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Liveblogging the Jackson memorial

Posted by Joanna Weiss  July 7, 2009 10:53 AM

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3:53 p.m. And we're done. The talking heads are back on the air. I'll be one of them myself tonight on NECN's "Broadside" at 6 and WGBH's "Greater Boston" at 7. Check it out - and thanks for viewing and commenting.

3:41 p.m. The last word comes from Jackon's daughter, Paris Katherine Jackson, who cries while speaking. "Daddy has been the best father you can ever imagine."

3:34 p.m. People in the audience are screaming. People onstage are embracing. Jermaine is speaking. He thanks the audience. "I stand here trying to find words of comfort, solace," says his brother Marlon, who talks about coming home from school with Jackson and trying to watch "The Three Stooges" before being herded to the recording studio. He talks of spotting Michael in disguise in a record store, and painting Jackson, like others have today, as a victim of fame. "Maybe now, Michael, they will leave you alone," he says. He also asks Michael to hug his other brother - Marlon's twin brother, Brandon, who died in childbirth.

3:30 p.m. Jackson's song "Heal the World" seems to be the final performance, sung beneath an image of the Earth. Again, I find his signficance as an African-American cultural figure -- and a strange and extreme example of the perils of child stardom -- to be more compelling than his supposed position as global martyr and peacemaker. Jackson was many things, but he was not all things.

3:25 p.m. Oh, my. It's "We Are The World." Jackson's family is onstage with some of the performers. And now here come the children holding hands. This, to be honest, feels over-the-top.

3:22 p.m. Kenny Ortega talks of directing Michael Jackson's planned tour. (He also worked on the "Dangerous" and "HIStory tours," as well as the "High School Musical" movies.) He called the tour that wasn't Jackson's greatest work - and introduces what would have been one of the performances in the London concerts.

3:19 p.m. A precocious boy onstage sings "Who's Loving' You," Smokey Robinson's aforementioned song. His name is Shaheen Jafargholi and he's 12, a finalist on "Britain's Got Talent." It's an odd image to leave us with, another child star of significant talent, filling the role of an adult.

3:13 p.m. Smokey Robinson is heading back up. "I wrote that song!" he says of the Jackson 5 clip. He's telling the same story Berry Gordy did, I think. "This boy cannot possibly be 10 years old," he remembers thinking. Again, we're back to thinking of Jackson's oddities, of the Benjamin Button-ness of his life, the fact that he had so much maturity as a young entertainer, and so much immaturity in his personal life as an adult.

3:10 p.m.
Usher, wearing shades when he really doesn't need to, sings "Gone Too Soon." Entertainers have their indulgences, too. I believe his tears much less than I believed Brooke Shields.' They should have ended with Jermaine - the most powerful moment by far.

2:59 p.m. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee is also wearing white, and mourning on behalf of Congress. I'm missing Brooke Shields. Amazing how a real politician - as opposed to a real entertainer - can slow things down to a boring crawl. That was worse than when Clive Davis used to talk on the "American Idol" finale shows.

2:53 p.m. Martin Luther King III and Bernice King reference their own family's public tragedies, as the memorial shifts again from the personal to the political.

2:48 p.m. And here is Jermaine Jackson, singing "Smile." Like many other Jackson relatives, he's wearing a yellow tie and that single sequinned glove. The shot of him singing over the casket is tremendously moving - this is a man singing to his baby brother.

2:39 p.m. An emotional Brooke Shields is onstage, telling stories. She met Jackson when she was 13, and references the difficulty of child stardom. "When we were together, we were two little kids having fun," she says. She refers to him as "MJ," and tells stories about sneaking into Elizabeth Taylor's bedroom with him to glimpse her wedding gown. She tells us that Michael Jackson's favorite song was Charlie Chaplin's "Smile." Again, I'm struck by how personal and specific these tributes are - and how much more enlightening they are than any of the commentary we've seen on TV in the last week and a half.

2:34 p.m. John Mayer is onstage, playing an instrumental version of "Human Nature" on electric guitar. The background singers pick up. It's sort of a crossover moment.

2:30 p.m. Al Sharpton is looking slender. He makes reference, again, to Jackson as a family member, a real person as opposed to a cultural figure. Camera cuts to a child in the front row, holding a doll. ''Wasn't nothin' strange about your daddy, what was strange was what he had to put up with," Sharpton says to the kids." This is a public moment for Jackson's children, and an uncomfortable one.

2:21 p.m. Jennifer Hudson, dressed in white, is onstage singing "Will You be There." Like Stevie Wonder, she seems emotional.

2:16 p.m. Kobe and Shaq Magic Johnson are onstage now - remembering Jackson as a Lakers season ticket holder. These are great glimpses of Jackson as a person - playing with firecrackers(!), playing softball with his family, eating a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken. "That was the greatest moment of my life," Johnson says of dining over KFC on the floor with Michael. And this: "He allowed Kobe and I to have our jerseys in homes around the world, because he was already there."

2:11 p.m. Twitter is currently "over capacity," which means a lot of people are watching this.

2:07 p.m. Stevie Wonder sits at the piano. "This is the moment that I wished I didn't live to see come," he says. "We can't help but love you forever Michael." Then he launches into "Never Dreamed You'd Leave in Summer."

2:03 p.m. Now we get the video clips. I could watch hours of this. Interesting that the clip package references the "questionable decisions," too.

2:02 p.m. Berry Gordy has given what seems to me, so far, to be the best and most honest Jackson tribute of the last week and a half. Acknowledgment of "questionable decisions," but also of the fact that Jackson managed to fulfill "his wildest childhood dreams." Talks about his childlike persona offstage versus his complete control and magnetism onstage. And a conclusion that he was "simply the greatest entertainer that ever lived."

1:54 p.m. Motown founder Berry Gordy speaks - and remembers the Jackson 5 audition back in 1968. Smokey Robinson smiles at the memory that young Michael showed him up. It's worth noting, as Queen Latifah did, that we've seen largely African-American faces onstage here so far, and a reverence befitting a political figure (because culture is politics, to a large extent.) His significance to the black community can't really be overstated.

1:50 p.m. OK, so Lionel Ritchie is doing this instead. "Jesus is Love" is a better song that "We Are The World," anyway.

1:45 p.m. Queen Latifah remembering doing the robot to Jackson 5 songs. She pays tribute to his significance to the African-American community. And reads a Maya Angelou poem. Of course, there would be a Maya Angelou poem.

1:40 p.m. Mariah Carey begins "I'll Be There." Black dress with lots of side cleavage. Trey Lorenz joins here, and they duel it out on the high notes. If we're going to go in chronological order, following his career, that would be fitting. Will Lionel Ritchie come out to do "We Are The World"?

1:37 p.m. Out of the cable nets, only Fox has a news crawl going.

1:34 p.m. And it begins with gospel music. Beautiful voices. And quite eerie to see his casket there, watching.

1:30 p.m. On Fox: Shep Smith reading from Lisa Marie Presley's MySpace page. (With disclosure that Fox News and MySpace share a parent company.)

1:24 p.m. And now I'm beginning to feel bad for the anchors. This endless vamping is tough. Because they're trying to be so respectful and polite.

1:14 p.m. Room falls silent. I wish the anchors would, too. Sometimes moments of silence are useful, memorialwise.

1:12 p.m. Smokey Robinson is talking! Reading letters from fellow stars. Diana Ross...Nelson Mandela. The crowd cheers politely. Lights dim.

1:00 p.m. Someday soon there will be a Michael Jackson stamp and an Old Michael/New Michael debate. Personally, I love watching the video clips from the "Thriller" era. It makes me feel better about things, albeit in full denial.

12:51 p.m. Early shots from inside the Staples Center. Eerie blue glow onstage.

12:40 p.m. Just heard, via MSNBC, that Jackson's son Prince (the elder, I'm assuming) might be performing. THAT would be worth watching.

12:23 p.m.: Slow tracking of hearse through Los Angeles. Is it sick of me to say that this reminds me of the O.J. Simpson car chase?

Hello, all. I'll be liveblogging the Michael Jackson memorial throughout the afternoon...feel free to chime in with comments!

I'll start by saying that the crowds are forming in front of Los Angeles' Staples Center, and the cameras are focusing on the costumes. On Fox News, I just saw a guy who looked like he belonged at a Gene Simmons memorial, instead. (Simmons is very much alive.)

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56 comments so far...
  1. I am glad you will approach this with a tongue in cheek attitude, Joanna.

    Posted by Larry July 7, 09 11:43 AM
  1. In the grand scheme of things, Michael Jackson's death is relatively unimportant. Yes he was a good artist., but you the media has put him on a pedestal as a god. There are far better role models that have recently passed on and were actually heros. An example is Ed McMahon, a war veteran and fighter pilot. How about 12 days of coverage for him and the rest of our everyday heros such as those who serve in the miltary or law enforcement or fire fighters? I just don't get all the coverage. Why can't the media cover better topics such as government waste, the extreme deficit that Obama and Congress have run up?

    Posted by Ralph A. gordon July 7, 09 12:01 PM
  1. Is it open casket?

    Posted by Emmanuel Lewis July 7, 09 12:23 PM
  1. Why is Mariah Carey wearing a dress so decidedly inappropriate? Seriously.

    Posted by SarahBeth July 7, 09 12:44 PM
  1. More cowbell!

    Posted by C. Walken July 7, 09 12:48 PM
  1. @#2 Ralph A. Gordon - did you ever hear of the laws of supply and demand? The media will stop covering Michael Jackson's death when we stop watching/reading. Your post in this thread is a good example of your own interest in this topic...if you want it to go away, ignore it.

    Posted by Adam Smith July 7, 09 01:09 PM
  1. Where's the wall to wall coverage of the coup in Honduras? Of U.S.-backed destabilization in Iran? Of the on-going slaughters in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan? When does all that get streamed live?

    Ahh, that's right, the american national consciousness and identity is all about fluff, celebrity and escapism.

    "MJ" didn't even write, arrange, produce or orchestrate his own music.

    Posted by catfudd July 7, 09 01:09 PM
  1. Catfudd, what does that have to do with anything? He wrote his own music, but who cares about the arranger/producer? Doesn't take away from his talent.

    Posted by damiged July 7, 09 01:19 PM
  1. "'MJ' didn't even write, arrange, produce or orchestrate his own music"

    While I agree with the overall point of the rest of your post, the statement above is incorrect. You should check those liner notes again, catfudd. Jackson wrote, arranged and produced (or co-wrote, co-arranged and co-produced) a lot of his stuff. Actually, that applies to most of his material when he went solo.

    Posted by bizona July 7, 09 01:21 PM
  1. I think that's Magic Johnson, not Shaq.

    Posted by K July 7, 09 01:24 PM
  1. Brainfreeze! Thank you.

    Posted by Joanna July 7, 09 01:27 PM
  1. Hey, Al Sharpton, how can we miss you if you WON'T GO AWAY!!!!!! You're making my ears bleed, as usual.

    Posted by hockeyfan27 July 7, 09 01:30 PM
  1. "Your daddy wasn't strange"

    Cmon really?? If he wasn't strange I clearly don't know the definition... Why even bring this up?

    Posted by Good lord July 7, 09 01:45 PM
  1. Giving Michael a pass on the pedophilia charge, which wasn't proven; (settled out of court) trying to bring my children and grandchildren up with class, how am I to react when they wanted to watch him because they loved his music, and he got into his crotch grabbing routine? Also, since they idolized anything Jacksonian, they of course were watching Janet when she displayed her jug. These folks are on the other side of my value system, and don't deserve to be annointed as special.

    Posted by al July 7, 09 01:47 PM
  1. I can't believe all the positive press this pedophile is receiving?

    Posted by jason July 7, 09 01:48 PM
  1. How are the performers not creeped out by the close casket to the stage?

    Posted by Roro July 7, 09 01:51 PM
  1. I just vomited a little bit.

    Posted by really? July 7, 09 02:09 PM
  1. Child molester, nothing more and nothing less. End this silly homage now!

    Posted by HaveaHeart July 7, 09 02:10 PM
  1. This guy is being celebrated by the people who knew him and loved him... just because some might think he's a pedophile doesn't mean that his family, friends and fans do. They genuinely miss him and are sadden by his passing. The charges against him were never proven in the court of law so give him a break on that. Yes, he was very strange and yes, some of his decisions were vey questionable but people still loved him because he opened up so many doors for African-Americans across the country and entertained everyone. I love his music and that's the way I will remember him. R.I.P. Michael.

    Posted by A person July 7, 09 02:12 PM
  1. Am I the only one who is astonished to see Martin Bashir as a spokesperson on ABC?
    This is the same man whose documentary caused caused great distress to MJ and led, indirectly, to the trial which caused MJ great distress.
    I am really shocked that he, Martin Bashir, dares to go on national television instead of hiding his face in shame.

    Posted by Miriam Pertaub July 7, 09 02:13 PM
  1. This is SO overdone. Enough already.

    Posted by MJ was a pedophile July 7, 09 02:14 PM
  1. This is utterly degrading and surrealistic. The crazies are so far over the top whooping up this wackjob it is like a Nuremberg rally for perverts. The media is crazier than the "fans". There are over 10,000 media ghouls 'reporting" and promoting the gaga hero worship of a sex offender.

    They should have had Cardinal Law do the eulogy.

    Race trumps pedophilia now.

    Posted by Rezko July 7, 09 02:19 PM
  1. This whole debacle just shows how out of whack our culture and value system is / has become.

    At best he was a popular entertainer - at worst he was a pedophile, either way the reaction etc. is ridiculous. Unfortunately this says a lot more about our society than it does about MJ

    Posted by Good Lord July 7, 09 02:25 PM
  1. is janet jackson there??

    Posted by big a July 7, 09 02:30 PM
  1. Joanna - thanks for the honest commentary.
    Over the top is the perfect term. Enough already!
    Musically, very talentent, but a very, very, strange individual that made a lot of "questionable decisions."
    Let's put it all into perspective people!

    Posted by Mappy July 7, 09 02:36 PM
  1. It is clear the author of this "timeline of events" does not like Michael Jackson.

    Posted by Fano July 7, 09 02:43 PM
  1. Who cares. This is a sad state of affairs for our popular culture.
    Michael Jackson? No one cares except for the fringes. Let's move on.....

    Posted by Once Poor July 7, 09 02:45 PM
  1. his friends and family have the right to celebrate him anyway they want. no one is forcing anyone to watch this... if it's too much, too over the top, too anything, then go back to work!!!

    Posted by seriously July 7, 09 02:47 PM
  1. "No one is forcing anyone to watch this" Thats debatable, I would love to watch the news right now, maybe learn something about what is going on in Honduras... Oh wait, what are the news networks showing....

    Posted by Good Lord July 7, 09 02:57 PM
  1. I just find it weird that he's such a hero for african americans, but he played into the sterotypes to the point he wanted to change himself until he was white. How can someone who doesn't like being black be a role model for black america?

    Posted by huskyalum July 7, 09 02:58 PM
  1. Wow. I guess there are a lot of people that don't appreciate good music out there.

    Posted by beat it July 7, 09 03:17 PM
  1. music moves you, it makes you feel something. no matter what the artist who wrote it did or did not do, you cannot deny the emotions you felt when you heard that song. his music moved so many, and for some of us his music was the soundtrack of our childhood. nothing can change that or take it away. if you don't like it or don't care, then go about your business. we can't make you care about him and you can't make us not care about him.

    Posted by noel July 7, 09 03:18 PM
  1. Everyone still is bent on the fact he is a pedophile and I have to say...let it go...he was acquitted in court. The jury returned the verdict on all counts "not guilty".
    Leave the poor guy alone.....if people want to go crazy and mourn him, the so be it.

    Posted by silverbulletman July 7, 09 03:22 PM
  1. 1.6 million people applied for tickets to a guy's memorial service which was, I might add, held in a giant arena. People all over the world are upset about it. Every major network was broadcasting this ceremony.

    Yeah, he must have been really unimportant.....

    Posted by RDunlop7 July 7, 09 03:24 PM
  1. i think that everyone is forgetting the fact that child molestation charges were never proven. just because someone says you did something doesnt make it fact. that is why we have a judicial system. the bottom line is he was a great humanitarian who donated his time and money to helping other people. as far as an entertainer he was the greatest of all time no matter who tries to take that away from him. i dont think it was a problem for everyone while he was alive and they gave him all of that negative attention. lets give him his props where they are due. people need to stop being so judgmental. you dont know his life.

    Posted by leave him alone July 7, 09 03:39 PM
  1. I feel bad for his daughter for a number of reasons. First and foremost, she lost her dad. Secondly, she has undoubtly been listening to all the news reports about his molestation charge, watching footage of the dangling baby and her father's eccentric behavior. Thirdly, she's probably heard reports from Debbie Rowe saying how Michael probably isn't her biological father. That is a lot of stuff for an adult to digest and process to handle in a very short amount of time - let alone a child having to endure all that.

    My impression is that she felt the intense need to set the record straight and to tell people that the public perception of her dad was not her's. I hope the media lets her and the rest of the Jackson family grieve in private now.

    Posted by massm July 7, 09 04:06 PM
  1. mama say, mama sa, mama these people are nuts. I get the family part, they will alway be brothers and sisters etc, but please, was Kobe Bryant even alive yet when thriller was released? never mind the jackson 5. Did Michael do anything relevant in Kobe's lifetime. The celebrity ego is so fragile. They even need to be seen at a funeral to make themeselves feel relevant. Good for elizabeth taylor, staying away from that craziness.

    The man was a freak. Great singer and performer, but a freak.

    Posted by Freakazoid July 7, 09 04:08 PM
  1. "Unfortunately this says a lot more about our society than it does about MJ"

    Posted by sceesic July 7, 09 04:20 PM
  1. To show how preposterous these tributes to Jackson- The Person- are, pick one of the following:

    A. I would love my child to grow up and be like Michael Jackson
    B. I would love my child to grow up and be an average human being

    Enough said... ??

    Posted by Dave Singleton July 7, 09 04:27 PM
  1. Well said all round Joanna. Had to laugh at your comments re the congresswoman. Surely she should have had some public speaking finesse? Found myself sniggering at the inept, indecipherable Palinesque quality of her speech, however heartfelt. Brooke blathered on too long (with some tumbleweed moments for her "amusing" anecdotes). but she seemed genuinely moved. Very uncomfortable viewing at the very end with the daughter and Marlon, perhaps only to be expected voyeuristically?

    Posted by KM July 7, 09 04:36 PM
  1. my child and i well miss u you was love if u did felit i well alway keep u in my heart very thing u sing i got fron the first time

    Posted by gail July 7, 09 04:46 PM
  1. I had hoped the tribute to Michael would be done in good taste with the family enjoying the reflections of many who loved Michael and appreciated his talent. The screaming mourners who shouted their love during the service was distracting and the star tribute to him was and over the top. It is time to let him rest and move on for the sake of his children. Sadly, this story will go on and on and on........and we will watch and follow all the little bits of information to come.......
    P.S. Carey's black dress not flattering and Usher's shades were not needed!

    Posted by Clara Bledsoe July 7, 09 04:53 PM
  1. I'm usually more conservative than this, but I feel that a very talented individual, whom millions of people adore (and millions more still feel a need to pay attention to whether they like or dislike him or neither) signs a part of his soul away to the world. The world gets a right to scrutinise his life; but at the same time the world has a responsibility to look after him. Rights and responsibilities, as in so many other spheres.

    Posted by Steve July 7, 09 06:23 PM
  1. its funny how one singer can get all of this attention but all of the war heros that have fought and died for this country and still dont get this much attention any more whats wrong with this country . tomarrow we will go on as like nothing had happened . how messed up is this world . remember the fallen people they have died so you can have freedom . there is always a price to pay for that freedom and it not free it cost a life remember that . let the man rest .

    Posted by the son of the fallen July 7, 09 06:55 PM
  1. I remember Jermaine Jackson attended Birmingham High school. I was a student at Mulloland Jr. high. I always wanted to meet him but figured I was too young to talk to him. I heard he was very down to earth guy who didn't feel above the crowd at school.

    Posted by Kim July 7, 09 07:09 PM
  1. Haters, haters, now he will be left alone, no wonder he was in so much pain, broken heart do hurt, all the lies when he only tries to help people. I pray for his family expecially his mom and children. I wish he was given the chance to reunite with the jackson five that would have been a good thing. May his soul rest in peace.

    Posted by angel July 7, 09 08:05 PM
  1. ITA re Jermaine Jackson and "Smile." Beyond moving, and the segue from Brooke Shields' comments into the song would have been the perfect closing -- would have been being the operative phrase..

    Posted by liccardo July 7, 09 08:20 PM
  1. Stop it, just stop it! All of you, look at yourselves! Look at the stuff you've does that make you better than the person you are condemning? No one knows what happened in the private life of Michael Jackson. No one knows what's happening in your or my private lives. How can any of you judge? Him or anyone else? We have made him what he is, good or bad. We have escalated him to God or Devil. What I saw was a small child in a man's body. A very eccentric human being. Someone who's music, whatever you may think of it, made me tap my toes or sing along..everyone knows his music. Even those of you professed MJ haters. You are the ones on the fringe, you are the people that
    give America a bad name, you are the ones that believe "Guilty until proven innocent" and you will never stop until your accusations and unfounded rumors kill someone...oh wait, you already have. Gob bess you and keep you Michael and despite what these people say here, you will be missed.

    you youuse

    Posted by abc123 July 7, 09 09:20 PM
  1. I can't get enough of coverage of Michael Jackson. I can' t believe he is gone. Get the doctors-what a waste they are. Anything for the almighty dollar. God Bless 'HIS' gorgeous children -they look just like HIM!! Do the DNA. Will miss you Michael!!!! You were a wonderful entertainer. What a memorial to honor this MAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Posted by A big Fan July 7, 09 09:29 PM
  1. if it wasn't for his millions he would have been spending his days in a CA prison and be alive now instead of dead by way of drug abuse.

    Posted by MJ Pedo July 7, 09 09:58 PM
  1. Nice job Joanna. Can anyone tell me who the beautiful blonde was singing right in the middle of the stage during Heal the World (at the end)? Wow. His blonde guitarist was also cute with the shades, but I have no idea who the other one was...

    Posted by RR Fields July 7, 09 10:38 PM
  1. Janet Jackson experienced a costume "flaw" during super bowl national TV audience. Michael Jackson held his crotch while performing on a world wide telecast. Sleaze bags all. Honor him for his music sure but he was a human disgrace.

    Posted by Jay July 7, 09 11:20 PM
  1. I dont think debbie rowe should get the kids she would not be a good mother. they should by with there grandmother im, all for that. to me she is no mother at all.

    Posted by cindy July 7, 09 11:58 PM
  1. ENOUGH ALREADY! I think that Congresswoman Jackson-Lee sum it all. "In this country you are innocent until proven otherwise". The man gave a lot; his time and money to issues where it was needed. Can we just remember that, and rest the slander of a human being.

    Posted by Jackie July 8, 09 08:06 AM

    Posted by SHAWN July 8, 09 10:55 AM
  1. Jay- When Elvis was first on television he was filmed from the waist up because people felt his hip movements to be too provocative and suggestive. It s a performer's duty to be provocative and push the boundaries, or else they will fade into the background and never acheive greatness. Dancing- no matter how suggestively- doesn't make you a human disgarce. Maybe you should rent "Footloose"

    Posted by noel July 8, 09 11:19 AM

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