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A HOMEGOING FIT FOR A KING

 

07.08.09 --- Yesterday, what the world thought was to be gaudy, circus-like, chaotic turned out to be a classy, tasteful and fitting homegoing for a “King.”

An 11-year-old girl who lost her father made the world cry with her on Tuesday.

"Ever since I was born, daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine," said Paris Katherine Jackson, the second of Michael Jackson's three children, as a massive memorial service for her father neared its end in downtown Los Angeles.

"And I just want to say that I love him so much," Paris added, before breaking down in tears and burying herself in the arms of her aunt, Janet Jackson.

Her aunts, uncles and two brothers who were on stage at the Staples Center arena reached over to console Paris. Thousands of mourners in the audience dabbed their eyes with tissues.

It was the first time they had heard from a girl who, along with her two siblings, have often been hidden by veils or masks when seen with their father.

At some points during the 90-minute program, global Web traffic was 31 percent above normal, said Akamai Technologies, which monitors Internet traffic.

Inside the Staples Center, Jackson lay at the foot of the stage in a closed, rose-draped, bronze casket.

His brothers, who served as pallbearers, wore single white sequined gloves, a tribute to Jackson's signature look. Singers and sports celebrities took the stage and shared what Jackson meant to them. Between them, the performers have 40 Grammy awards -- a fitting tribute to a man who alone earned 13 in his lifetime.

Brother Marlon Jackson was among some who alluded to the controversies that surround the pop icon in death.

The world, he said, could not understand what Jackson endured "being judged and ridiculed."

"How much pain can one man take?" Marlon Jackson asked. "Maybe now, Michael, they will leave you alone."

Pomp and Precaution

The morning began with a half-hour gathering for several hundred family and friends inside a chapel at the Hollywood Hills Forest Lawn cemetery.

Jackson's casket -- bronze with 14-karat gold plate handles, a velvet-lined interior and a reported price tag upward of $20,000 -- was then placed in a hearse for the 10-mile trip to the arena.

The motorcade of black limousines and sports utility vehicles to the arena was accompanied by police cruisers and motorcycles, which shut down freeway ramps and caused a miles-long traffic backup.

Three thousand police officers, almost one-third of the Los Angeles police force, were on hand to ensure the Jackson events proceeded smoothly, Los Angeles Assistant Police Chief Jim McDonnell said.

In comparison, about 2,000 officers were deployed for the parade and celebration at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the L.A. Lakers' NBA championship victory last month.

The mayor's office estimated the cost for security for the Staples ceremony to be between $2 million and $4 million.

And the city, which is $530 million in debt, set up a Web page asking Jackson fans to donate money to help with expenses.

Leading into the event, police repeatedly asked fans without tickets to the service to watch from home. And, putting their worst-case scenarios to rest, fans seem to have complied.

McDonnell said ticketless fans outside Staples numbered 5,000 or fewer, much lower than what police had anticipated.

Inside the arena, Jackson's older brothers carried the coffin to the front of the stage, which was designed to resemble a church sanctuary with a stained-glass backdrop.

Tears and Testimony

Singer Smokey Robinson set the tone for the event when he read a heartfelt letter from Diana Ross.

Ross, a long-time friend that Jackson named as alternate guardian to his children in his will, explained in her letter why she was not there:

"I am trying to find closure. I want you to know that even though I am not there at the Staples Center, I am there in my heart. I have decided to pause and be silent. This feels right for me. 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."

She then added: "Michael wanted me to be there for his children, and I will be there if they ever need me."

A bevy of singers took the stage next, none of whom was listed in a scrapbook of Jackson photographs that fans were handed when they walked in.

Among them were Mariah Carey with Jackson's "I'll Be There"; Lionel Richie with "Jesus is Love"; Usher with "Gone Too Soon"; and John Mayer with an instrumental "Human Nature.”

"This is a moment that I wished that I didn't live to see come, but as much as I can say that and mean it, I do know that God is good," singer Stevie Wonder said before launching into an emotional rendition of his 1971 song, "Never Dreamed You'd Leave in Summer."

Another wrenching moment came at the end of Jennifer Hudson's performance of Jackson's "Will You Be There." A recording of Jackson reciting the end lyrics flashed on a giant screen as the music played.

"In our darkest hour, in my deepest despair, will you still care? Will you be there?" the words said. "In my trials and my tribulations, through our doubts."

The Rev. Al Sharpton echoed those sentiments -- and got the loudest applause -- when he said he wanted Jackson's three children to know that there "was nothing strange about your daddy."

"It was strange what he had to deal with, but he dealt with it."

"Every time he got knocked down, he got back up," he said. "Every time you counted him out, he came back in. Michael never stopped, Michael never stopped."

More emotional tributes followed from former Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson, actress Brooke Shields and brother Jermaine Jackson, among others.

"I truly believe that Michael made me a better point guard and basketball player as I watched him be so great and be the greatest entertainer ever," Johnson said.

Shields, who was 13 when she became close friends with Jackson, said they bonded "because we both understood what it was like to be in the spotlight from a very, very young age."

"Both of us needed to be adults very early, but when we were together, we were two little kids having fun," Shields said.

Jermaine Jackson struggled to stay composed as he soldiered through "Smile," one of his brother's favorite songs. As he left the stage, the surviving Jackson brothers hugged him.

As the show ended, stars and family members walked on stage for "We are the World," a song Jackson co-wrote with Lionel Richie.

Jackson's three children -- ages 7, 11, and 12 -- sang along as they swayed by their aunts' side.

Before she left the stage, Paris took the microphone and fought back tears to deliver her short tribute to her father.

"None of us were aware they [the children] were even coming," said service director Kenny Ortega. "It was a surprise they were there. All of us who know them were delighted they were strong enough to come and feel this love and great outpouring for their dad. ... A little girl couldn't love her papa more."

 



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