Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Jackson's body arrives at service!

Michael Jackson's coffin is loaded into a funeral car

Michael Jackson's golden coffin has arrived at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, where fans have gathered to say their goodbye to the pop star.

A star-studded memorial service is due to start at 1030 LA time (1830 BST), with artists such as Mariah Carey and Stevie Wonder lining up to pay tribute.

The singer's family will also be there, having attended a private funeral ceremony earlier in the day.

Millions of fans around the world are expected to watch the memorial on TV.

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

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

There were cheers from the queue as footage on big screens showed Jackson's coffin - decorated with red flowers - emerging from the Forest Lawn cemetery to be transferred in a black hearse for the public service.

Inside the Staples Center, 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."

Other people due to take part in the memorial include Motown boss Berry Gordy, Lionel Richie, Jennifer Hudson, and Britain's Got Talent finalist Shaheen Jafargholi, who has played the young Michael Jackson in the musical Thriller - Live.

BBC News Channel
Sky News
Sky Arts 1
The service will also be streamed live on the BBC News website

Celebrity guests - including singer Dionne Warwick, actress Brooke Shields and broadcaster Larry King - have already arrived.

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

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

Those with the coveted golden wristbands started queuing overnight - and became the centre of attention for fans who were unsuccessful in the ballot.

"They're touching us and saying, 'Can you bring the love in for us?'" said Mishelle Van, 37, who drove from the Californian city of Hesperia for the memorial.

BBC News reporter Peter Bowes says there is an "air of tension" as fans file into the memorial.

Michael Jackson
Jackson died on 25 June, just weeks before a series of comeback shows

"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, had warned those without tickets they would not be able to get close to the venue.

Assistant police chief for Los Angeles, Jim McDonnell, told CNN he did not anticipate any trouble.

"It will be a crowd that gathers for the right reasons and keeps the reason they're there in mind," he said.

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

Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder (pictured)
Mariah Carey
Lionel Richie
Kobe Bryant
Jennifer Hudson
John Mayer
Martin Luther King III
Rev Al Sharpton
Smokey Robinson
Brooke Shields
Shaheen Jafargholi
Berry Gordy

"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."

Millions of people are expected to watch the memorial, which is being beamed around the world free of charge.

About 50 cinemas across the US are planning to show the memorial live.

It will also be relayed to big screens across the UK, Australia and Hong Kong.




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