Performers Announced as Los Angeles Braces for Jackson Memorial
LOS ANGELES – The stage was set Monday for Michael Jackson's final act as the world capital of make-believe braced for what could be the biggest, most spectacular celebrity send-off of all time.
Ecstatic fans who won the lottery for seats at Tuesday's all-star memorial received the tickets and spangly wristbands that will get them into the 20,000-seat Staples Center downtown. The family announced the participants will include Stevie Wonder, Mariah Carey, Usher, Lionel Richie, Kobe Bryant, Jennifer Hudson, John Mayer and Martin Luther King III, son of the slain civil rights leader.
The legal maneuvering that marked Jackson's extraordinary and troubled life also continued on Monday, 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.
More than 1.6 million people registered for free tickets to the 10 a.m. PDT memorial, which will be broadcast live worldwide. A total of 8,750 people were chosen to receive two tickets each. The lucky ones picked up their passes Monday at Dodger Stadium amid heavy police presence.
"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.
"My mother loves Elvis. This is my Elvis," said ticket winner Mynor Garcia, 29.
Downtown hotels were quickly filling. Police, trying to avoid a mob scene, warned those without tickets to stay away because they would not be able to get close to the Staples Center.
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, said spokesman Paul Charles.
"I think this is America's version of Princess Diana. People want to be in the vicinity. People from the UK and elsewhere want to share their emotions together," Charles said.
About 50 theaters across the country, from Los Angeles to Topeka, Kansas, to Washington, D.C., were planning to broadcast the memorial live, said Cinedigm Digital Cinema Corp. spokeswoman Suzanne Moore. Admission will be free — first-come, first-served.
Jackson's friend Elizabeth Taylor will be mourning in private. She said on her Twitter feed Monday that she would not attend the memorial.
"I just don't believe that Michael would want me to share my grief with millions of others," she tweeted. "How I feel is between us. Not a public event."
In Los Angeles Superior Court, meanwhile, a judge appointed Jackson's longtime attorney and a family friend as administrators of his estate over the objections of his mother, Katherine. Attorney John Branca and music executive John McClain had been designated in Jackson's 2002 will as the people he wanted to oversee his empire.
Mrs. Jackson's attorneys expressed concerns about McClain and Branca's financial leadership.
"Frankly, Mrs. Jackson has concerns about handing over the keys to the kingdom," said one of her attorneys, John E. Schreiber.
Another one of her attorneys, Burt Levitch, told Judge Mitchell Beckloff that Branca had previously been removed from financial positions of authority by Jackson. Branca's attorney said he was rehired by Jackson on June 17, days before Jackson's death.
Branca and McClain will have to post a $1 million bond on the estate, and their authority will expire Aug. 3, when another hearing will be held.
"Mr. Branca and Mr. McClain for the next month are at the helm of the ship," the judge said.
Jackson died at age 50 with hundreds of millions in debts. But a court filing estimates his estate is worth more than $500 million. His assets are destined for a trust, with his three children, his mother and charities as beneficiaries.
On eBay, bids for the memorial tickets were reaching as high as $3,000, though it was impossible to establish how serious those offers were. On Craigslist, asking prices also were in the thousands.
Debbie Rowe, Jackson's ex-wife and the mother of Jackson's two oldest children, had planned to attend the memorial but backed out Monday.
"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 attorney Marta Almli said in a statement. "Debbie will continue to celebrate Michael's memory privately."
In New York, Republican Rep. Peter King released a YouTube video calling Jackson, who was acquitted of child molestation charges, a "pervert" and a "low-life."
But the memories of Jackson's problems were far from the minds of fans preparing to say goodbye.
"It's the passing of a great soul," said Matt Tyson, 31, of Ojai, California. "He brought people together, helped express something that's in us all."
The family was expected to hold a private funeral at some point at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Los Angeles. No public funeral procession through city streets was scheduled, and it was not known whether Jackson's body would be at the Staples Center memorial.
In a symbolic convergence of events, however, the circus will be there.
Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey starts a run at Staples Center on Wednesday. In the predawn hours before Jackson's memorial, the elephants will walk from the train station to the arena.