Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 December 2014

'Arena funeral' plans for Whitney Houston

Fans attend attend Whitney Houston Leimert Park Vigil on February 13, 2012 in Los Angeles, California
Fans attend attend Whitney Houston Leimert Park Vigil on February 13, 2012 in Los Angeles, California
The body of Whitney Houston arrives at Whigham Funeral Home, in Newark, N.J., Monday, Feb. 13, 2012. The 48-year-old pop star was found dead in the bathtub in her hotel room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Saturday, hours before she was supposed to appear at a pre-Grammy gala.
NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 13: Cissy Houston arrives as Whitney Houston's Body Arrives In New Jersey Ahead Of Her Funeral at Whigham Funeral Home on February 13, 2012 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 13: Poster of Whitney Houston with candles at Whitney Houston Leimert Park Vigil on February 13, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Valerie Macon/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 13: Eric Williams, Travon Marshall, Juliette Tate and friends attend Whitney Houston Leimert Park Vigil on February 13, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Valerie Macon/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 13: Adinett Nsabimana dances at Whitney Houston Leimert Park Vigil on February 13, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Valerie Macon/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 13: Fans attend attend Whitney Houston Leimert Park Vigil on February 13, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Valerie Macon/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 13: A general view of atmosphere outside of the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles in remembrance of Whitney Houston on February 13, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images)
The American singer and actress, who was one of the world's best-selling artists in the 1980s and 1990s, has died, aged 48.
File picture, dated February 17, 1999, American singer Whitney Houston makes a rare appearance for her fans at the HMV store in Oxford Circus, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Sunday February 12, 2012. The American singer and actress, who was one of the world's best-selling artists in the 1980s and 1990s, has died, aged 48. See PA story SHOWBIZ Houston. Picture credit should read: Peter Jordan/PA Archive
File picture, dated September 09, 1999, Whitney Houston kicks off her first tour of the UK in six years, in Sheffield. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Sunday February 12, 2012. The American singer and actress, who was one of the world's best-selling artists in the 1980s and 1990s, has died, aged 48. See PA story SHOWBIZ Houston. Picture credit should read:John Giles/PA Archive
In this photo provided by the Las Vegas News Bureau, Whitney Houston performs during the Billboard Awards at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Dec. 7, 1998. Often referred to as the Queen of Pop music at her best, Houston ex-wife of singer Bobby Brown, died Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012 at the age of 48. (AP Photo/Las Vegas News Bureau)
FILE - In this March 25, 2001 file photo, Bobby Brown and his then wife Whitney Houston arrive at Vanity Fair's Oscar party at Morton's in Hollywood on Sunday, March 25, 2001. Houston, who ruled as pop music's queen until her majestic voice was ravaged by drug use and her regal image was ruined by erratic behavior and a tumultuous marriage to singer Bobby Brown, died Saturday Feb. 11, 2012. She was 48. (AP Photo/Laura Rauch)
Fans take pictures with a plaque commemorating Whitney Houston's Record of the Year and Album of the Year for the 36th Grammy Awards, at LA Live in Los Angeles, on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012. Houston died Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012, on the eve of the Grammys, at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, where she was preparing to attend a pre-Grammy party. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
Donzaleigh Abernathy places a flower at a memorial outside the Beverly Hills Hilton Hotel on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012, in Beverly Hills, Calif. Houston, who ruled as pop music's queen until her majestic voice and regal image were ravaged by drug use, erratic behavior and a tumultuous marriage to singer Bobby Brown, died Saturday, Feb. 11. She was 48. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)
LOS ANGELES - (FILE PHOTO): Singer Whitney Houston accepts the Winner of International - Favorite Artist Award onstage at the 2009 American Music Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on November 22, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. According to reports on February 11, 2012, Houston has died at the age 48. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 12: LA Police attend the Beverly Hilton Hotel in the early hours of February 12, 2012 in Los Angeles, CA. Singer and film star Whitney Houston aged 48 has died in her hotel room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. (Photo/Toby Canham/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 12: LA Coroners leave the Beverly Hilton Hotel possibly carrying the body of the singer Whitney Houston in the early hours of February 12, 2012 in Los Angeles, CA. Singer and film star Whitney Houston aged 48 has died in her hotel room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. (Photo/Toby Canham/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 12: LA Coroners arrive and after time leave the Beverly Hilton Hotel possibly carrying the body of the singer Whitney Houston in the early hours of February 12, 2012 in Los Angeles, CA. Singer and film star Whitney Houston aged 48 has died in her hotel room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. (Photo/Toby Canham/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 12: LA Coroners leave the Beverly Hilton Hotel possibly carrying the body of the singer Whitney Houston in the early hours of February 12, 2012 in Los Angeles, CA. Singer and film star Whitney Houston aged 48 has died in her hotel room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. (Photo/Toby Canham/Getty Images)
NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 12: Mourner Donna Thorn of Newark, New Jersey creates a memorial for singer Whitney Houston, at The New Hope Baptist Church on February 12, 2012 in Newark, New Jersey. Singer Whitney Houston died on February 11, 2012 at The Beverly Hilton hotel in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by John W. Ferguson/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 12: Host LL Cool J pays tribute to singer Whitney Houston onstage at the 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards held at Staples Center on February 12, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 12: Remembrances of singer Whitney Houston are seen around Harlem's Apollo Theatre on the streets of Manhattan on February 12, 2012 in New York City. Singer Whitney Houston died on February 11, 2012 at The Beverly Hilton hotel in Beverly Hills, CA. (Photo by Taylor Hill/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 12: Remembrances of singer Whitney Houston are seen around Harlem's Apollo Theatre on the streets of Manhattan on February 12, 2012 in New York City. Singer Whitney Houston died on February 11, 2012 at The Beverly Hilton hotel in Beverly Hills, CA. (Photo by Taylor Hill/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 12: Remembrances of singer Whitney Houston are seen around Harlem's Apollo Theatre on the streets of Manhattan on February 12, 2012 in New York City. Singer Whitney Houston died on February 11, 2012 at The Beverly Hilton hotel in Beverly Hills, CA. (Photo by Taylor Hill/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 12: Whitney Houston is displayed on the screen during Jennifer Hudson's performance onstage at the 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards held at Staples Center on February 12, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 12: Singer Jennifer Hudson performs during a memoriam for Whitney Houston onstage at the 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards held at Staples Center on February 12, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
File picture, dated February 09, 2008, Whitney Houston arrives at the Carl Davis Pre-Grammy party at the Beverley Hilton Hotel, Los Angeles
File picture, dated February 17, 1999, American singer Whitney Houston makes a rare appearance for her fans at the HMV store in Oxford Circus, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Sunday February 12, 2012. The American singer and actress, who was one of the world's best-selling artists in the 1980s and 1990s, has died, aged 48. See PA story SHOWBIZ Houston. Picture credit should read: Peter Jordan/PA Archive
Whitney Houston's autopsy report is being kept under wraps
Whitney Houston
Whitney Houston
Whitney Houston
Beyonce Knowles

Whitney Houston's body arrived in her home state of New Jersey today as her family discussed plans for a funeral at one of America's busiest entertainment venues.

Two people who had spoken to the singer's family said they had raised the possibility of holding a wake on Thursday and a funeral on Friday at Newark's Prudential Centre, which hosts college and professional sporting events and seats about 18,000 people.



City officials said they were awaiting the family's arrival to complete the funeral planning.



A picture of Houston, 48, appeared on the electronic board outside the arena with a New Jersey Devils game scheduled for Friday night - posing a logistical challenge to a funeral that day.



The pop star was found dead in a bath in her suite at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in California on Saturday, hours before she was supposed to appear at a pre-Grammy Awards gala.



Funeral arrangements were being made by Newark's Whigham Funeral Home, which handled the 2003 funeral of Houston's father John, according to the sources.



A woman at the funeral home, where several police officers were stationed, said she could neither confirm nor deny reports that it would handle the arrangements. A white tent was set up leading into the rear entrance.



Houston fans went to the funeral home, where they played her songs, sang and lit candles to remember her.



The Los Angeles coroner's office said Houston's body was released to the family yesterday and police said the body was taken to a Los Angeles-area airport in the afternoon.



Houston was born in Newark and was raised in nearby East Orange. She began singing as a child at Newark's New Hope Baptist Church, where her mother, Grammy-winning gospel singer Cissy Houston, led the music programme for many years. Her cousin singer Dionne Warwick also sang in its choir.



Yesterday mourners left flowers, balloons and candles for Houston at the wrought-iron fence around the tall brick church, which sits near the edge of an abandoned housing project near the train line leading to New York City.



Across the street from the church, Bashir Rasheed set up shop with a bag full of T-shirts reading In Memory of Whitney Houston 1963-2012. He said he had sold 24 shirts at 10 dollars (£6.36) each within a few hours.



Houston was found underwater and apparently unconscious when she was pulled from the hotel bath, and had prescription drugs in her room, authorities said yesterday.



An autopsy was carried out on Sunday and there were no indications of foul play and no obvious signs of trauma on her body. It could be weeks, however, before the coroner's office completes toxicology tests to establish her cause of death.



The singer had struggled for years with cocaine, marijuana and pills, and her behaviour had become erratic.



The White House said President Barack Obama's thoughts and prayers were with Houston's family, especially her daughter. Press secretary Jay Carney paid tribute to the singer's “immense talent” and called it a tragedy to lose somebody so gifted at such a young age.



Houston's death is a sad rewind of what befell Michael Jackson and Amy Winehouse. It took three months for a London coroner to rule that Winehouse drank herself to death last July. A powerful anaesthetic was quickly linked to Jackson's June 2009 death and three months ago, Jackson's doctor was convicted of involuntary manslaughter.



Houston's death tinged the Grammy ceremonies with sadness. It also probably boosted viewership, which was 50% higher than last year, with nearly 40 million viewers tuning in to the program on CBS.



A sensation from her first album, Houston was one of the world's best-selling artists from the mid-1980s to the late 1990s, turning out such hits as I Wanna Dance With Somebody, How Will I Know, The Greatest Love of All and I Will Always Love You. But as she struggled with drugs, her majestic voice became raspy, and she could not hit the high notes.



Mourners left flowers, balloons and candles at the wrought-iron fence around the tall brick Newark church where she got her start. It sits near an abandoned housing project and the train line leading to New York City.



“She was an inspiration to everybody,” said Gregory Hanks, an actor who grew up in the neighbourhood and who dropped off a bouquet. He saw Houston perform in New Jersey years ago.



“I grew up listening to her as a little boy, and to hear her sing, you knew she was special,” he said.



A hearse under heavy police escort arrived at the funeral home after a journey from from Teterboro Airport, where officials had said Houston's body would arrive.



Houston's relatives were also debating whether to have a smaller service at New Hope Baptist Church, where family members have sung. according to someone who had knowledge of the planning.

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