- The Washington Times - Friday, September 4, 2009

GLENDALE, Calif. (AP) — The King of Pop has been laid to rest.

More than two months his death, Michael Jackson was entombed at a private ceremony before more than 200 family and friends Thursday night. The service was delayed more than an hour by his family’s tardy arrival at Forest Lawn Glendale.

Celebrities including 77-year-old Elizabeth Taylor waited in the stubborn heat for the outdoor service that was scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.

The Rev. Al Sharpton spoke at the ceremony, and Gladys Knight performed. Just before 10 p.m., Sharpton posted on his Twitter page that “Michael Jackson has been laid to rest.”

Family members present included the singer’s three children, Prince Michael, 12, Paris Michael, 10, and Prince Michael II, 7, known as Blanket.

A vivid orange moon, a mark of the devastating wildfire about 10 miles distant, hung over the cemetery.

Police had escorted the family’s motorcade of 31 cars, including Rolls-Royces and Cadillacs, from Encino to Forest Lawn, with the hearse bearing Jackson’s body at the end.

A large, blimp-like inflated light, the type used in film and television production, and a boom camera hovered over the seating area placed in front of the elaborate marble mausoleum. The equipment raised the possibility that the footage would be used for the Jackson concert documentary “This Is It.”

About 250 seats were arranged for mourners over artificial turf laid roadside at the mausoleum. Nearly double the number of media credentials, 435, were issued to reporters and film crews who remained at a distance from the service and behind barricades.

Sharpton, who gave a rousing eulogy at Jackson’s public memorial two months ago, posted on his Twitter account — while the service was still under way — that he made a repeat performance Thursday night.

“I just spoke at the conclusion of tributes,” Sharpton wrote. “Gladys knight sang her heart out. Now we prepare to lay him top rest.”

The few clusters of fans who gathered around the secure perimeter that encircled the cemetery entrance struggled to see much. Maria Martinez, 25, a fan from Riverside, Calif., who was joined by a dozen other Jackson admirers at a gas station near the security perimeter, gave a handful of pink flowers to a man with an invitation driving into the funeral.

“Can you please put these flowers on his grave?” she told him. Martinez said she picked them from a nearby park.

“They were small and ugly, but I did that with my heart,” she said. “I’m not going to be able to get close, so this is as close as I could get to him.”

The man consented, adding, “God bless.”

Glendale police said all was going smoothly early in the evening and there were no arrests.

Jackson will share eternity at Forest Lawn with the likes of Clark Gable, Jean Harlow and W.C. Fields, entombed alongside them in the mausoleum that will be all but off-limits to adoring fans who might otherwise turn the pop star’s grave into a shrine.

After the burial, the closest the public will be able to get to Jackson’s vault is a portion of the mausoleum that displays “The Last Supper Window,” a life-size stained-glass re-creation of Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece. Several 10-minute presentations about the window are held regularly 365 days a year, but most of the building is restricted.

Lisa Burk, who blogs about celebrity graves at www.gravehunting.com, said the Jackson family chose well for his final resting place if it was privacy they were after.

“It’s impossible to get in there,” Burk said. “It was before, and it will be worse now.”

By late afternoon Thursday, media tents had cropped up all along the boulevard across from the wrought-iron gates that serve as the main entrance to Forest Lawn. That vantage point offered no view of any mausoleum — just a fountain and a building containing the gift shop.

The Jackson family had booked an Italian restaurant in Pasadena for a gathering Thursday night, said Alex Carr, assistant operations manager at Villa Sorriso, in the city’s Old Town district. She wouldn’t specify the menu or number of people, but said the entire restaurant, which can accommodate 200 guests, had been reserved for the event and that security would be present.

The ceremony ends months of speculation that the singer’s body would be buried at Neverland Ranch, in part to make the property a Graceland-style attraction. An amended copy of Jackson’s death certificate was filed Thursday in Los Angeles County to reflect Forest Lawn as his final resting place.

In court on Wednesday, it was disclosed that 12 burial spaces were being purchased by Jackson’s estate at Forest Lawn Glendale, about eight miles north of downtown Los Angeles, but no details were offered on how they would be used.

The King of Pop died a drug-induced death June 25 at age 50 as he was about to embark on a comeback attempt. The coroner’s office has labeled the death a homicide, and Jackson’s death certificate lists “injection by another” as the cause.

Dr. Conrad Murray, Jackson’s personal physician, told detectives he gave the singer a series of sedatives and the powerful anesthetic propofol to help him sleep. But prosecutors are still investigating, and no charges have been filed.

AP writers Derrik J. Lang, Anthony McCartney, Sue Manning, Sandy Cohen and Ryan Pearson, and AP Special Correspondent Linda Deutsch contributed to this report.

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