Jackson's Last Dance: "The Biggest Star on Earth"

Daughter speaks, audience cries.

By Hasani Gittens
|  Wednesday, Jul 8, 2009  |  Updated 3:46 PM EDT
View Comments (
)
|
Email
|
Print
Life and Times: Michael Jackson

AP

The Jackson brothers carry Michael Jackson's casket into the pop star's memorial service.

advertisement
Photos and Videos

Paris: "The Best Father You Could Ever Imagine"

Michael Jackson's daughter Paris Katherine says her father was "the best father you could ever imagine."
More Photos and Videos

The public memorial for Michael Jackson was poignant, joyous, tearful and surprising, as family members and celebrities shared deep emotions for the King of Pop with the entire world.

The wake even ended with tear-inducing comments from Jackson's 11-year-old daughter Paris, whom very few people have ever heard speak.

 "I just wanted to say, ever since I was born, Daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine, and I just wanted to say I love him so much," said little Paris Katherine Jackson, crying as she was comforted by aunt Janet Jackson. People who were in the arena said there was not a dry eye in the house afterward.

The short speech -- her first ever publicly -- came after the last goodbyes by Jermaine and Marlon Jackson, who like all of their other brothers and male family members were wearing black suits, yellow ties and one sequined glove, in honor of Michael.

Music legend Smokey Robinson began the ceremony, which was broadcast around the world on all three major cable news networks, at about 10:10 a.m. PT, by reading condolences to the family from Diana Ross -- "Michael was part of the fabric of my life" -- and then Nelson Mandela -- "Be strong" -- and then calling for a moment of silence.

The Staples Center stage was bathed in blue light and a spray of yellow and orange flowers was placed in front of a podium. The backdrop featured a photo of a smiling Jackson looking up toward the sky and the words: "In loving memory of Michael Jackson King of Pop. 1958-2009."

Celebrities in attendance included Kobe Bryant, Spike Lee, Wesley Snipes, Lou Ferrigno, Don King, the Kardashian sisters, Magic Johnson, Brooke Shields and Larry King. Among those conspicuously not in attendance were Elizabeth Taylor, Ross and Debbie Rowe, Jackson's ex-wife and the mother of Jackson's two oldest children.

After the pause, the memorial then took a decidedly religious turn as a gospel choir sang while Jackson's golden casket was wheeled to the front of the stage.

Pastor Lucious W. Smith, of the Friendship Baptist Church in Pasadena, Calif., then spoke, saying "to millions around the world, Michael Jackson was an idol, a hero and even a king, but first and foremost, this man before us was our brother, our father, our son and our friend."

Emotions climbed higher as Mariah Carey then sang the Jackson 5 song "I'll Be There," with Trey Larenz, and they received a rousing applause. She finished with a simple "We miss you."

Queen Latifah was up next, saying that she represented millions of fans around the world who were inspired by Michael and loved him from a distance.

"You believed in Michael and he believed in you, he made you believe in yourself," said Latifah.

"Michael was the biggest star on Earth," she said. "He let me know that as an African-American, you could travel the world."

Latifah also shared a poem from Maya Angelou called "We had him," written for the occasion.

Following the Queen, Lionel Richie sang the song "Father, Help Your Children," from his Commodores days.

Motown founder Berry Gordy, who first discovered took the stage after, and said Jackson "was driven by his hunger, to learn, to constantly top himself -- to be the best.

"He raised the bar, and then he broke the bar," said Gordy, who recounted the early days of Michael and the Jackson 5.

"The more I talk about him, the more I think that 'The King of Pop' is not big enough," said Gordy. "He was simply the greatest entertainer that ever lived."

Gordy was followed by a stirring montage of Jackson's videos through the decades, then Stevie Wonder took the stage with his piano. But before he played, just tinkling the ebony and ivory, he commented, "This is a moment that I wished I hadn't  lived to experience."

Wonder then sang a beautiful medley of "I Never Dreamed You'd Leave In Summer" and "They Won't Go When I Go," with Michael's name peppered throughout the lyrics.

He was followed by Laker greats Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant, who spoke of Jackson's humanitarian work, including that Jackson made the Guinness Book of World Records for most charitable contributions by an entertainer.

Johnson talked about how he met the Jackson family over 30 years ago, even saying that Michael "made me a better point guard and basketball player as I watched him be so great."

They were followed by Jennifer Hudson, who decreased the ratio of dry eyes in the arena as she sang Jackson's song "Will You Be There." 

A fiery Rev. Al Sharpton, then took the stage and said, "All over the world today people are gathered in love vigils to celebrate the life of a man that taught the world how to love."

Speaking of Jackson's trip-ups with the media, the legal system and other naysayers, Sharpton said "He out-sang his cynics, he out- danced his doubters and he out-performed his pessimists."

Addressing Jackson's children, Sharpton said, "Wasn't nothing strange about your Daddy, it was strange what your Daddy had to deal with!" and received a thunderous round of applause.

John Mayer then took to the stage with his guitar and played a very jazzy version of "Human Nature," as the audience clapped along.

Brooke Shields, a longtime friend, gave one of the most poignant speeches, weeping as she recounted moments with Michael, whom she had known since she was 13. 

"He had the sweetest and purest laugh of anyone I have ever known," she said. She noted that they both tried to out-silly each other, and when he started wearing his one sequined glove she asked, "'What's up with the glove? Sequins hurt my hands.'

 "Michael always knew he could count on me to support him or be his date," she said. "We had a bond and maybe it was because we both understood what it was like to be in the spotlight from a very, very young age. I used to tease him and say, 'I started when I was 11 months old. You're a slacker. You were like 5?' Both of us needed to be adults very early, but when we were together, we were two little kids having fun.

 "He was also referred to as the King, but the Michael I knew was more like the Little Prince."

She ended by reminding family and friends to "Smile though your heart is aching" -- and Jermaine Jackson took the stage next to sing that song.

They were followed Martin Luther King Jr.'s children, and Texas congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, who called Michael Jackson "the good Samaritan."

Jackson Lee said she would introduce resolution 600 on the House of Representatives floor to recognize Michael Jackson as "an American icon and a world humanitarian."

Usher followed that with a teary rendition of Jackson's "Gone Too Soon." After, Jackson family members came to hug him on stage, and he went down to speak to Katherine Jackson.

A video of a very young Michael Jackson singing "Who's Lovin' You" then played, and afterward Smokey Robinson took the stage to speak again and began: "I wrote that song! I thought I sang that song!"

Robinson was followed by Shaheen Jafargholi 12-year-old Welsh-Iranian winner of "Britain's Got Talent," who sang the song one more time.

Kenny Ortega, one of Jackson's longtime tour managers then came on and introduced the "We Are the World" performance that the singer had been working on for his upcoming "This Is It" concerts in England.

Jackson's casket came all the way up on to the stage during the finale, which ended with an emotional rendition of "Heal the World," with all of the previous speakers and singers.

After the funeral the Jackson family went to the Beverly Wilshire to have lunch. It was unclear where the casket went.

So Michael Jackson's last show proved to be as big a public spectacle as promised, but it began Tuesday morning with a subdued private funeral for his family members only.

On Tuesday morning, California Highway Patrol and the LAPD first escorted members of the Jackson family to Forest Lawn Cemetery in Los Angeles for the private service just before 8 a.m. local time.

Amid the morning rush hours, officials completely shut down the 101 Freeway for the long procession of private cars and police vehicles from Jackson's parents' Encino home.  The motorcade included five Rolls-Royces, three Cadillac Escalades and 10 identical black Range Rovers. They arrived just after 8:15 a.m. Pacific.

Despite being billed as family and friends only, dozens of people could be seen entering the cemetery's Hall of Liberty, a circular building that contains a 1,200 seat auditorium, led by Jackson's parents Joe and Katherine.

The cemetery is the final resting place for such stars as Bette Davis, Andy Gibb, Freddie Prinze, Liberace and recently deceased David Carradine and Ed McMahon.

Jackson's hearse left the cemetery at about 9:25 a.m. and arrived at Staples at about 10 a.m. L.A. time. 

In contrast to the quiet private services, the public memorial at the downtown Staples Center, included a circus surrounding the show -- literally and figuratively --  as legal drama, screaming fans, star power, live worldwide broadcast, unsavory accusations and even a parade of Ringling Bros. elephants all co-mingled.

Outside the arena, video billboards showed a montage of pictures from Jackson's life, including those of the singer as a child, with celebrities such as Luciano Pavarotti and Marcel Marceau, and with members of his family.

Some fans were allowed past street barriers into the immediate area around the Center early Tuesday. Dozens of street vendors sold T-shirts, photos, buttons and other Jackson memorabilia.

More than 1.6 million people had registered for free tickets to Jackson's downtown memorial. A total of 8,750 people were chosen to receive two tickets each.

"I got the golden ticket!" one fan screamed out of his car window in a Willy Wonka moment as he drove out of the parking lot.

And the legal maneuvering that marked Jackson's extraordinary life also continued this with his mother losing a bid to control his enormous but tangled estate. And in one of the few reminders of Jackson's darkest hours, a New York congressman branded Jackson a "pervert" undeserving of so much attention.

British Airways reported a surge of bookings as soon as the memorial arrangements were announced. Virgin's trans-Atlantic flights to San Francisco, Las Vegas and Los Angeles were all packed with fans and VIPs, spokesman Paul Charles said.

About 50 theaters across the country, from Los Angeles to Topeka, Kan., to Washington, D.C., are broadcast the memorial live, for free.

Meanwhile, Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey starts a run at Staples Center on Wednesday, a booking long planned in advance. In the pre-dawn hours before Jackson's memorial, the elephants started walking from the train station to the arena. They were set to arrive some five hours before the memorial.

Get the latest headlines sent to your inbox!
View Comments (
)
|
Email
|
Print
Leave Comments
What's New
Follow us on Instagram!
We post photos taken by our news... Read more
Follow Us
Sign up to receive news and updates that matter to you.
Send Us Your Story Tips
Check Out