Hillary Atkin

Jackson Memorial a Dreamy, Dramatic Feat

Jul 9, 2009

Not since young JFK, Jr. saluted his slain father’s coffin has a child’s reaction to the loss of a parent so moved a global television audience.

Paris Michael Katherine Jackson’s spontaneous, heartfelt tribute to her father was the highly emotional capper to the public memorial service for Michael Jackson at Staples Center.
If you hadn’t choked back tears when Usher sang “Gone Too Soon,” taking off his sunglasses to gaze at the King of Pop’s rose-covered coffin, when Brooke Shields spoke lovingly of their bond as child stars and her fun moments with Michael or when brother Marlon asked him to give his twin Brandon a hug in heaven, you wept with the 11-year old girl as she took the microphone and said, "Ever since I was born, Daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine. And I just wanted to say, I love him so much," before tearfully collapsing into the embrace of her aunt Janet and other family members.

The clip has already played countless times, and is likely to become a turning point in the tenor of the media’s never-ending fixation on the man Motown founder Berry Gordy dubbed “the greatest entertainer that has ever lived”—at least until the autopsy results are revealed.

If there was a little bit of hyperbole there, it was understandable, coming from the man who launched the Jackson 5 and its wise-beyond-his-years lead singer into superstardom 40 years ago. Just about all the words spoken at the ceremony—from Queen Latifah reading Maya Angelou’s tribute poem to Magic Johnson’s memory of Michael eating Kentucky Fried Chicken—resonated within the auditorium and throughout the world, and although Mariah Carey criticized herself later for losing it during her rendition of “I’ll Be There,” it was hard to find fault with any of the performances during the nearly 2 ½ hour tribute.

Someone said Jackson not only raised the bar, he broke it. And so did the memorial, far exceeding the expectations of media pundits and fans alike who had been anticipating the event since it was announced just five days in advance. Kudos to veteran producer Ken Ehrlich, who pulled off what must be one of the highlights of his career.

There was plenty of drama in the lead-up, the babble from naysayers and haters who felt it was all too much, and a measure of dread—as voiced by the LAPD, sternly warning people who didn’t have a ticket not to come downtown—and that they would be thrown in jail if they attempted to scalp the coveted tickets.

It all, miraculously, went off without a hitch. It could not have been scripted better by an Oscar-winning screenwriter. Even the hastily-devised Internet lottery system of allocating and then distributing the tickets at Dodger stadium went smoothly.

In a city where memories of the OJ Simpson car chase and the 1992 riots still loom large, there was a potential for some sort of disaster. At the very least, monster traffic jams tying up morning rush hour were a big concern.

 Expert planning by the CHP and the LAPD and personal attention from its chief Bill Bratton mitigated those logistical nightmares. And the only one remaining: who’s going to pick up the tab for all the police overtime—which was actually less than predicted?

I vote for a) AEG and/or b) Sony Music, both of which will make untold boatloads of money on Jackson’s legacy.

Seeing the Jackson family’s well-coordinated motorcade of Rolls-Royces, Range Rovers and Escalades depart from Forest Lawn Mortuary to Staples Center on closed freeways was dreamy, and dramatic.

There was a creepy rumor reported on one of the major broadcast networks that Michael Jackson’s body was not actually in the golden coffin being carried by the hearse. In the context of all the bizarre and eccentric aspects of the pop star’s life that have been reported over the last few decades, it was momentarily believable—until it was clearly apparent that it wasn’t, as his white sequin glove-clad brothers bore the casket into the auditorium.

Inside the Staples Center, it was a relief not to think about the stranger aspects of Michael Jackson’s life—until Al Sharpton brought them up. If there was a low point, that was it—because for all we know, Michael Jackson’s children were so sheltered that they had no idea that the world thought their father might be a bit strange. This certainly was not the time to inform them of that, Rev. Sharpton, or to use the occasion to bring up racial divides. Yet he drove home a good point when he stated that Michael never gave up, and never stopped.

With the tantalizingly little bit we’ve seen of Jackson’s rehearsals for the shows in London that were to open next week—and there are reportedly untold hours of tapes and a London tribute concert in the works—that is certainly true. And it makes his passing, at what could have been a new pinnacle in his illustrious, iconic career, all the more tragic.


  1. What else would MJ wanted that he has not gotten? I belief he had all that he wanted. He is d greatest ever live entertainer of our times. He believes in unseen reality that which is invisible to others and archive d impossible bcos he believes nothing is impossible. He got to the zenith of every opportunities that cones his way even in death (GREAT MJ) shook d world….A. Arowobusye

  2. Insightful, heartfelt and eloquently stated. I wholeheartedly agree with your insightful analysis of Michael Jackson’s memorial service that had the potential to explode into another high profile social nightmare for the City of Angels. The dignity, reverence and respectful manner displayed by the particpiants, the public and family members raised the bar of social decorum from which future memorials will be inexorably judged. Ms. Atkin’s words captured the true sentiment of this memorable memorial celebration.

  3. I have read that the body was not in the coffin and was still being examined. You’re right about funeral, it was good, but it was big because it was televised and everyone carried the event. I thought the children did not seemingly care. It was as thought it was something to go to. Her words were well spoken and that was all. Like her father, and I do not belieeve that he was her father, her words were bravado. MJ will be missed both as a person and financially by the industry.

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