200 of the late Michael Jackson‘s family and closest friends convened at the Glendale Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, CA last night to pay their last respects to MJ at a small funeral/burial service exactly 70 days after he passed away on June 25. For the most part, the service was fairly quiet (even tho some of it was broadcast live on TV and all of it was filmed for possible inclusion in the upcoming A&E reality TV series The Jackson Family) and provided family and friends the opportunity to say their final farewells to the King of Pop:
Michael Jackson’s family and about 200 of their closest friends gathered on a hill Thursday evening for their final farewell to the pop singer, who died 10 weeks ago. Jackson’s burial may lay to rest some of the mystery and controversy that erupted with his sudden death on June 25. His large family was divided over where the superstar’s final resting place should be, but matriarch Katherine Jackson settled on a crypt inside the well-guarded and ornate Great Mausoleum at Forest Lawn cemetery in Glendale, California. Thursday’s service began 90 minutes past the announced start time, leaving dozens of celebrities — including Elizabeth Taylor — waiting in their seats for the 26 cars carrying the Jackson clan to arrive. It began with Jackson’s five brothers — each wearing a single sequined glove — carrying his flower-covered bronze casket onto the outdoor stage among six large bouquets of white lilies and white roses, along with green topiaries. His three children, led by daughter, Paris, 11, placed a crown atop their father’s coffin, which a family spokesman said it was “to signify the final resting place of the King of Pop.” Jackson’s children, parents and siblings took their seats in the front row, while his nieces and nephews filled several rows of white chairs behind them.
After an opening prayer by Pastor Lucius Smith, soul music legend Gladys Knight sang the gospel hymn “His Eye Is on the Sparrow.” Clifton Davis sang “Never Can Say Goodbye,” a hit he wrote for The Jackson 5 — the group that featured a young Michael and his brothers. What was said by Jackson’s father, Joe Jackson, and others who took the lectern is not publicly known, because the family barred news cameras from the ceremony. A family statement issued afterward said close friends and family, including the Rev. Al Sharpton, spoke “spontaneously to celebrate Michael’s life.” News helicopters hovering above captured video from a distance, but without sound. Lisa Marie Presley, one of Jackson’s former wives and the daughter of Elvis, attended the service, according to the family statement. It did not mention Debbie Rowe, Jackson’s second wife and the mother of his two oldest children. Macaulay Culkin, the “Home Alone” actor who spent time with Jackson during his Neverland Ranch days, was there with his girlfriend, actress Mila Kunis. Actors Corey Feldman and Chris Tucker were also seen arriving for the service. Motown founder Berry Gordy, who gave Jackson and his brothers their first big record deal, and Quincy Jones, who produced Jackson’s “Thriller” album, were there. Music producer Teddy Riley, who helped with Jackson’s 1991 “Dangerous” album, attended. The guest list included TV executive Suzanne de Passe, who produced a miniseries about Jackson’s family, and Kenny Ortega, who was producing Jackson’s comeback show. Thomas Mesereau, the lawyer who successfully defended Jackson in a child molestation trial, sat just behind the Jackson family. When the hour-long service ended, his brothers lifted Jackson’s casket for a final time to carry him inside the Great Mausoleum, where he was placed in his crypt at 9:43 p.m. PT (12:34 a.m. ET Friday). The family statement said it was “his final resting place.” The family and friends then drove to an Italian restaurant eight miles away, in Pasadena, California, for “a time of celebration.”
I watched most of the service as it aired live on CNN last night and found it a much more pared down service compared to the lavish service that took place at the Staples Center last July. I have to admit, I found the placing of the crown on the casket a bit odd but, that seems pretty de rigeur for any service honoring the memory of Michael Jackson. After all these weeks and months, tho, Michael Jackson is finally laid to rest … where he belongs.