Jackson fans await curtain fall

July 7, 2009 12:00 am

, LOS ANGELES, Jul 7 – Los Angeles went into lockdown ahead of a star-studded memorial service Tuesday, as hundreds of millions of fans prepared to bid a poignant farewell to Michael Jackson.

Nearly two weeks after the death of the "King of Pop," America is expected to grind to a standstill as the tortured music superstar is finally laid to rest.

Jackson’s family and close friends are to attend a private funeral service for the iconic singer at 8:00 am (1500 GMT) at the picturesque Forest Lawn mortuary nestled in the Hollywood Hills above Los Angeles.

Late Monday, members of Jackson’s family were seen entering the cemetery, reportedly for a viewing.

On Tuesday, attention will turn to the lavish public memorial at the 20,000-capacity Staples Centre sports arena.

A staggering 1.6 million people applied to win free tickets for the event, which were allocated via an online lottery over the weekend.

Precise details of the service have been kept under wraps but organizers confirmed Monday that Stevie Wonder, Mariah Carey and Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson were among the stars due to participate.

An additional 1,400 police officers will be on duty to provide security, while city blocks surrounding the venue have been sealed off.

Organizers of the memorial, which gets underway at 10:00 am (1700 GMT), have appealed to ticket-less fans to watch the event on television, fearing chaos if hundreds of thousands take to the streets to mourn.

A live feed of the service is being made available free to television networks, while the event will also be streamed via social networking websites Facebook and MySpace, officials said.

"There is just so much global reach for this star," commented Facebook marketing director Randi Zuckerberg. The site was preparing for more users worldwide to experience the event than even President Barack Obama’s inauguration in January, he said.

Jackson’s mysterious death from an apparent cardiac arrest at the age of 50 on June 25 sent, triggered an avalanche of tributes and grief worldwide.

Thousands of fans have still flock daily to Jackson’s star on Hollywood’s "Walk of Fame" in Los Angeles, and a makeshift shrine of flowers, cards and toys has swamped the gates of the singer’s Neverland Ranch.

Jackson sold more than 750 million albums during a glittering four-decade career that was ultimately overshadowed by repeated allegations of child abuse, his startling physical transformation and eccentric behaviour.

While all eyes are on Jackson’s memorial Tuesday, both local and federal law enforcement agencies are probing the circumstances of his death.

An autopsy was carried out on Jackson’s body the day after his death, but the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office has said it will not issue a final cause of death for "several weeks" when the results of exhaustive toxicology tests are known.

Police investigators are examining the possibility that drugs played a role in Jackson’s death.

US media, citing unidentified law enforcement sources, said investigators had found the powerful sedative Propofol, also known as Diprivan, in a "mini-pharmacy" at Jackson’s home.

The discovery has raised the stakes in the probe, which widened last week as the Los Angeles Police Department enlisted the support of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

Propofol is commonly used in hospitals to induce unconsciousness in patients before major surgery. Healthcare experts say it should never be used at home and should only be administered by trained anaesthesiologists.

Police have questioned Jackson’s personal physician Conrad Murray but have stressed he is not suspected of criminal wrongdoing.

Lawyers meanwhile are busy untangling the labyrinth of legal issues that have emerged in the aftermath of Jackson’s death.

On Monday, a Los Angeles judge replaced Jackson’s mother as temporary administrator of his estate with two of the pop icon’s business associates, as demanded by a 2002 will.

A hearing to discuss the fate of Jackson’s children — Prince Michael, 12, Paris, 11, and Prince Michael II, 7 — has been scheduled for July 13.

Jackson’s will requested that his 79-year-old mother be appointed guardian, although speculation has grown that the star’s ex-wife and biological mother of the two eldest children, Debbie Rowe, may lodge a custody bid.


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