Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Michael Jackson Memorial Service - Rev. Al Sharpton

Reverend Al Sharpton eulogizes Michael Jackson.

At one point, he tells his family, "There was nothing strange about your daddy. It was strange what your daddy had to deal with, but he dealt with it."

Michael Jackson - They Don't Care About Us (Official Prison Version)

This is the official Video of They Don't Care About Us (Prison Version) by Michael Jackson.

Michael Jackson takes his final bow

Michael Jackson's last performance as flawless and precision accurate as his singing or legendary dancing
Michael Jackson's golden casket rests on stage during his memorial service at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles. Mario Anzuoni/AFP

In the end, the apocalyptic predictions of crowds running out of control, of pandemonium on the streets, of chaos on stage - like so much of the wild speculation that has poured out since Michael Jackson died 10 days ago - proved wide of the mark. He may have led a life that was increasingly eccentric and troubled in later years, but none of that dark side was on display today.

His final performance - from the gathering of LA crowds shortly before dawn, to a private memorial in a cemetery up in the Hollywood Hills, a motorcade through the streets of the city and culminating in a memorial led by preachers, singers and sportsmen - was as flawless and precision accurate as his teenaged singing had been or his legendary dancing in the 1980s.

Even the motorcade fronted by the hearse carrying Jackson's golden casket streamed through the city without a glitch, flanked all the way by LAPD officers in cars, on bicycles and hovering overhead in police helicopters.

For the family and friends of the stricken star, the day began well before 8am local time, when about 200 gathered at the Jackson parents' home in Encino. There too, fans had begun to coalesce, and were kept back, along with a mounting pile of flowers and cards, by police barricades.

A 16-strong motorcade of black limousines and buses conducted the chosen ones to the Forest Lawn cemetery in the Hollywood Hills. The star's mother, Katherine, who has custody of his three children, travelled in the first vehicle, giving her a brief private moment with her dead son before the public Michael Jackson took over again in front of a television audience of millions.

Though the cameras failed - for now - to penetrate that private sanctum in the Hall of Liberty at Forest Lawn, the last show of the King of Pop attracted blanket television coverage normally reserved for departed presidents or royalty. Across America, more than 16 TV networks carried the memorial live.

Impromptu crowds coalesced in Harlem and Times Square in New York, and in Gary, Indiana, the singer's birthplace.

Around the world too, channels broadcasting from LA included BBC2 in the UK, TF1 in France, Germany's RTL, Australia's Nine and NHK in Japan. In an echo of events across America, fans gathered outside the O2 Arena in London, many who had planned to see Jackson's comeback concert but heard his epitaph instead. Indeed, This Was It.

Screens were erected outside the O2 World Arena in Berlin, and in the Champs-Elysees in Paris. Across Sweden's larger cities, candlelit memorials of their own were held in central squares.

One fan in particular in foreign parts merits personal mention. Barack Obama briefly interrupted a visit to Russia to pay his respects before the service. "I don't think there's any doubt he was one of the greatest entertainers of our generation, perhaps any generation," he told CNN. "I think, like Elvis, like Sinatra, like the Beatles, he became a core part of our culture."

As the morning progressed, the focus tightened on downtown LA and the Staples Centre. The family had intended to bring the casket from the Hollywood Hills Forest Lawn cemetery to the memorial site in downtown LA by helicopter, but the plan was pulled at the last minute because it was considered too dangerous to land amid so many fans. So it was that the parade that everyone had attempted to avoid travelled into the city, causing long tail-backs as even traffic moving in the opposite direction stopped for a last glimpse of the star.

But it was in the city itself that hard core Jackson followers showed their true metal. A group from South Carolina travelled three days by bus to get to the Staples Centre, selling many of their personal possessions to pay for the trip. They didn't even have a ticket, and spent the morning standing behind a police cordon; undeterred, they said all the effort had been worth it.

Despite doom-laden warnings that up to a million ticketless fans could show up, the LA police put the real number at closer to 50,000. They began to assemble in the streets around the auditorium well before 7am local time, drawn by the Jackson magnet from all across the US and Europe. Some flew from the UK just on the off-chance of acquiring one of the highly sought-after gold wristbands that entitled the bearer to enter the centre.

The mood among milling fans was more celebratory than sombre. Several carried signs saying "Michael Jackson Lives". In this digital age, one fan went to the length of turning himself into a mobile music video, attaching a flat-screen TV to his back and playing rolling Jackson numbers.

The star's controversial later years were reflected in a small band of just half a dozen or so protesters who stood together condemning what they saw as the glorification of a child molester. Their signs read: "Jacko in Hell", "You're Going to Hell" and "Mourn for Your Sins".

But that discordant note was drowned out by the adulation. Vernay Lewis, 32, who flew ticketless across America from Delaware and spent all night wrapped in a blanket on the downtown streets, told the Associated Press: "I think it was his kind heart, his gentleness, his childlike ways."

Though Jackson himself grew increasingly white in tune with his descent into his strange and prescription-drug fuelled dark side, the LA throng was striking in its union of people of all races and all ages. The lucky ones were the 17,500 who benefited from the internet lottery and had access to the memorial itself.

They all boasted bracelets around their wrists - coloured gold just like the casket that was carried into the Staples Centre and laid before them at 10.34am local time.

One of those 17,500, the Los Angeles Times discovered, was Kenny Gray, 42, who took a train downtown from Skid Row where he is sleeping rough as a homeless man. "I feel blessed. I grew up with Michael," he said.

Though the day was notable for its seamless quality, such smoothness will have been achieved at a price. The mayor of LA, Antonio Villaraigosa, said the city, already struggling with a budget crisis, was preparing to have to foot a bill for ensuring public safety around the memorial that could run to several million dollars. He made an unorthodox plea to Jackson fans to contribute to the costs of the massive police operation, and even set up a website where individuals could donate by PayPal.

But what the flawlessness of the day meant to hundreds of thousands of fans had another value. It meant for just these final moments, before the grubbiness kicks in again all too soon, Michael Jackson could be remembered for his singing and dancing, and not for his Demerol and nose. He could be remembered for the bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken he shared with Magic Johnson and for the sweetest laugh he shared with Brooke Shields. And he could be remembered as the puppy-faced 10-year-old who appeared on the Ed Sullivan show bearing a pink hat and outrageous lapels overshadowed only by his even more outrageous talent.

Michael Jackson fans gather in Times Square to say goodbye

Though the heart of today's Michael Jackson memorial may be nearly 3,000 miles away at Los Angeles' Staples Center, New Yorkers marked the solemn occasion this afternoon by gathering to watch the event on a jumbo screen high above Times Square (fans also gathered to watch the event on a screen in Manhattan's Harlem neighborhood). As the memorial began, a light rain began to fall in New York, scattering the Times Square observers under overhangs and into nearby shops. Elizabeth Marrero and her family, clad in Jackson t-shirts and buttons, rolled up their posters but remained in their lawn chairs. ''We're staying,'' she said. ''It's only water; we're not going to melt. We're here to say goodbye to the King of Pop.''

Linda Temple of Westchester, N.Y. traveled to Manhattan because she was moved by the all-inclusive spirit of the gathering. "I love being around so many different cultures, because that's what Michael was about," she said. Karen Sealy of Queens said she came ''to say goodbye to an icon who touched everybody in some magical way. I'm focusing on the good....They can't do enough for what he accomplished, what he gave the musical world. This should keep going for the rest of the month, the rest of the year. There should be a Michael Jackson day.'''

But Jackson was a controversial figure, of course, and some fans acknowledged the uncomfortable parts of his life story as well. Roman Shusterman of Coney Island, Brooklyn, who wore a Michael Jackson t-shirt and carried a handmade poster, said it seemed like the singer had been gone for years, his legacy overshadowed by lawsuits, financial troubles, and losing Neverland Ranch. But now that Jackson has died, however, Shusterman liked how people are again focusing on the positive aspects of his life. ''In a way, his death has revived him,'' he said.

Jackson’s Body to Be Taken to Site of Service

LOS ANGELES — Michael Jackson’s body will be taken to the Staples Center this morning, the Los Angeles police chief said Tuesday, as huge crowds gathered downtown for the pop icon’s memorial service, which is expected to be watched by millions on television.

Before the memorial, Mr. Jackson’s family arrived at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, a San Fernando Valley cemetery studded with celebrity graves, for a private service. As police helicopters hovered above, and officers on the ground held off onlookers and dozens of reporters, some 20 black SUVs, Bentleys and two black shuttle buses delivered Mr. Jackson’s family and close friends to the Hall of Liberty on the cemetery grounds.

Chief William J. Bratton said on KNX radio in Los Angeles that the police were prepared for the throngs of people to make their way to the arena and the surrounding area when Mr. Jackson’s body is transported there. Earlier, on CNN, the police chief said the crowds could rival those at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

About 50 movie theaters around the country, from Los Angeles to Washington, are planning to broadcast the memorial, The Associated Press reported, which will feature Stevie Wonder, Mariah Carey, Usher, Lionel Richie, Kobe Bryant, Jennifer Hudson, John Mayer and Martin Luther King III.

Downtown, the police were blocking off streets near the Staples Center and warning those without tickets to stay away, saying they would not be able to get close to the center.

By 7:30 a.m. local time Tuesday, dozens of reporters from around the world had camped out at the cemetery, with about 30 people who appeared to be fans gathered on a knoll about a mile away.

Late Monday night, local television broadcast live images of Jackson family members and others arriving and departing from the Forest Lawn cemetery. A hearse was seen driving from one building to another, backing nearly into it through a large entrance way where men then removed a coffin covered by a dark cloth.

On Monday, fans who had won tickets to the memorial service in a random drawing danced and sang in front of the Staples Center. As organizers distributed the free pairs of tickets to 8,750 of the more 1.6 million people who had applied online for them, offers of tickets priced from a few hundred to several thousand dollars appeared on Web sites like eBay and Craigslist. Site administrators rushed to remove the postings, saying such sales were not authorized by the Staples Center. Organizers of the memorial said they were confident security measures would limit illegitimate ticket holders.

But the efforts at selling tickets, as well as signs of downtown hotels filling and the police preparing for thousands of people, if not more, by ringing a security perimeter around the event, added to a sense that the memorial was taking on shades of spectacle.


Elizabeth Taylor, one of Mr. Jackson’s closest friends, sent word through her Twitter feed that she had turned down an offer to speak to avoid what she called “the public whoopla.”

Debbie Rowe, a former wife of Mr. Jackson and the mother of two of his three children, changed her mind about attending, saying through a spokeswoman that “the onslaught of media attention has made it clear her attendance would be an unnecessary distraction.” Ms. Rowe, who was shown on local television Monday screaming and cursing at photographers trailing her near her home, has not announced whether she will seek custody of the children, whom Mr. Jackson had wanted raised by his mother, or failing that, Diana Ross.

Councilwoman Jan Perry, who is the city’s acting mayor while Antonio R. Villaraigosa is on vacation this week, said she believed the city was ready for the event, though she had not received any responses to her pleas for private donors to offset the city’s costs, which she said were expected to include overtime for the police, transportation and sanitation departments.

First Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell said a “substantial” number of police officers would be deployed to control a crowd he said could include least 100,000 people. “Some people are coming in from around the world to be part of it,” Chief McDonnell said. “They just want to be close to it.”

The tickets were among the most coveted in a town with no shortage of big entertainment.

In the Staples Center, which holds nearly 20,000 people for sporting events, 11,000 seats were reserved for fans, along with 6,500 at an adjacent theater, where the event will be shown on large video screens.

Donte Zierway, 33, who flew to Los Angeles from Buffalo after entering the online lottery on Saturday, moonwalked with joy upon picking up his two tickets.

“I spent $700 to come here,” said Mr. Zierway, who works for a collections agency. “I just came. I entered my name, I prayed, and I got on a plane. Then I found out today that I had a ticket.”

He gave one of his tickets to a stranger he met at the Staples Center, Celine Althaus, 27, who had just arrived after a 30-hour flight from Switzerland and did not win a ticket. “We’re friends now,” Mr. Zierway said. “We had a few drinks last night. We’re both here for the same reason, and we both traveled a distance.”

Joey Daniel, 22, said he had considered selling his tickets but could not pass up the memorial. “This is a part of history,” Mr. Daniel said. “We could probably sell these for a lot of money, but it wouldn’t be worth it. I’m going to tell my children and grandchildren that I was there.”

Although city services may be taxed, the event could give a bump to the local economy. Just considering hotel bookings, souvenir sales, dining and other spending, an estimated $4 million would be infused into the local economy, said Robin McClain, a spokeswoman for LA Inc., the city’s tourism office. Ms. McLain said that some hotels had reported a 40 percent increase in bookings in the past week but that a clearer accounting would be known after the event.

“It is important to know,” she said. “This is an unprecedented event for L.A.”