Fans and stars remember Jackson

Fans, family, friends and stars are saying farewell to Michael Jackson at a memorial service in Los Angeles.

His coffin was carried into the Staples Center in Los Angeles by his brothers following an earlier private funeral.

The crowd cheered as it entered to the strains of a choir singing “Hallelujah, hallelujah, we’re going to see the King” from the song Soon And Very Soon.

The memorial opened with the reading of tributes from singer Diana Ross and ex-South African President Nelson Mandela.

The message from Ross was read by Smokey Robinson. “I’m trying to find closure,” it said.


Scene inside Staples Center
The stage was adorned with flowers and a tribute to Jackson

“I want you to know that even though I am not there at the Staples Centre I am there in my heart.

“Michael was a personal love of mine, a treasured part of my world, part of the fabric of my life in a way that I can’t seem to find words to express.

“Michael wanted me to be there for his children and I will be there if they ever need me. I hope today brings closure for all those who loved him.”

Mariah Carey was the first to sing, performing I’ll Be There directly in front of the coffin, ending with the words: “We miss you.”

Lionel Richie, Queen Latifah and Stevie Wonder also appeared, and the 17,500 people in the arena cheered as clips of jackson’s life and music were played on big screens.

Motown boss Berry Gordy, who signed the Jackson Five, delivered a personal tribute, ending with the words: “Michael, thank you for the joy, thank you for the love. you will live in my heart forever.”


Staples Center
There is a huge international media presence outside the Staples Center

Other people taking part include Usher, Jennifer Hudson and Britain’s Got Talent finalist Shaheen Jafargholi, who has played the young Michael Jackson in the musical Thriller – Live.

The stage is adorned with the star’s image, alongside a mural carrying the words: “In Loving Memory. Michael Jackson King of Pop – 1958-2009.”

Millions of fans around the world are watching on TV.

Roads were closed off and concrete barriers erected outside the Staples Center, where Jackson had been rehearsing a comeback show before his sudden death aged 50 on 25 June.

Family members had earlier attended a funeral service at the Forest Lawn cemetery.

It is not known where Jackson’s final resting place will be. Early reports suggested he would be buried at his infamous Neverland Ranch, but this may prove impossible due to California’s complex planning laws.

He could be buried at Forest Lawn, alongside the likes of Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, Andy Gibb, Liberace, Mary Pickford, George Burns and Clara Bow.


Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder (pictured)

More than 1.6 million fans applied to attend the memorial event, with 8,750 people chosen at random to receive a pair of tickets.

BBC News reporter Peter Bowes says there was an “air of tension” as fans filed into the memorial.

“Security is intense but the process of getting people inside has been orderly,” he added.

“The huge media presence outside has created a circus-like atmosphere.”

The Los Angeles Police Department, trying to avoid a mob scene, warned those without tickets they would not be able to get close to the venue.

One person not attending is Jackson’s former wife and the mother of two of his children, Debbie Rowe.

“The onslaught of media attention has made it clear her attendance would be an unnecessary distraction to an event that should focus exclusively on Michael’s legacy,” her lawyer Marta Almli said in a statement.

“Debbie will continue to celebrate Michael’s memory privately.”

Jackson’s long-time friend Elizabeth Taylor has also declined the opportunity to speak at the memorial.

“I cannot be part of the public whoopla [sic],” she wrote on Twitter.

“And I cannot guarantee that I would be coherent to say a word.”

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

About 50 cinemas across the US are showing the memorial live.

It is also being relayed to big screens across the UK, Australia and Hong Kong.

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