Houston funeral security tight, fans told stay home

NEWARK, New Jersey (Reuters) - Police on Thursday said they plan to lock down streets near Saturday's private funeral for Whitney Houston in her hometown of Newark, New Jersey and urged the thousands of fans expected to crowd the area to stay home.

The U.S. pop star will be laid to rest after the noon (1700 GMT) service that will be held at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, where she performed while growing up. Several blocks around the church will be cordoned off and fans will not be allowed near it, Newark police said on Thursday.

Newark Police Director Samuel DeMaio urged fans to watch the funeral on television - U.S. networks are planning to broadcast the event - and he added there would be no procession from the funeral home where Houston's body is resting to the church.

Aretha Franklin as well as Stevie Wonder will perform at the service, a family spokesman said.

Houston, 48, died in a Beverly Hills hotel room Saturday on the eve of the music industry's Grammy Awards. She was found underwater in a bathtub in her hotel room, according to police.

The body of the beloved singer, who had a history of addiction to cocaine and alcohol, was flown to New Jersey late on Monday from Los Angeles. Her death stunned the music world, her family and her fans, who have complained on social media networks that they have no place to mourn.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie defended his decision to have flags flown at half staff for the funeral after online criticism that the honor should be reserved for soldiers killed in action.

"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," he told reporters on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, officials investigating Houston's death have issued subpoenas for her medical records after finding prescription drugs in her Beverly Hills hotel room.

The Los Angeles Coroner's office said the move was standard procedure in such cases. The office has declined to release details of an initial autopsy on the "I Will Always Love You" pop star, and is awaiting results of tests for drugs, alcohol and other substances that may have been in her system.

Houston hails from gospel and soul music royalty and many stars are likely to attend her funeral service. She is the cousin of Dionne Warwick and the daughter of Cissy Houston, who backed up Franklin.

Houston rose to fame in the mid-1980s with early hits such as "Saving All My Love For You" and "How Will I Know."

(Reporting By Jonathan Allen and Mike Segar, Editing by Christine Kearney, Bob Tourtellotte and Paul Simao)


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