LOS ANGELES In the nearly two weeks between Michael Jackson’s death and his giant-scale memorial service at AEG's Staples Center yesterday, public interest in the late pop star seemed to grow exponentially. After the plans for the memorial were announced last week, more than 1.5 million fans reportedly applied online for free tickets, fewer than 20,000 of which were awarded via a lottery system. Wristbands and tickets—distributed at Dodger Stadium Monday—identified bona fide attendees from all over the world among the fans at large, who numbered about 1,000 (down from initial estimates as large as 1 million). Celebrities walked a black carpet to enter the event, according to The Los Angeles Times. Michael Jackson’s body rested in a flower-draped coffin in front of the stage, which was backed by a giant video wall.
Authorities shut down part of the freeway system to accommodate the event—and much of the city was affected by traffic for the morning rush hour. Classic Party Rentals supplied a significant number of barricades for crowd control and safety, plus other rental items. City Councilwoman Jan Perry's office released a map of street closures and impacted traffic regions—a document so complicated that architecture blog Curbed suggested it might actually deter would-be attendees coming from long distances.
The Los Angeles Police Department placed 3,200 officers on site for the downtown event, which officially began shortly after 10 a.m. local time Tuesday and was simulcast for an overflow crowd at AEG's Nokia Theatre. According to The Times, L.A.P.D. deputy chief Earl Paysinger addressed supervisors at a 3 a.m. briefing prior to the event, noting that officer presence at past events, including the 1984 Olympic Games, “pales in comparison” to the masses assembled for the memorial. Among law enforcement concerns was the throng of unticketed fans expected to gather in the blocks surrounding the venue, known as the “cold zone.” Also concerned about the airspace above the arena, the department got a temporary ban from the Federal Aviation Administration on flights below 2,500 feet for a mile around the venue. Staples Center and L.A. Live provide security teams for the venues.
One point of contention for some local taxpayers was the cost to the financially bereft city for the massive event. Costs may be close to $4 million, according to The Wall Street Journal and other reports, but a representative from Antonio Villaraigosa's office said the mayor was asking fans to contribute to the coffers, according to CNN. (Private entities chipped in about $2 million for the Lakers’ recent championship parade.) That said, the influx of tourism and other memorial-related spending could actually boost the local economy to the tune of $4 million, according to a Times report.
Mariah Carey, Lionel Richie, and Stevie Wonder were among the artists to perform musical tributes to Jackson. Queen Latifah, Kobe Bryant, Brooke Sheilds, and Al Sharpton were among the other celebrities who spoke and attended. The ceremony wrapped around 12:45 p.m. local time with performances of “We Are the World“ and “Heal the World," followed by remarks from family members, including the singer's 11-year-old daughter, Paris, after which pall bearers carried the coffin out while childhood photos showed on the video wall. Pastor Lucius Smith then led a prayer for the assembled masses—as well as the millions of online and TV viewers.
The memorial was broadcast live in its entirety by TV and Web outlets including CNN, for whose station outside Staples ELS handled staging, truss, and lighting.