Hundreds of millions of fans across the world will bid a final farewell to Michael Jackson tomorrow in a lavish memorial to the tragic “King of Pop” that is expected to bring America to a standstill.
An exclusive guest list of family and VIPs will be joined by around 11,000 fans crowded into the Staples Center in Los Angeles for the send-off, which Jackson once said he hoped would be “the greatest show on earth.”
Precise details of the service have been kept under wraps, but some of the biggest names in show business are reportedly to perform in an event intended as a celebration of the tortured pop icon’s life and times.
Jackson’s mysterious death from an apparent cardiac arrest at the age of 50 on June 25 sent shock waves rippling around the world, triggering an avalanche of tributes from Beverly Hills to Beijing.
Thousands of fans continue to flock to Jackson’s star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame in Los Angeles while a makeshift shrine of flowers, cards and toys has steadily grown outside the gates of the singer’s Neverland Ranch.
Jackson sold more than 750 million albums during a glittering four-decade long career that was ultimately overshadowed by repeated allegations of child abuse, his startling physical transformation, financial troubles and eccentric behavior.
Jackson’s final resting place has not been revealed.
The Jackson musical clan earlier quashed the idea of a poignant ceremony at Neverland Ranch, which posed logistical headaches due to its remote location in ritzy Santa Barbara wine country.
However, Michael’s elder brother Jermaine said he would still like the pop legend to be buried at the estate, a tribute to Michael’s fascination with childhood that in its heyday boasted giraffes, tigers and a private amusement park.
“I feel his presence because this is his creation,” Jermaine said on Thursday. “This is where he should be rested because it’s him.”
Organizers of tomorrow’s memorial, which gets underway at 10am, have appealed to ticketless fans to watch the event on television, fearing chaos if hundreds of thousands take to the streets to mourn.
Some 1.6 million online applications vied for only 11,000 tickets to attend the tribute at the Staples Center and another 6,500 for seats at a neighboring venue where giant screens will show the event live.
A Web site set up to manage an online lottery of the tickets received more than half a billion hits within two hours on Friday.
“Potentially, this could be enormous,” said Robert Thompson, an expert in pop culture at Syracuse University in New York. “Everything that has to do with Michael Jackson was done huge, super-sized.”
An autopsy on Jackson’s body was carried out on June 26 but the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office has said it will not issue a final cause of death until the results of exhaustive toxicology tests are known in “several weeks.”
Police investigators have meanwhile zeroed in on the possible role of drugs in Michael’s death.
Close friends and associates of the star have angrily alleged that Michael was surrounded by a coterie of medical professionals willing to provide him with potent prescription medication.
US media reports citing unidentified law enforcement sources say investigators found the powerful sedative Propofol, also known as Diprivan, amongst a variety of prescription medications at Jackson’s home.