Michael Jackson‘s body will be brought to the memorial service at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday, sources involved in the planning said.
A motorcade leaves the Jackson family home in Encino, California, early Tuesday.Jackson‘s family and closest friends attended a gathering at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills on Tuesday morning before going to the public memorial.
Teddy Riley, a singer who worked closely with Jackson on several albums, said Jackson family members told him the casket will be driven in a procession from Forest Lawn to the arena.
A second source familiar with the planning also said the King of Pop‘s body would be delivered to the arena.
“It wouldn’t be fair for the fans who are going to appear and be here at the Staples Center not to see his casket,” Riley said.
An army of fans poured in to Los Angeles from places far-flung, hoping to collectively mourn their idol in a massive ceremony.
Parking lots in the area raised their prices, some as high as $30. Airports in Southern California saw a spike in bookings. And several movie theaters in the area announced special screenings of the event, which also will be carried live by some television networks and Web sites.
Police put up concrete barriers around the center, allowing only fans with tickets to the star-studded event to enter.
The first fans — those holding the best seats — began entering the arena at 7:30 a.m. The service is set to start at 10 a.m. (1 p.m. ET).
The stage is set up on one end of the Staples Center’s converted basketball court.
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Wide steps lead up from both sides and two transparent podiums are posed on either side. Drums sit in the background and small floral arrangements rest against the front of the stage, where three rows of chairs form a semicircle.
Police would not say what kind of security measures they have put in place. The cash-strapped city has said it will foot the bill for law enforcement.
Until the last minute, the Jackson family remained tight-lipped about where the singer will be buried, but signs pointed to Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills after several carloads of people, La Toya Jackson among them, visited the cemetery Monday.
Tuesday began with a private gathering at the cemetery. A motorcade of mostly sports-utility vehicles was seen departing Jackson‘s parents’ Encino, California, home early Tuesday. California Highway Patrol officers then closed down ramps to the 101 Freeway leading from Encino toward Hollywood.
The procession pulled into Forest Lawn about 15 minutes later. Jackson’s family and his friends began entering the chapel, which can hold about 1,000 people.
The Staples event is expected to feature singers Mariah Carey, Usher and Stevie Wonder.
Also participating will be basketball stars Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson; singers Jennifer Hudson, John Mayer and Smokey Robinson; and activists Martin Luther King III and the Rev. Al Sharpton, according to an announcement released on behalf of the Jackson family.
Two notable absences will be actress Elizabeth Taylor, a longtime Jackson friend, and Debbie Rowe, Jackson‘s former wife and the mother of his two older children.
Taylor, in a message posted on Twitter and verified by CNN, said she declined an invitation to speak because she “cannot be part of the public whoopla.”
“I just don’t believe that Michael would want me to share my grief with millions of others,” Taylor tweeted. “How I feel is between us. Not a public event.”
Rowe planned on attending but decided against it, said lawyer Marta Almli.
“The onslaught of media attention has made it clear her attendance would be an unnecessary distraction to an event that should focus exclusively on Michael’s legacy,” Almli said.
Fans congregated in downtown Los Angeles, outside the Staples Center regardless of whether they had tickets.
On Monday, organizers used a computer to choose 8,750 names from 1.6 million people who registered for tickets online. Each received a pair of tickets, for a total of 17,500 tickets.
Just 11,000 of those are for seats inside the arena. The other 6,500 are for viewing the memorial telecast across the street at the Nokia Theater. The Jackson family set aside an additional 9,000 Staples Center seats to give out, organizers said.
Two fans waiting to get in to the service Tuesday were surprised at their good fortune.
Michelle Mann and Basra Arte, both 18, flew in from Vancouver, British Columbia, to honor Jackson. They stood outside the Staples Center, brimming with excitement and celebrating the generosity of a complete stranger.
“It’s overwhelming,” Mann said. “We can’t believe that we’re here.”
The two had appeared on Canadian television and said they planned to fly to Los Angeles for the memorial service even though they didn’t have tickets. Six hours before their flight, 15-year-old Karlo Karanan, who’d seen them on TV, tracked them down and gave them his.
“I’m looking forward to being in the presence of other fans,” Arte said. “The energy is going to be amazing.”