Family and friends pay final tribute to Jackson

PARIS JACKSON wept as she stepped into the mausoleum where her father, Michael, was to be entombed. Katherine Jackson, overcome by sorrow, turned back when she was faced with her son’s final resting place.

On a sultry Thursday evening, amid a sea of white flowers and with a bejewelled crown placed atop his casket by his children, the King of Pop was given a private version of the lavish public memorial held shortly after his death in June.

The funeral at Glendale Memorial Park was simple but touching, according to one guest. The person, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the day, said Gladys Knight’s performance of the hymn Our Father soared in the vast mausoleum and moved many to tears.

When it was over, many of the 200 mourners hugged each other. Among them were Elizabeth Taylor, Jackson’s ex-wife Lisa Marie Presley, Barry Bonds and Macaulay Culkin.

The Reverend Al Sharpton, who gave a eulogy at the public event and at Thursday’s service, also extolled Knight’s earlier performance of His Eye is on the Sparrow.

“Gladys Knight sang her heart out. Now we prepare to lay him to rest,” Sharpton posted on his Twitter account during the service that was held outside and then within the marble mausoleum.

The mourners followed the crowned, lushly flower-draped casket as Jackson’s five brothers — each wearing a bright red tie and a single crystal-studded glove — carried it into the mausoleum. The 11-year-old Paris cried as the group entered the imposing building and was comforted by her aunt, LaToya.

Paris and brothers Prince Michael, 12, and Prince Michael II, 7, known as Blanket, began the service by placing the crown on their father’s golden casket. They were composed through most of the hour-and-a-half ceremony.

As it ended, Katherine Jackson appeared extremely weary and had to be helped to her car, according to the guest. Earlier, she had a difficult time going into the mausoleum; she was overcome, turned back, and it wasn’t clear if she went in at all, the guest said. The Jackson family’s tardy arrival delayed the service for nearly two hours; no explanation was given to mourners.

The 77-year-old Taylor and others were left waiting in the late summer heat, with the temperature stuck at 90 degrees (32 degrees Celsius) just before sunset.

As darkness fell, police escorted the family’s motorcade of 31 cars, including Rolls-Royces and Cadillacs, from their compound in Encino to Forest Lawn, about a 20-minute journey, with the hearse bearing Jackson’s body at the end.

About 250 seats were arranged for mourners over artificial turf laid roadside at the mausoleum.

There were two oversized portraits of a youthful, vibrant Jackson mounted next to the casket amid displays of white lilies and roses.

A large, blimp-like inflated light, the type used in film and television production, and a boom camera hovered over the seating area placed in front of the elaborate marble mausoleum.

The equipment raised the possibility that the footage would be used for the Jackson concert documentary This Is It, or perhaps the Jackson brothers’ upcoming reality show.

The few clusters of fans who gathered around the secure perimeter that encircled the cemetery entrance struggled to see.

Maria Martinez, 25, a fan from Riverside, California, who was joined by a dozen other Jackson admirers at a gas station near the security perimeter, gave a handful of pink flowers she had picked at a nearby park to a man with an invitation driving into the funeral.

“Can you please put these flowers on his grave?” she asked him. “They were small and ugly, but I did that with my heart. I’m not going to be able to get close, so this is as close as I could get to him.”

The man consented, adding: “God bless.”

Jackson will share eternity at Forest Lawn with the likes of Clark Gable, Jean Harlow and WC Fields, entombed alongside them in the mausoleum that will be all but off-limits to adoring fans who might otherwise turn the pop star’s grave into a shrine.

The Jackson family had booked an Italian restaurant in Pasadena for a gathering on Thursday night.

“I feel like I watched Michael finally given some peace and I made a commitment to make sure his legacy and what he stood for lives on,” Sharpton said outside the restaurant around midnight. “So at one level we’re relieved; another level we’re obligated.”

The ceremony ends months of speculation that the singer’s body would be buried at Neverland Ranch. An amended copy of Jackson’s death certificate was filed on Thursday in Los Angeles County to reflect Forest Lawn as his final resting place.

The King of Pop died on June 25 at age 50 as he was about to embark on a comeback attempt. The coroner’s office has labelled the death a homicide, and Jackson’s death certificate lists “injection by another” as the cause. No charges have yet been filed.


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