Massive demand for Jackson memorial tickets…
More than half a million fans from around the world applied for 17,500 free tickets to Michael Jackson‘s public memorial service next week, organizers said on Friday as a massive security operation got underway.
The life and music of the self-proclaimed “king of pop,” who died of sudden cardiac arrest last Thursday, will be celebrated on Tuesday at the Staples Center, a basketball arena in downtown Los Angeles.
Officials on Friday unveiled an ambitious online lottery that will allow fans to attend either the televised service at the arena or watch the proceedings on a big screen at the nearby Nokia Theater.
But within minutes, the staplescenter.com server crashed. Officials warned additional disruptions were likely as fans logged on ahead of the Saturday deadline at 6 p.m. PDT.
“You might want to consider watching this from the comfort of your own home,” said Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jan Perry, who is doubling as the city’s acting mayor.
The ceremony will also streamed online.
A wide area around the venues in downtown Los Angeles will be blocked off for the 10 a.m. event. Both local and state law-enforcement agencies have been marshaled for duty.
A local news-radio station reported that more than 1,400 officers from the Los Angeles Police Department alone have been asked to volunteer for duty on Monday and Tuesday. The LAPD, which has about 9,000 officers in total, declined to comment on the report or to reveal a staffing number.
A Jackson family spokesman also declined to provide details of the memorial service, but said there would not be a funeral procession and Jackson’s body would not be at the memorial.
Funeral arrangements have not been disclosed, but security has been beefed up at the Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills mortuary, where his body is believed to be held.
Officials were also tight-lipped about the cost of the memorial service, and who would pay for it.
Like other U.S. cities, Los Angeles is strapped for cash in the global recession and similar questions about public tax revenues being spent for such an elaborate ceremony surfaced last month when a $2 million celebration was given for the champion Los Angeles Lakers professional basketball team.
That event, which attracted over 500,000 people, was eventually funded through private donations.
The city has already budgeted for LAPD overtime, Perry said, adding that officials would “deeply appreciate” help to offset incremental costs, such as transportation, sanitation and staging.
Winners of the tickets will be contacted on Sunday and directed to pick up a pair of tickets and wristbands on Monday. No tickets will be sold. The massive demand raised the question of counterfeiting or scalping, drawing pleas from organizers for fans to act responsibly.
“For those that would try to take advantage of this, shame on them,” said Tim Leiweke, the president and CEO of AEG, the closely held entertainment concern that owns the venues and was backing Jackson‘s planned comeback concerts in London.
Jackson‘s last performance was at the Staples Center. The night before he died of sudden cardiac arrest last Thursday, he rehearsed for the tour at the venue.
Jackson was loving and attentive father, many say…
When Rabbi Shmuley Boteach brought his children to play with Michael Jackson‘s kids at Neverland Ranch some eight years ago, the rabbi‘s youngsters naturally made a beeline for the fabulous rides the Ferris wheel, the roller coaster, the bumper cars.
But when Jackson‘s own kids asked to go on the rides, he gently reminded them of the family rules, according to Boteach: The rides were only for birthdays or special occasions. “He was very concerned that the kids grow up with the right values,” says Boteach, Jackson‘s former friend and spiritual adviser.
They are the children of one of the most famous men to have walked the planet. But unlike other children of mega-celebrities, whose faces are recognizable around the world, those of Jackson‘s three kids 12-year-old Michael Joseph Jr., known as Prince Michael; 11-year-old Paris Michael Katherine; and 7-year-old Prince Michael II, known as Blanket are barely known.
Home-schooled and often isolated in mansions or hotels, the children have appeared only in rare paparazzi shots, their faces usually covered by scarves or brightly colored masks.
That fact alone that Jackson sought to hide his children’s faces would seem to speak of a dark, strange life. But those who’ve witnessed the family up close paint a brighter picture: a trio of engaging, intelligent, well-adjusted youngsters who adored their father. A father who, despite his eccentricities and the terrible controversy that surrounded him in later life, lived for his children and tried to make their lives as normal as well, as normal as Michael Jackson could.
“To the extent that Michael Jackson’s kids COULD have a normal life, he wanted them to have it,” says Boteach, who eventually fell out with Jackson.
“Listen, I’m not here to whitewash the sins of Michael Jackson he was accused of some abominable things,” says the rabbi, referring to the pop star’s trial and acquittal on molestation charges. “But when it came to being a father, there was much to admire.”
Dr. Tohme Tohme, a close friend and adviser to Jackson over the last year of his life, said he had “never seen a better father.”
“He was the father and the mother,” Tohme said. “He washed them and dressed them. I’m a father but I’m not sure I could do what he was doing with his children. They loved him so much.”
Of course, even Jackson‘s closest friends are at a loss to explain what for many is the single most memorable image of Jackson as a father: the shocking moment when he dangled Blanket, then an infant, over a hotel balcony in Berlin, showing the baby off to fans with a delighted grin.
“What made that incident so inexplicable was that he was an OVER-protective father,” Boteach says.
Others who’ve been close to Jackson in the past agree. When the children stayed in hotels, says one photographer who spent several years working for Jackson, his handlers had long lists of all the foods the children could and could not eat. He was afraid of allergies but also poisoning, says the photographer, Ian Barkley. At the ranch, Jackson would not let the children roam far for fear of coyotes, he says.
When Barkley spoke to the kids himself, he was impressed. “Paris and (the older) Prince really blew me away with how smart they were. They were really well-mannered and nice.” And Jackson made sure they kept up with their studies. “Once I heard him ask the nanny if the kids had done their homework that day, and they hadn’t yet and he was really not happy.”
Yet Jackson also indulged his children in extravagances he was known to rent out entire movie theaters so he and his kids could see a first-run movie in peace, said close friend Uri Geller, the entertainer, who accompanied the family on one such outing.
“The times I’ve seen Michael with his kids, he was simply a great father,” says Geller. “When I saw him alone in London, the first thing he said is how much he missed them. I know he loved them, and they loved him.”
US Weekly editor Janice Min, whose magazine reported on Jackson‘s children this week, was surprised to discover how positive an outlook many Jackson associates had on the kids and their lives. “I would have thought it was a very gloom-and-doom picture, but across the board, everyone talked about these nice and seemingly normal kids,” she says.
Still, for many people, the hardest thing to get past about Jackson‘s parenting style was those facial disguises. Geller, for one, is convinced the family saw it as a game. “It was a private joke on the media between Michael and the kids the kids loved it,” Geller says. “That’s what Michael told me.”
But others speak of more serious reasons. Stacy Brown, a former Jackson family confidant who fell out with the family at the time of the 2005 molestation trial he was a prosecution witness says Michael was truly afraid of kidnapping. But also, Brown notes, there was a strategy: If the kids wore masks when they were with Jackson, they could go safely unmasked when they weren’t with him.
Still, says Brown, who co-wrote “The Man Behind the Mask,” a Jackson biography, “mentally, it was just not right. Why put a mask on these beautiful children?”
There may be another, more poignant reason. “He detested the media interest in whether he looked like his children,” says Boteach, the rabbi. “I think that was another concern. Those rumors were hurtful to them.”
Such discussion has only increased since Jackson‘s death, as the world wonders not only who will get custody of the children but also whether Jackson is their biological father. Jackson‘s ex-wife, Deborah Rowe, the mother of the two older children, says the children were conceived by artificial insemination. The surrogate mother of the youngest has not been revealed.
For now, Rowe is weighing whether to seek custody of her two children, while Katherine Jackson, the singer’s 79-year-old mother, has temporary guardianship of all three. Jackson‘s will asks that permanent custody go to his mother.
Brown, the biographer, recalls running into Jackson and the kids in a town near Neverland shortly before the trial.
“They were the most well-behaved, well-mannered, immaculately groomed children,” Brown says. “It was all ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ and ‘excuse me.’ Little Blanket was wearing a kilt, and Prince a three-piece suit, and Paris a white dress with blue flowers. We chatted. I’m telling you, the guy was tremendous with those kids.”
Whatever happens, Boteach says, it was Jackson‘s greatest wish that his children know how much he loved them.
“Michael often said he knew that when the kids grew up, they’d be asked by biographers what kind of father he was,” Boteach says. “He wanted the kids to know that he always put them first.”
Jackson kids face hurdles to coping with his death…
No matter how unusual their lives may have been so far, Michael Jackson‘s children now face a universal trauma felt by all kids who suddenly lose a parent.
How the three young Jacksons fare is up to the remaining adults in their lives and whether they can create a sense of stability and security for the grieving youngsters, mental health experts say.
The challenges are particularly daunting for the Jackson kids, with no mother in the picture, custody issues, and unanswered questions ranging from Jackson‘s suspected drug use to whether he was even their biological father.
That’s not to mention the eccentricities before Jackson‘s death, such as his Peter Pan fixation and drastic cosmetic surgeries, plus unproven allegations of sexual behavior with other children.
The public knows little about the sheltered children_ Michael Jr., 12; Paris, 11; and Prince Michael II, 7. They were all born long after Jackson‘s heyday, and he kept them veiled sometimes literally from prying eyes. Whether they are resilient or particularly vulnerable to emotional trauma is unknown.
One thing is certain: “The loss of a parent is a catastrophe” for any young child, and the Jackson kids will need help coping, said Dr. Stuart Goldman, a psychiatrist with Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School.
“The kids need to be removed from the limelight and any exposure to television or media needs to be greatly minimized,” said Dr. Louis Kraus, chief of child and adolescent psychiatry at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. “The distortions of what they see there is not going to be healthy.”
Jackson‘s will names his 79-year-old mother, Katherine Jackson, as the children’s guardian. Since Jackson‘s June 25 death, they have been staying with her and other relatives at the family compound in Encino, a Los Angeles suburb.
An attorney for Jackson‘s cardiologist said the children requested and were allowed to see Jackson‘s body, after a psychiatrist was consulted.
Specialists say that isn’t necessarily traumatizing. It can give children a chance to say goodbye after a parent’s sudden death, and allow the permanence of death to sink in, said Demy Kamboukas, a trauma expert and scientist at New York University’s Child Study Center.
Kamboukas and other mental health experts recommended counseling for children who’ve experienced a parent’s death. It gives them a chance to talk about their feelings with an objective observer who isn’t also grieving and who can assure them that feelings of fear, anger and loss of control are normal.
Many kids get over profound grief and end up handling a parent’s death pretty well, said University of Chicago psychiatrist Dr. Sharon Hirsch.
The Jackson children may be able to, also, she said, “as long as the family rallies around them and helps to continue to love and support them.” But, she added, “It isn’t going to be easy.”
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