M.J. Honored in Star-Studded Tribute
July 07 2009 12:00 AM ET
According to the Los Angeles Times , the LAPD had planned to deploy 3,200 officers for crowd control -- its largest showing since the 1984 Olympics. But fewer than 1,000 fans and onlookers showed up on area street corners.
Fans lucky enough to nab the gold wristbands needed to get within two blocks of the arena arrived from all over the world in rhinestone-studded, funereal black garb. "When I heard my friend got tickets, I was like, 'I'm booking it. Red eye. I'm out. Let's go,'" said Alejandra Peña, a fashion stylist who flew in from Venezuela to attend.
Not everyone shared her enthusiasm. Several protesters stood beyond the Staples Center barricades carrying signs with slogans like "STOP USING MY TAXES 4 MILLIONAIRES." The memorial could cost the already cash-strapped city up to $4 million. Though Jackson's sister LaToya thanked "the city for all its support," it's unclear whether the family plans to reimburse Los Angeles for expenses incurred.
"He's not a role model," said Larry, who declined to give his last name and held a sign reading 'NAMBLA Salutes Michael' in a crush of fans on Olympic Boulevard. "His proclivities are not what I think deserves honor. And this is a waste of taxpayers' money."
Onstage, family members and celebrities defended Jackson and sang his praises with vigor. Speaking to Jackson's children in the front row, the Reverend Al Sharpton said, "There wasn't anything strange about your daddy. What was strange was what he had to deal with."
The memorial culminated with a tearful tribute from Jackson's 11-year-old daughter, Paris Katherine. "Ever since I was born, Daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine," she said. "And I just wanted to say I love him so much."
The 11-year-old girl and her older brother, Prince Michael, may be the subject of a future custody battle between Jackson's mother, Katherine, and his ex-wife, Debbie Rowe.