Michael Jackson Public Viewing Set for Friday

L.A. bracing for mass influx of mourners

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Michael Jackson funeral could be bigger than Elvis'.

    The world's goodbye to Michael Jackson will likely be the biggest celebrity funeral in history, dwarfing even the ceremony for Princess Di nearly a dozen years ago.

    The King of Pop's body will return to his Neverland Ranch in Southern California on Thursday morning and there will be a public viewing on Friday.

    A private memorial service is reportedly scheduled for Sunday.

    It is unclear where Jackson's final resting place will be, but the mayor of his hometown, Gary, Ind., has asked his family to send him there.

    Gary Mayor Rudy Clay told a Chicago radio station that he expects Jackson's body will at least be taken to Indiana for a memorial service he is planning next week.

    "I believe that his body will lie in state in Gary, Indiana," Clay said Tuesday. "Now, it may not happen, but I believe it will."

    Given the Gloved One's legendary status and the unprecedented outpouring from fans around the world since his shocking death on Thursday, the memorial services in Los Angeles and Gary will be momentous.  According to TMZ, upwards of a 30 car motorcade -- including Jackson's body -- will be traveling from Los Angeles to Neverland at 10 a.m. on Thursday.

    "We are preparing for an event of historic proportions,” an LAPD official said. 

    Princess Di's funeral on Aug. 31, 1997 in London attracted an estimated 3 million mourners and was televised around the world. More than 1 million bouquets were left at Kensington Palace for her. Two decades earlier, the funeral for Elvis Presley, whose fame was on par with Jackson's, was actually a relatively modest affair, with just 30,000 fans let in for the public viewing.

    Given Jackson's international appeal, the sudden circumstances of his death and the unprecedented media coverage, his funeral will be on a scale never seen before. As many as a million people are expected to travel to Los Angeles for the service. But plans are so much in flux that it is not even yet known where Jackson will be buried. Officials in his hometown of Gary, Indiana, want him interred there, and Joseph Jackson shot down rumors that his son would be buried at his fabled former home, the Neverland Ranch.

    Some fans can’t wait for the official Jackson funeral, so they’re moving ahead with services of their own.

    The Rev. Al Sharpton delivered a public eulogy for the late pop icon on Tuesday at the Apollo Theater in New York City. The historic theater figured prominently in Jackson’s rise to stardom. Other memorials have sprung up around the globe, like the one in Paris where fans and Jackson lookalikes held what they claimed was the world's biggest moonwalk, or the event Monday evening in Rome's historic Piazza Navona, where mourners lit candles and left roses, messages and photos of Michael Jackson near Gian Lorenzo Bernini's 17th century fountain.