Thursday, July 09, 2009

Fitting family farewell for Jackson

Highlights from Michael Jackson's memorial service in Los Angeles

By Matthew Price
BBC News, Los Angeles

It took an 11-year-old girl to put everything in perspective.

When Paris Jackson took the microphone at the service of memorial to her father, the global superstar that is Michael Jackson became simply "Daddy".

In amongst the LA madness over the last two weeks, and caught in the middle of the swirling Hollywood rumour machine, the "story" of Michael Jackson's death has often felt rather sordid.

News media have been fighting over the details - real or made-up - of a life and death in the public eye.

It has been all too easy to forget that a family has lost a father, a brother, a son.

Not at the memorial, though.

Dignified

There had been those who feared the public tribute to one of the greatest performers who ever lived might be a tacky, ill-staged affair.

The Jackson brothers carry the casket in LA, July 7
Michael's brothers accompanied him to the stage one last time

Some pointed out that the company promoting it, and the Jackson family, stood to make lots of money when DVDs of the event go on sale.

It was in the end simply a dignified, fitting service.

Walking into the auditorium - normally home to the LA Lakers basketball team - it all felt a little impersonal.

Chairs were laid out in the huge space, and a screen hung above the stage at the end with Michael Jackson's picture on it.

When the lights dimmed, though, and the star's friends and then family filed in, the arena seemed to turn into a cathedral.

A gospel choir started the proceedings. An image of a stained glass window was projected above them.

Michael Jackson's coffin was brought in, his brothers accompanying him to the stage one last time. It was set among flowers, as if by an altar.

Just like a church service too, the family sat at the front, in black.

Despite the television cameras, the thousands of fans granted tickets and the reporters texting and tweeting into their Blackberrys, this felt like an intensely personal and private affair.

The memorial service held at Staples Center on July 7, 2009 in Los Angeles
The mood inside the Staples Centre was solemn

It was as if we were given a glimpse into the heart of the Jackson family and its grief.

So often when stars speak in a setting like this it can come across as false - call it the "Oscars syndrome", perhaps.

But there seemed nothing overtly false about this memorial. It was touching, poignant, sombre.

The media whirl that had surrounded Michael Jackson in life and in the days since his death seemed to vanish for a little over an hour inside the Staples Centre.

Outside the helicopters buzzed overhead, TV reporters spoke to their cameras, the tabloids looked for more gossip and dirt.

Inside a little girl spoke of her love for her father, and for a brief moment even those who are not particularly fond of Michael Jackson, even those who are fed up with the wall-to-wall news coverage, couldn't help but feel heartbroken.

BBC NEWS REPORT.

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