High-profile friends of pop icon Michael Jackson gave him a poignant tribute in the Staples arena, describing him as an “unjaded little prince” and revealing private anecdotes.
Several thousand fans on Tuesday joined Michael Jackson’s family and friends, as well as dozens of legendary music industry figures, to bid farewell to the “King of Pop” at a public memorial service at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles.
In a ceremony suffused with nostalgia, perhaps the most poignant moment came when Jackson's 11-year-old daughter Paris Katherine struggled to hold back tears as she remembered not the pop icon, but the man who took care of her: "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 event, the details of which had remained shrouded in secrecy until the last minute, turned out to be an emotional tribute to a global superstar whose appeal effortlessly crossed lines of race, age, religion and nationality.
Some 18,000 fans had entered an Internet lottery to win tickets to the service in the arena or to watch a live screening in a nearby theatre.
The backdrop of the arena's stage was a giant picture of Jackson that read: "In Loving Memory of Michael Jackson, King of Pop, 1958-2009".
The memorial opened with singer and record executive Smokey Robinson reading messages of condolences from former South African president Nelson Mandela and Jackson’s close friend, singer Diana Ross.
With Jackson’s family seated in the front row, the service continued with renditions of some of the singer's most celebrated hits performed by a line-up of high-profile artists, starting with Mariah Carey reprising the 1970 Jackson Five ballad "I'll Be There". Singers Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder and Jennifer Hudson followed.
Various testimonials were interspersed between the musical acts, starting with rapper and actress Queen Latifah, who read a poem by Maya Angelou. "Sing our songs among the stars and walk our dances across the face of the moon", Angelou wrote, evoking Jackson's almost otherworldly power to captivate through his showmanship.
Civil rights leader Al Sharpton spoke passionately of the racial obstacles Jackson had to overcome; Motown record label founder Berry Gordy earned thunderous applause when he referred to Jackson as “the greatest entertainer that ever lived”; and actress Brooke Shields, visibly moved, reminisced about Jackson’s playful sense of humour and sensitivity.
FRANCE 24 correspondent Gallagher Fenwick, reporting via Twitter from inside the arena, described the event as “restrained” but “moving”.
Outside the Staples Center, an additional 1,400 police officers provided security as masses gathered to celebrate a performer whose art -- revered by fans, critics and fellow musicians alike -- seems likely to be the most enduring legacy of a life haunted by controversy.
Date created : 2009-07-07