Michael Jackson’s casket is brought out during the Jackson public memorial service held at Staples Center on Tuesday, July 7, 2009 in Los Angeles. — PHOTO: AP
LOS ANGELES – A GOLD-PLATED casket bearing Michael Jackson took centre stage Tuesday as hundreds of millions worldwide bade farewell to the King of Pop in the final curtain call of his glittering career.
Tears and tributes flowed as mourners gathered at Los Angeles’s Staples Center for a star-studded but somber celebration of the music superstar’s turbulent life and times.
Jackson’s poignant journey began with a private service shortly after 8.15am (1515 GMT, 11.15pm Singapore time) as family and friends gathered at the picturesque Forest Lawn mortuary high in the Hollywood Hills.
As the ceremony ended, pallbearers carrying Jackson’s golden casket swathed with red flowers emerged and loaded it into a black hearse, under the watchful eye of mourners and around 20 media helicopters hovering overhead.
A motorcade of luxury vehicles then made a stately procession to the 20,000-capacity Staples Center, where family, friends and celebrities rubbed shoulders with ordinary fans who had won tickets via an online lottery.
Jackson’s casket was placed at the front of the stage as the service began with Smokey Robinson reading letters of condolence from those unable to attend, including a tribute from former South African president Nelson Mandela. ‘Michael was a giant and a legend in the music industry. And we mourn with the millions of fans worldwide,’ Mr Mandela’s tribute read.
Motown diva Diana Ross meanwhile – named by Jackson in his will as an alternative guardian to his children – said she had chosen to mourn privately.
‘Michael was a personal love of mine, a treasured part of my world, part of the fabric of my life,’ Ross’s tribute said. ‘Michael wanted me to be there for his children, and I will be there if they ever need me.’ Veteran poet and writer Maya Angelou paid tribute to Jackson in a moving elegy read by Queen Latifah. ‘Sing our songs among the stars and walk our dances across the face of the moon,’ Angelou wrote.
Tributes to Jackson from friends and associates were punctuated by performances from Mariah Carey, Stevie Wonder and Jennifer Hudson as Jackson’s family looked on approvingly. Jackson’s brothers all wore matching suits and their sibling’s signature solo sequined glove.
Jermaine Jackson later brought the house down with a rendition of Charlie Chaplin’s classic ode to optimism, ‘Smile,’ a song covered by Michael Jackson on the 1995 ‘HIStory’ album.
One of the biggest ovations came after rousing comments remarks by Reverend Al Sharpton who told Jackson’s children to disregard the lurid stories that often swirled around their father.
‘I want his three children to know – there weren’t nothing strange about your daddy,’ Rev Sharpton said. ‘It was strange what your daddy had to deal with but he dealt with it.’ The service drew to a close with a performance of Jackson’s clarion call to end global suffering, ‘Heal the World,’ before members of the star’s family offered individual tributes. — AFP