Whitney Houston 1963-2012

02.18.12

Family and Friends Say Goodbye at Whitney Houston’s Funeral

At Whitney Houston's funeral Saturday in Newark, friends and family shared touching anecdotes from her life, and her ex-husband showed up despite speculation that Houston's family would try to keep him out. Jacob Bernstein reports.

The funeral for Whitney Houston took place Saturday afternoon.

Attendees at New Hope Baptist Church, in Newark, N.J., near where Houston grew up, included Mariah Carey, Oprah Winfrey, Gayle King, Jesse Jackson, and the singer’s ex-husband, Bobby Brown.

In the end, Brown showed up, despite much speculation that the family would try to keep him out. He showed up late and then left after just minutes because Houston's family was unable or unwilling to provide seating for his large entourage, according to TMZ and CNN.

whitney-houston-funeral-bernstein
Fans sing near the funeral service for singer Whitney Houston at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark. (Charles Sykes / AP)

Newark Mayor Cory Booker was the first celebrity speaker. “We are here not to mourn our loss but to celebrate her life. God is in heaven and with him is one of our angels, Whitney Houston,” he said, in a series of short remarks.

BeBe Winans got up and talked about how the Whitney he would most miss was “crazy Whitney,” the one who bought him and his sister CeCe costumes for a tour together, explaining, “You’re broke, right? I’m rich.” Then he sung a song called “I Really Miss You.”

Her cousin Dionne Warwick supervised the whole affair, and delivered a priceless gem about Houston’s awesome version of "The Star-Spangled Banner." “I remember sitting in a room of people, and they said, ‘Did you hear your cousin do 'The Star-Spangled Banner.' And I said, ‘Not only did I hear her do it, I was there.' And when she sold a million copies out of the box, I looked at her and said, ‘I guess the telephone book is next, huh?’ ”

Kevin Costner recalled that at Houston’s screen test for The Bodyguard, the proceedings had to be stopped after just moments because Houston had asked for 20 minutes to herself, during which time she applied her own makeup. Way too much makeup.

"Everyone in heaven, including God, is waiting, and I just know you’re going to raise the roof."

She hadn't realized this, so when someone screamed out just seconds into her scene that everything needed to be stopped short, she was despondent. "The Whitney I knew," Costner said, "despite her success, still wondered, I am I good enough, am I pretty enough, will they like me? It was the burden that made her great, and the part that caused her to stumble in the end. Whitney, if you could hear me now, I would tell you you weren’t just good enough, you were great.”

“She’d call you for no reason at all, but to say hi,” said Alicia Keys, who sang as well.“She reached out to all these beautiful young artists, so many young artists, and made us feel strong and capable and loved. She’s been an angel to us.”

Clive Davis, her mentor at Arista Records, spoke after, followed by Stevie Wonder, who sang "Ribbon in the Sky."

“You wait for a voice like that for a lifetime,” Davis said. “You wait for a face like that,  a smile like that, a presence like that, for a lifetime. And when one person embodies it all, it takes your breath away.”

A few days before her death, after years of what Davis referred to as “crises,” the two reconvened at Davis’s bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel. She came “alone,” he said, “no bodyguards, no security.”

“She looked at me and quietly said I want you to know I’m getting in shape," Davis continued. "I’m swimming an hour or two a day. And I’m committed to getting my high notes back. No cigarettes. Plenty of vocal exercising. Clive, I’ll be ready by August. Well, Whitney, I’m going to hold you to it. Everyone in heaven, including God, is waiting, and I just know you’re going to raise the roof, like no one else has ever done before.”