12:55 PM: I wonder if this is the last minute of peace before it all implodes-- will there be a custody battle? What will the toxicology reports show? How many years will Jackson's will be contested? Jackson can rest in peace, but it will be a long time before many of those around him do.
All in all, the service was tremendously respectful and a fitting tribute. It was glorious, but not excessive. In fact, for the most part, it was understated. I think I'll go pay tribute to Jackson in the way that feels the most fitting to me and in the way that millions have since his death... by putting on some of his music.
12:43 PM: Rev Lucious Smith is giving a benediction of sorts. HIs prayer is about taking Jackson's message of love and paying it forward. Interesting, the tribute just ended and the copyright says AEG Live. How soon before it comes out on DVD?
12:40 PM: Oh stop. Paris, Jackson's daughter, just crumbled in front of the microphone as she talked about what a great daddy he was. Shamelesss, shameless, shameless to put that little girl in front like that. There's the news clip that will be played over and over. Janet hugged her and whisked her off stage, but what were they thinking. Even if she wanted to say something, that's way too much pressure to put on a child. I can't believe Jackson, who did everything he could to shelter his children, would have liked that moment.
12:34 PM: Jermaine Jackson is back, reminding us that he was Michael's backbone, he had his back. Now here's a brother- I think it's Randy. Okay, he just got chyroned as Marlon. Paris just took off her sequined glove and put it in her purse. I like that girl. Maybe there's hope for her. Janet isn't going for the sequined glove bit, she has on tasteful black gloves. Marlon is telling a strange story about catching Michael in disquise at a record store. But his greater point is that Jackson was ridiculed and maybe now, he'll be left alone. I keep finding myself wondering when is the last time any of his brothers saw him? Did they have any access to him at all any more? But that doesn't matter today. They had a shared growing up experience that only siblings can have. Oh... Marlon just asked Michael to give Marlon's twin brother, Brandon, who died at birth "a hug for me."
12:29 PM: Oh goodness--here come a bunch of little kids. There are Richie and Robinson looking slightly uncomfortable as a back up singer warbles "Heal the World." I feel their discomfort. It had been a really lovely service up to now but, as all these mega-numbers with everyone up awkwardly on stage feel--no matter the occasion-- this one seems forced. It's as if they're trying to create a really significant moment when the fact is the memorial doesn't need it. The memorable moments are the small ones not these "universal" communal efforts. Such times are always anti-climactic.
12:21 PM: Choreographer/director Kenny Ortega is on stage talking about being here a week ago--he means two weeks--and how the memorial came together. He's now introducing what he called one of Jackson's favorite moments from what would have been the London shows. I'm guessing these are the show's backup singers and musicians performing "We Are the World." Jackson's brothers are up on stage. I think I just saw LaToya and possible Blanket and Paris, two of his children.
12:19 PM: Some kid, Shaheen Jafargholi, is singing "Who's Loving You." Makes Jackon's talent as a 10-year old all the more remarkable. We may not know who Jarargholi is at this exact moment, but by the end of the day, we'll all know everything about him. Okay. thank God for Google. Turns out this is a 12-year old who appeared on "Britain's Got Talent" and he captivated Jackson, who saw him on Youtube. Is Susan Boyle coming out next?
12:12 PM: Footage of Jackson and his brothers singing "Who's Loving You: on "The Ed Sullivan Show." That's the Michael I mourn. That little boy--so beautiful, so full of hopes and dreams and awesome, preternatural talent. Smokey Robinson is talking about the "knowing" that Jackson had even as a 10-year old. Like Wonder, he's discussing that he didn't think he'd live to see Jackson go before him. Robinson is talking about hos Jackson will live forever here on earth and on heaven. That's a nice thought. It's a nice thought that he's not in pain--physical or mental or spiritual-- any more.
12:07 PM: Usher, in shades, is singing "Gone Too Soon." You knew someone was going to. It was just a matter of whom and when. I really would like to hear "Man in the Mirror" since that song seems to embody his message so much to me. Usher is now walking down the steps into the audience. He's singing to the casket. Pictures of Jackson are flashing behind him and I see none of Jackson with his father. A bit melodramtic, but beautifully rendered. Usher has never pretended to be anything other than a total Jackson acolyte, so it is appropriate. He's now iwth Katherine Jackson in a moment that seems too intimate for us to be watching.
12 PM: Rep Sheila Jackson Lee is here to settle some scores: "People are innocent until proven guilty..." Again, is this really what today is about? I'm not so sure Lee ever met Jackson-- no sign of any personal connection in her speech.Oh, she just brought up his visit to her congressional office. This is the first speech that feels completely inappropriate. It's a shame that Jackson was a Jehovah's Witness because it's clear that he should be nominated for sainthood...Oh... a resolution has been introduced into the House recognizing Jackson as a musical icon. I don't think they can count on Peter King's vote....
11:52 AM: Bernice King and Martin Luther King lll are now speaking, or, rather, MLK lll is. Like many, they mention Katherine Jackson and then Joe, almost as an afterhought. MLK III's trying to invoke his father's passion and spirit- as if that were possible. I'm really impressed that he's able to say "sweep streets," to many times consecutively. That's a tongue twister. Now Bernice is talking about his being "embroiled" in troubles, but how Jackson still called Coretta Scott King as she lay dying in 2005. Again, it's the humanizing of Jackson, who seemed so odd to so many of us, that is the most touching.
11:47 AM: Jermaine Jackson is now singing a largely a capella version of Charlie Chaplin's "Smile," Jackson's favorite song. It's nice, but it feels slightly wrong to me--as if in the back of his mind, he's wondering if this can start a comeback for him. I hope I'm so wrong and that isn't what he's thinking at all. Regardless, i give him credit for holding it together. That's more than most siblings could do at such a time.
11:39:AM Brooke Shields is trying to keep it together at the podium. She's talking about meeting him at 13. They clearly shared something few could relate to--being famous from such a young age. She looks gorgeous. "Both of us needed to be adults very early, but when we were together, we were two little kids having fun, " she says. That's the key to his life, isn't it?
So much damage was done to him by not allowing him to have a childhood. But you look at someone like Shields, who had a horrific childhood as well and managed to seemingly rise above it and have "normal" relationships...whatever normal means. Nice segue: Shields brings up how people referred to him as the King, but to her he was more like "The Little Prince." She just read a passage from the book. Maybe more than Peter Pan, that's the analogy that will go forth. Heartfelt and really moving. It may have been years since she last saw Jackson--the last reference she gives is Elizabeth Taylor's wedding, but you could almost feel him beside her today.
11:32 AM: John Mayer is taking a break from tweeting (he is the most predigious tweeter I've ever seen) to play a jazzy take on "Human Nature." Shoot. Now the rest of the band is joining in. Might have been nice to keep it just guitar. Mayer's keeping his guitar-face in check, but you can tell it's an effort. Nice way to show how Jackson's music truly crossed all boundaies, but not really adding anything.
11:24 AM: Al Sharpton... interesting that CNN is not ID'ing him as Rev. Al Sharpton... For the life of me, I don't understand his connection to Jackson. He's saying he first met him in 1970, but it just feels wrong to me. It feels exploitive. But again, I don't know. Maybe he really is a close family friend. I am not trying to start trouble, this is an honest question: the black community is embracing and attributing great strides in equality to Jackson. Sharpton just gave Jackson credit for Obama being elected president. Is there no feeling in the black community that Jackson, who increasingly became whiter and whiter, abandoned them in some way? Maybe there isn't or maybe everything he accomplished overshadows that. I ask this out of true curiousity. Sharpton just said to the Jackson children: "There weren't nothing strange about your daddy, it was strange what your daddy had to deal with." Oh for God's sake... really?
11:21 AM: A very pregnant Jennifer Hudson is singing "Will You Be There." Great arrangement with choir and percussion.. There are also dancers behind her, adding nothing. Jackson was such a contradiction. He had such uplifting songs, but there were so many that were angry in the later years. Now there's a voice over from Jackson again with the words of Will you Be There" asking if "through my violence and turbulence, will you still e there." Those lyrics cut so close to what he must have been feeling. Almost painful to hear.
11:15 AM: Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson are talking about Jackson's humanitarian works. Johnson is talking about shooting off fireworks with the Jacksons and going on tour with the Jacksons. Johnson is talking about how Jackson made him a better point guard. Hard to believe, except for that excellence inspires excellence. Great story about Jackson eating Kentucky Fried Chicken. Johnson just said that was the greatest moment of his life, as they ate the fried chicken together. No, this is the greatest moment in KFC's life... watch their stock price go up tomorrow.
Johnson's is my favorite speech so far--he's completely believable as he humanizes Jackson. I see lots of shots of the brotheres, but haven't seen Janet....
11:07 AM: "This is a moment i wish I hadn't seen come," says Stevie Wonder as he launches into a poignant "Never Dreamed You'd Leave in Summer." It's a masterful, heartfelt performance.
11:06 AM: I don't quite understand the depth of the worldwide adulation and mourning for Michael, but I do know this... any time music, whether it's Michael's, Gershwin's, Beethoven's, Springsteen's or anyone's--can help alleviate a little psuffering in someone's world, a tiny miracle takes place. The ability music has tostop the pain or make us feel a little less alone is a blessing. And to the measure that Michael did that for so many billions of us for even a minute, for that I'm thankful.
11:04 AM: Now there's a video montage with Jackson voice over: "It feels good to be thought of as a person, not a personality" and "Fame, fortune, they're all illusions." Juxtaposed against performances, the words ring hollow.
10:53 AM: Nice job by Richie. It's very clear that producer Ken Erlich has told the performers to leave their egos at the door-- similarly to what Quincy Jones told all the superstars when they entered the studio to record "We are the World."
Berry Gordy, founder of Motown, is now speaking. "He watched the greats and became greater." Worth discussing later. Was he "greater" than James Brown and Fred Astaire? I don't know. Oh my... CNN just panned to the brotheres. i hadn't realized they all had on sequined gloves. They have them on either the left or right hand--it must have been whichever hand they carried the casket with. That's a bit much. Gordy is now telling the oft-told tale of a 10-year-old Jackson singing the world-weary "Who's Loving You." Uh oh... now Gordy is talking about Motown. Back to Jackson, please.
Now he's talking about "Motown 25" and the moon walk. As he wraps up, Gordy says, "There were some sad times and maybe some questionable decisions on his part, but Michael Jackson accomplished everything he dreamed of." Is it appropriate to bring up those "questionable decisions" right now? I don't know. Gordy is most effective when he's telling the stories that no one else can tell-- like about the weekly baseball game between the Jacksons and the Gordys. Uh oh-- Gordy just said "The King of Pop isn't big enough for him. I think quite simply, he is the greatest entertainer that ever lived." A million Elvis Presley fans just turned off their TVs.
10:50 AM: Lionel Richie is now singing "Jesus is Love," from the Commodores. I guess "Brickhouse" wouldn't have been appropriate.
10:46 AM: Queen Latifah is talking about Jackson: "Somehow Michael Jackson sang when he danced"--nice line, but it doesn't even begin to capture what he accomplished when he danced. He simply suspended disbelief. It didn't seem possible that a body could move like that. She's now reading a poem from Maya Angelou writing for Jackson's passing. It's a bit over the top. She's lionizing him. Lionize the talent, not the man.
10:40 AM: Mariah Carey is singing "I'll Be There" with Trey Lorenz, recreating the hit they had with this tune more than a dozen years ago. She's off to a shaky start--understandably--and he's having some microphone issues, but it's such a great, great song. Okay, I'll admit it, i'm tearing up. Carey's also keeping the vocal histrionics to a minimum (it's Lorenz who's oversinging). The footage of young Michael is choking me up too. He was so, so cute and beautiful and yet felt the need to maim himself years later...
10:36 AM: Rev. Lucious Smith is giving an introduction/elegy. I like that this is the first time I'm seeing this person. I have no idea if this minister actually knew Michael or just his family, but here is one person who hasn't been parading himself in front of cameras for the past two weeks passing himself off as Jackson's best friend and that makes him okay by me. He's talking about how Michael tried to heal the world... I believe Michael believed that what he was doing.
10:33 AM: The service has begun with a choir singing a spiritual, I believe it's "No More Dying There" as his body is carried in. Really lovely and moving. His brothers, all dressed in gorgeous suits, are pallbearers. You can't go wrong with a choir. I'm really happy they didn't start with "Gone Too Soon." Very respectful.
10:29 AM: They're showing footage again of the Jackson's casket being loaded into the hearse from earlier today. I really hope there is no doubt that he is dead. There won't be any sightings of Jackson working at the gas station, like Elvis. Let him rest in peace. Now CNN is showing the footage of Jackson rehearsing at Staples two weeks ago today performing "They Don't Really Care About Us". And here he is again... at Staples in a way that no one could have imagined.
10:17 AM: While we're waiting--Wow! CNN just showed a church in my hometown of Raleigh, N.C.--some thoughts about my relationship with Jackson. It was solely as a fan. I never interviewed him or even met him during my tenure as an entertainment journalist. I can't remember when his music wasn't in my life and so many memories-- dancing in my best friend's Debbie Lisk's basement (with its gold shag carpet) as a little kid to "Shake Your Body Down to the Ground" or watching the "Motown 25" special and remembering the Moon Walk moment as if it happened yesterday.
Anyway, as I've posted here before, I had very conflicted thoughts about the man, but today I feel nothing but sadness for a life that seemed to have so much pain. Instead of developing some hardened shell as most people in the public eye do, it seems as if he was like an onion that had no outer layers--there was no protection at all. He had no coping skills for life off the stage. I hope it gave him some measure of fulfillment that his fans were waiting for him and wanted him back and they showed that by purchasing more than 750,000 tickets to the 50 sold out shows at London's 02 Arena. Those shows, ironically, were originally slated to start tomorrow (but had already been pushed back prior to his death)
10:14 AM: Back to my original thought. This feels like the funeral for a head of state, for royalty. Speaking of...for those completely consumed with their grief or for those who just can't believe Jackson's death is getting this kind of world attention while there are still wars going on, governors resigning, rioting over perhaps improper elections waging, I suggest a little drinking game. For every time someone refers to Jackson as "The King of Pop," take a swig of Jesus Juice. If you don't know what Jesus Juice is, you aren't enough of a Jackson fan to be reading this blog. I may be going to hell for suggesting that.
10:09 AM: While we're waiting for the services to commence, This event is being compared to Princess Diana's memorial service... Wait... they've just cut in and Smokey Robinson is reading a message. I'm guessing it's from another famous Diana-- Diana Ross. I wonder if she knew about being named the guardian of the children before the reading of the will?
This is like a guessing game. Robinson is reading the comments without saying whom they're from. Now I'm guessing Nelson Mandela
10:04 AM: The processional into Staples Center in Los Angeles is continuing. Joe Jackson just arrived...seemingly without his wife. I'm very aware that Katherine Jackson has lost her beloved son, Michael Jackson's three children have lost their father and that a bereaved Joe has lost his meal ticket. I have never seen such a crass display as his actions in the days following his son's death. I'm praying for Michael's sake that his father be nowhere allowed near a microphone today.
9:40 AM: The Michael Jackson Memorial is now scheduled to begin at approxmiately 10:30 AM PST, 1:30 PM EST. We'll begin full commentary and reports at that time. You can watch the memorial in the embeded player below.
Share your comments, memories and thoughts in the comments section.