Michael Jackson's Casket Taken to Memorial
Inside the Staples Center arena, Jackson's body lay at the foot of the stage in a closed, rose-draped, bronze casket. His brothers, who served as pallbearers, wore single white sequined gloves, a tribute to Jackson's signature look. Singers and sports celebrities took the stage and shared what Jackson meant to them. Between them, the performers have 40 Grammy awards -- a fitting tribute to a man who alone earned 13 in his lifetime.
Yesterday morning began with a half-hour gathering for several hundred family and friends inside a chapel at the Hollywood Hills Forest Lawn cemetery. Jackson's casket -- embellished with 14-karat gold plate handles, a velvet-lined interior and a reported price tag upward of US$20,000 -- was then placed in a hearse for the 10-mile trip to the arena.
The motorcade of black limousines and sports utility vehicles to the arena was accompanied by police cruisers and motorcycles, which shut down freeway ramps and caused a miles-long traffic backup. Three thousand police officers, almost one-third of the Los Angeles police force, were on hand to ensure the Jackson events proceeded smoothly.
Singer Smokey Robinson set the tone for the event when he read a heartfelt letter from Diana Ross. Ross, a long-time friend that Jackson named as alternate guardian to his children in his will, explained in her letter why she was not there:
"I am trying to find closure. I want you to know that even though I am not there at the Staples Center, I am there in my heart. I have decided to pause and be silent. This feels right for me. Michael was a personal love of mine, a treasured part of my world, part of the fabric of my life in a way that I can't seem to find words to express."
She then added: "Michael wanted me to be there for his children, and I will be there if they ever need me."
Meanwhile, MJ's 11-year-old daughter Paris got the crowd weeping when she gave her speech. "Ever since I was born, daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine," said Paris Katherine Jackson, the second of his three children.
Agencies reported that millions all over the world are tuning in to watch the memorial today. Read the details here.