- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 8, 2009

LOS ANGELES | The world stopped Tuesday for the Michael Jackson memorial.

Millions around the globe set aside whatever they were doing and watched the tribute to the King of Pop on television, via Internet streams or inside Staples Center if they were lucky enough to secure tickets. The public memorial had been billed as an unparalleled Hollywood-style event, but it unfolded into a largely somber farewell with goodbyes from family, friends and some of the entertainment industry’s biggest stars.

“The more I think about Michael Jackson, the more I think ‘the King of Pop’ is not big enough for him,” said Berry Gordy Jr., the founder of Motown Records, who gave Mr. Jackson and his four brothers their big chance. “He was the greatest entertainer who ever lived.”

Mr. Gordy recalled the mesmerizing effect of Mr. Jackson’s moonwalking and playfully chided singer Smokey Robinson about how a 10-year-old Michael did a better version of Mr. Robinson’s own “Who’s Lovin’ You.”

“He made some unfortunate decisions but accomplished everything he dreamed of,” said Mr. Gordy, acknowledging Mr. Jackson’s troubled life, which included health and financial problems as well as allegations of drug abuse and inappropriate contact with children.

Mr. Jackson died unexpectedly of cardiac arrest on June 25. He was 50.

Perhaps no one took that death harder than his 11-year-old daughter, Paris Katherine Jackson.

As Tuesday’s two-hour event came to an end with Mr. Jackson’s family filling the stage to thank his fans and supporters, his sister Janet brought Paris to the microphone, and she instantly stole the hearts of those millions of viewers.

Her eyes filled with tears as she said: “I just wanted to say, ever since I was born, Daddy has been the best father you can ever imagine. I love him so much.”

The sold-out Staples Center event began at about 1:30 p.m. EDT with Mr. Robinson reading a tribute from Diana Ross, which was followed by the Andrae Crouch Choir singing the hymn “We Are Going to See the King.”

At the foot of the stage rested Mr. Jackson’s golden casket, adorned in red roses. It was carried into the arena by dark-suited pallbearers, each wearing a sequined glove. Above the stage, bathed in blue lights, was a banner depicting Mr. Jackson’s face and the words “In Loving Memory of Michael Jackson. King of Pop. 1958-2009.”

“We had him,” said singer-actress Queen Latifah, reading from a poem Maya Angelou wrote for the occasion. “He was a gift to us and we had him. He came from the creator. … In Johannesburg and in Pittsburgh we are missing you.”

Performers who took the stage during the memorial included Mariah Carey and Trey Lorenz, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Jennifer Hudson, John Mayer, Jermaine Jackson, Usher and Shaheen Jaforgholi.

“On June 25, because he was the best, I believe heaven and earth did pause to say, ‘Here lived a great entertainer who did his job well.’ ” Martin Luther King III said.

Many speakers lightened the mood by sharing personal stories of Mr. Jackson that showed his personality and charm. Magic Johnson, the former NBA player and Los Angeles Lakers legend, reminisced about sharing a bucket of KFC with Mr. Jackson; Mr. Robinson told a few jokes; and Brooke Shields talked about how much she laughed with Mr. Jackson.

Kenny Ortega, director of Mr. Jackson’s planned concerts in London this summer, shared the stage with 12-year-old Shaheen, a finalist on “Britain’s Got Talent.” Mr. Jackson invited Shaheen to perform with him during the London concerts after seeing his YouTube performances.

“Timeless and timely, musical and magical,” Mr. Ortega said. “Michael, we love you more.”

Miss Hudson performed “Will You Be There” with Mr. Jackson’s original dancers, who were slated to perform the number with him during the London shows. A video montage made for concert performances was presented, accompanied by Mr. Jackson’s spoken voice reciting the lyrics of the song.

As morning broke over Los Angeles, TV crews quietly set up their equipment as fans began lining the streets and vendors toted loads of T-shirts and other souvenirs behind police barricades erected around the arena to control the large crowd that came to honor Mr. Jackson.

Jackson family members left their Encino estate by motorcade in midmorning for a private ceremony at the Forest Lawn cemetery in the Hollywood Hills before traveling the last 10 miles to Staples Center.

A procession of black sport utility vehicles arrived at the arena at around noon under a brilliant Southern California sun to drop off family members, including Mr. Jackson’s parents, Katherine and Joe, and his children: son Prince Michael Jackson I, daughter Paris and son Prince Michael Jackson II, whose nickname is Blanket.

The event was broadcast worldwide by at least 16 networks, including ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and MTV, and seen by millions on live Internet streams.

The roughly 20,500 people inside Staples Center included 9,000 Jackson friends and family members and 11,000 fans who received free tickets through an online application. The arena is owned by AEG, the organizer of Mr. Jackson’s planned comeback concerts in London. He last rehearsed in the arena two days before he died.

Another 6,500 guests watched a simulcast of the service at nearby Nokia Theatre.

Helicopters whirred above the onlookers, many of whom wore Mr. Jackson’s signature single glove.

Among them was Robert de Lariva of Marina del Rey, Calif., who was almost mobbed when he held six free tickets above his head and offered them to whoever had “come the farthest.”

“Cuba. Africa. Australia,” people yelled, trying to be the lucky winners.

“I gave them away rather than asking for money,” Mr. Lariva said. “God blessed me with six tickets yesterday. Michael taught me it’s not about money.”

Adding to the spectacle was the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which is scheduled Wednesday to begin a five-day show at Staples Center, which on Tuesday continued its tradition of walking in the elephants and other large animals.

Debbie Rowe, mother of two of Mr. Jackson’s three children, did not attend the event.

Elizabeth Taylor, a close friend of Mr. Jackson’s, said on her Twitter feed that she would not attend.

“I just don’t want to believe that Michael would want me to share my grief with millions of others,” she said. “How I feel is between us, not a public event.”

More than 1.6 million people applied online for tickets, which were posted for as much as $1 million on the Web site eBay, despite efforts by site administrators to remove the postings.

In addition to establishing the quarter-mile perimeter around the arena, the Los Angeles Police Department provided security at the Bel Air home where Mr. Jackson died, the Jackson family’s Encino compound and Dodger Stadium, where the free tickets were distributed.

The Drug Enforcement Administration has joined in the police investigation into whether Mr. Jackson possessed or was given illegal prescription drugs, amid rumors he was addicted and received an injection of the narcotic Demerol or Diprivan before his death.

On Monday, a Los Angeles judge ruled that Mr. Jackson’s 2002 will, which named lawyer John Branca and music executive John McClain as executors, is valid. Mr. Jackson’s mother had been appointed temporary executor.

Not as many fans showed up outside the arena as had been expected. Los Angeles police do not disclose estimates of crowds, but the turnout appeared to be fewer than 10,000 compared with some projections of 250,000 early Tuesday. Some estimates had the crowd as low as 1,000. Police Cmdr. Andrew Smith said this was likely because LAPD had communicated to the media that there would be nothing to see outside Staples Center, and people should stay home. He also said that blocking off streets around the perimeter of the center with a strong police presence helped.

Some business owners had anticipated such a mob that they closed their doors, but others brought in more staff in the hopes of doing record business. One restaurant owner on Flower Street, an entry point to Staples Center, doubled his staff, but they waited with nothing to do during the memorial service. Most people coming out of the service walked straight to their cars.

Before the service, however, there was more activity as artists, fans, business people and media milled about with one commonality — Michael Jackson.

At Flowers and 11th streets in downtown Los Angeles, one of the entry points for the lucky ones with tickets, Thierry Marceau, a performance artist from Montreal, stood tall and slender under a black umbrella. He drew onlookers who for a moment reacted as though Mr. Jackson was among them.

Mr. Marceau, decked out in a black fedora, dark shades and the signature black handkerchief across his mouth, was surrounded by media and visitors from all over the world. He said he’s working on some character portrayals, including Mr. Jackson, for some of his shows in Montreal, so he wanted to dress the part even if the weather was oppressive.

The hot, humid day didn’t dissuade Jet Set Hudson, who dances with fire in Hollywood. He turned out in a cape over his clothes, with a baton in his hand.

“My inspirations were Michael Jackson and James Brown,” he said, perspiring heavily in the bright sun as a sea of photographers milled around him. “Michael did so many wonderful things,” he said. Around Hudson were media from Russia, Hungary, France and other countries, along with tourists from Australia, Norway and elsewhere.

Dachuray Davis, 17, a student from Escondido, near San Diego, stopped to entertain camera-wielding passers-by with Mr. Jackson’s dance moves, including the gravity defying act of landing on the tips of her feet. “I can do more moves, but I’m a bit shy,” Dachuray said. “Michael was an inspiration to me because of what he did to help change the world. I’d like to change the world. I’d like to help the economy and help take better care of kids.”

Two women, arm in arm, their faces showing dried tears and still others welling in their eyes, left the service and spoke of how they could “feel Michael’s spirit in there, with all the people sharing their remembrances of him.”

They related how much they felt Mr. Jackson had done for the world. “It didn’t matter what language you spoke,” said one. “You could go anywhere in the world and see people dancing to his music, and it was as though everybody knew the words to his songs.”

Some speakers at the service had noted how Mr. Jackson broke social barriers for blacks in America. The women agreed.

“There were lots of entertainers,” one said, her chest beginning to heave with emotion. “But there was no one like Michael Jackson.”

Joe Weber and Michelle Bowman reported from Washington.

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