app, or on ABC7's 9 a.m. television broadcast.

Oprah Winfrey, Alicia Keys and Kevin Costner, who co-starred with Houston in the film "The Bodyguard," will be there. Among those scheduled to sing are Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder.

Houston's mentor, Clive Davis, will speak at the service at New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, N.J. The eulogy will be given by gospel singer Marvin Winans.

Publicist Kristen Foster also confirmed that an invitation went out to Houston's ex-husband, Bobby Brown.

Houston's fans wish they could attend. But they understand why they can't.

After the service, Houston will be buried in Fair View Cemetery in Westfield, N.J., according to her death certificate. Her father, John Russell Houston Jr., was buried there in 2003.

Houston, one of the world's best-selling artists, died in Beverly Hills last Saturday at the age of 48.

The singer was found underwater in a bathtub by a member of her staff hours before she planned to attend a pre-Grammy gala.

Police have said there were no signs of foul play and an autopsy showed there were no signs of trauma on her body.

It will be weeks before toxicology results reveal the medications and quantities, if any, that were in Houston's system when she died. Her history of substance abuse has added to the speculation that her death may have been caused by prescription drugs.

Reports say the singer was seen drinking a lot of alcohol at the Beverly Hilton just days before her death.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.