Yesterday morning, here in Los Angeles, CA, thousands of family, friends and fans of Michael Jackson paid tribute and homage to the late King of Pop in a respectful, somber yet mostly celebratory memorial service at the Staples Center in downtown LA (which you may have watched online HERE). David and I were at yesterday’s memorial service and I will share my personal experience from the event a little later on today … but I will say that it was a very beautiful, very fitting tribute to Michael Jackson. Family and friends eulogized him with words and songs as his shining casket, reportedly with his body inside, stood at the front of the venue for those in attendance to pay their respects. Here are a few photos and some info about the event itself:
His was a tumultuous life and a chaotic death, but Michael Jackson’s funeral and memorial Tuesday were orderly and celebratory, moving and bittersweet, as family, friends and fans around the world joined in lamenting the loss of the King of Pop. It was one of the most-watched celebrity sendoffs in history, telecast across multiple channels and streamed across the Internet. But the predicted traffic and crowd-control nightmares did not materialize. Thousands of police officers helped keep the ticketless crowd to a minimum — about 1,000 people vs. the 250,000 feared — and the motorcade with Jackson’s hearse encountered few problems traveling blocked-off freeways to downtown. The goodbye to Jackson started early with a private service for family and close friends at Forest Lawn in the Hollywood Hills. (A crash was heard as drivers slowed to watch the procession leave the cemetery). A star-crowded memorial program followed, at the downtown Staples Center, that was spiritual, smoothly entertaining and jubilantly roof-raising as Jackson was hailed as a superstar and humanitarian. “The King of Pop has gone to meet the King of Kings,” intoned the Rev. Lucious Smith, pastor of the Friendship Baptist Church in Pasadena. It was a day filled with touching moments, perhaps the most poignant when Jackson’s daughter, Paris, 11, took the microphone. “I just want to say ever since I was born, Daddy has been the best father you can ever imagine. And I just wanted to say I love him so much,” she said, breaking into tears. That followed two hours of farewell tributes from musicians, athletes and friends of Michael Joseph Jackson, who died suddenly June 25 at age 50. The crowd of 20,000 was alternately reverent and boisterous. They watched in solemn silence as the likes of Stevie Wonder, Lionel Richie and Mariah Carey sang sweetly, and older brother Jermaine crooned Smile, the theme from Charlie Chaplin’s classic film Modern Times. Usher sang Jackson’s sadly prescient Gone Too Soon as he caressed the golden casket spotlighted in front of the stage and draped in flowers. But when Kobe Bryant walked in, many jumped to their feet and started cheering and taking pictures; some reached over for high-fives. They cheered loud approval for the Rev. Al Sharpton’s fiery eulogy and laughed at a story Magic Johnson told about fried chicken. And they snapped photos with phones and rained shout-outs of “I love you, Michael!” during lulls … Other celebrities in the crowd: Cicely Tyson; P. Diddy; Rick, Kathy and Nicky Hilton; Lil Kim; Chris Brown; and Tatum O’Neal. Diana Ross and Nelson Mandela sent messages. Also absent: Jackson’s longtime pal Elizabeth Taylor, who said in a Twitter post she couldn’t bear to be part of the public hoopla, and Debbie Rowe, Jackson’s ex-wife and mother of Jackson’s two oldest children. Outside the Staples Center, the mood was festive. Vendors hawked T-shirts, buttons, photos and other memorabilia … As the memorial service ended, Jackson’s three children and eight siblings — his brothers were all wearing one beaded white glove in his honor — gathered onstage to say thanks. “We will never understand what he endured … being judged, ridiculed,” said brother Marlon, choking up. “Maybe, now, Michael, they will leave you alone.” The Rev. Smith closed by noting: “All around us are people of different cultures, different religions, different nationalities. And yet the music of Michael Jackson brings us together.” After the memorial, the family went to the Beverly Wilshire Hotel for a private reception. It was unclear whether Jackson’s casket would be returned to Forest Lawn for burial or taken to another final resting place.
I have to tell you that I was touched by the service more than I thought I would be. As I’ve tried to make clear, I’m not the biggest Michael Jackson fan in the world (there are plenty of uberfans all around the globe who are more fitting of that title than I) but I really wanted to pay respects to such an icon of pop culture. I didn’t count in being as affected by the memorial service as I was. Mariah Carey‘s performance brought the first tears to my eyes … Brooke Shields‘s eulogy brought them back. When Paris Michael Katherine, MJ‘s 11 year old only daughter, spoke at the end of the service I absolutely burst out crying. There wasn’t a dry eye anywhere in our vicinity. Paris‘s comments were so heartfelt, so honest … so raw. I’m sure it was difficult for most to keep from crying as she declared her love for her daddy. She said, “I just want to say… ever since I was born…. daddy has been the best father you can imagine. And I just want to say I love him so much.” In case you missed it, you can watch Paris‘s short speech after the jump … More »