Michael Jackson to be Buried in Famed Hollywood Cemetery
Ex-Wife Rowe, Who May Fight for Couple's Children, Won't Be Attending
By SARAH NETTER and EMILY FRIEDMAN
July 6, 2009
A burial service for Michael Jackson will take place early Tuesday morning at the famed Forest Lawn Cemetery in Hollywood Hills, Calif., sources close to the Jackson family have confirmed to ABC News. Jackson's ex-wife Debbie Rowe, who may fight for custody of the couple's children, won't attend.
The service is set to begin at 8 a.m. PST and could delay the start of the memorial service at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, which is scheduled for 10 a.m. PST.
Earlier today, Rowe, who is threatening a custody fight over Jackson's two oldest children, said that she will not attend Jackson's public memorial service, in an effort to keep the attention on the late pop icon.
Rowe's decision to skip her ex-husband's service came just hours after she said she would attend.
"The onslaught of media attention has made it clear her attendance would be an unnecessary distraction to an event that should focus exclusively on Michael's legacy," attorney Marta Almli said in a statement this afternoon. "Debbie will continue to celebrate Michael's memory privately."
Marc Schaffel, a former Jackson associate and friend of Rowe's, told "Good Morning America" today that Rowe had tried unsuccessfully to reach the Jackson family before the court hearing.
"There has been outreach. Unfortunately, like so many cases there's so much going on that they have not been able to make contact," he said, blaming outdated phone numbers and full voice mail boxes.
Judge Mitchell Beckloff named former Jackson attorney John Branca and record executive John McClain as temporary administrators of Jackson's estate until an Aug. 3 hearing to determine the validity of Jackson's 2002 will, which names the men as executors of his trust.
Beckloff said in court that he would hold off finalizing control of Jackson's estate until it is proved that no other will exists. Jackson's attorney said they have found another will written before 2002, but any provisions would be superceded by the more recent document.
"Frankly, Mrs. Jackson has concerns about handing over the keys to the kingdom," John E. Schreiber, an attorney for Katherine Jackson, told The Associated Press.
Lawyers for Katherine Jackson had hoped to convince Beckloff to delay a decision on who would control Jackson's tangled finances until after Tuesday's burial and elaborate memorial service.
Instead, Beckloff ruled that Branca and McClain should take charge, at least for now.
Paul Gordon Hoffman, an attorney for Branca and McClain, told the court that some of Katherine Jackson's concerns were unfounded.
Hoffman said Jackson's mother had more of a potential conflict administering the estate because she is a likely beneficiary.
"If there are any conflicts by the parties, Katherine Jackson rather than Mr. McClain and Mr. Branca have them," Hoffman said.
The judge also required Branca and McClain to take out $1 million surety bonds in part to ensure their new responsibilities are carried out properly.
Because Jackson included a no-contest provision in his will, Katherine Jackson risks losing the 40 percent in assets bequeathed to her by her son if she contests the will. Her lawyers were quick to point out in court today that Katherine Jackson isn't contesting her son's will, just trying to preserve her role as administrator.
Beckloff acknowledged the parties' early dissension by noting that "this is getting off to a rocky start out of the gate."
A separate hearing will be held July 13 on the custody of Jackson's three children, who are currently living with Katherine Jackson.
Beckloff today said that he might appoint a lawyer to represent the children.
As the battle for Jackson's assets begins, workers are hurriedly putting the finishing touches on Tuesday's lavish Michael Jackson memorial service.
ABC News will broadcast the Jackson memorial service live at 1 p.m. ET Tuesday, July 7
Jackson, 50, died June 25, leaving behind three young children and a complicated trove of debt, licensing rights, memorabilia and his 2,800-acre Neverland ranch.
The Rev. Al Sharpton, who has been at the family's side since Jackson's death, criticized the timing of Katherine Jackson's date in probate court.
"I think it has been very insensitive, particularly to this family, that you would even schedule a court hearing on the status of the mother the day before she has to go to the cemetery for her son," Sharpton told "Good Morning America's" Robin Roberts. "I mean it's almost insulting."
One week from today, Katherine Jackson's attorneys will head to court for a separate, more personal battle for custody of Jackson's three children.
Katherine Jackson has been granted temporary custody of Michael Joseph Jr., 12; Paris-Michael Katherine Jackson, 11; and Prince Michael Jackson II, 7, who is known as Blanket. But Rowe, who was divorced from Jackson in 1999, is expected to lay claim to at least the two oldest children.
Schaffel, who was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in Jackson's 2005 molestation trial and later awarded a multimillion dollar judgment against the singer for back payments and loans, declined to comment on Rowe's plans for seeking custody of Jackson's children, but adamantly denied growing public sentiment that her taking a multimillion dollar settlement and signing away her custody rights makes her an unfit parent.
"Debbie did not sell the rights to her children. What I don't think most people realize ... Debbie Rowe has been a very close friend of Michael's for over 25 years," Schaffel said. "She wanted him to have children. They made a deal. Michael would raise the children. Obviously that's changed."
Schaffel said that Rowe has seen the children over the years, but he would not say when or how often.
But for now, the Jackson clan is focusing on saying goodbye.
A Tribute Honoring Michael Jackson
Like others connected to Jackson's public memorial, Sharpton continued to keep mum on what the service might include or who is scheduled to perform.
"They are talking about a very dignified celebration of his life," Sharpton said. "And there will be tributes."
Sharpton, who reiterated the family's need to know exactly how its most famous member died, said the family is aware of the cost of the Jackson memorial to the cash-strapped city -- the memorial is said to cost taxpayers $2.5 million.
"I think that the city is trying to do what it should do to secure people. That's what cities do. Clearly no one in the family is happy that the city is incurring any expense at all," he said. "You're talking about a historic figure who will have a historic celebration, probably one that we will not see similar in this generation."
More than 17,000 people learned Sunday whether they'd be among the lucky few who would be bestowed with a cherished ticket and wristband that would let them into either the Staples Center or the nearby Nokia Theatre Tuesday.
"It's overwhelming to think we're going to be there and celebrate his life," one lucky ticketholder said Sunday.
Los Angeles police and city leaders have pleaded with Jackson fans to stay away from the Staples Center unless they are properly ticketed or credentialed. But reports indicate that watching the memorial service on television or the Internet won't be enough for the legions of fans who want to be a part of saying goodbye to a pop legend who was arguably the most famous entertainer in history.
Saying Goodbye to a Legend
Tributes to Jackson have already equaled or trumped those seen after the stunning deaths of Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly and John Lennon. Outpourings of grief and awe haven't been seen on such a scale since the 1997 death of Princess Diana.
Some deaths seem to be on a whole other level from entertainers, such as the 1960s killings of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and president John F. Kennedy.
"We have to distinguish between even the most famous entertainers and leaders like a Kennedy or a Martin Luther King who is murdered and really throws the whole Earth off its axis," New York Times columnist Frank Rich said.
But death of iconic musicians sometimes has unquestionable power to throw followers into a tailspin.
"When someone who is a musician dies, you almost feel as if a part of your life is dying, that this is a period that you remember very vividly, and you can totally re-remember every time that music is played," pop culture writer Chuck Klosterman said.
Though Michael Jackson's personal life may have been troubled in his last years, marked by accusations and subsequent reclusiveness, his music, many have said, was pure genius.
"We all love Michael, and it wasn't because of all these things that some of the media projected," Sharpton said. "It was because he was on a journey that we all took with him."
Jackson fans received word about memorial tickets Sunday after waiting eagerly to find out whether their names will be selected at random from an online lottery to attend Michael Jackson's memorial service.
When the registration closed Saturday, 1.6 million had pinned their hopes on the lottery for a seat at the memorial service, but only 17,500 ticket wristbands were given out.
Before choosing the 8,750 registrants at random, AEG, which owns the Staples Center where the service will take place Tuesday at 10 a.m. "scrubbed" duplicate lottery entries, as well as those entries that appear to have been made by auto-entry systems.
Memorial Tickets Distributed at 'Off-Site Location'
Everyone who scored tickets must pick them up in person, at an off-site location today. AEG officials said tickets would not be given out at the Staples Center or the Nokia Theatre. In an effort to avoid the reselling of tickets, wristbands will be placed on everyone's wrists at the time of ticket distribution, and everyone attending the memorial service at the Staples Center, or the live simulcast at the Nokia Theatre, must possess both a ticket and a wristband that has not been torn or broken.
The lottery Web site received hundreds of millions of hits since opening registration July 3, but only 11,000 people, chosen at random, received admittance to the Staples Center. The remaining 6,500 will watch the memorial service at the Nokia Theatre, where the service will be broadcast.
Jackson's memorial service at the Staples Center could very well become one of the most widely attended memorials in U.S. history. Los Angeles is bracing for the nearly 700,000 people expected to descend on the city.
Hotel owners near the Staples Center said they've been inundated with calls since Thursday from fans needing a place to stay -- some were traveling to the United States from Europe. KABC reported that the Holiday Inn down the street from Staples Center has sold out. Azzi Kashani from O Hotel said, "It is exciting and sad at the same time. ... It's probably going to be one of the largest funerals, memorial services since Princess Diana."
Michael Jackson Tributes Continue
In the meantime, Jackson tributes continue to be held across the country.
Madonna paid tribute to Michael Jackson during a performance at the O2 in London, the same arena where Michael Jackson was set to stage his "This Is It" concerts.
Sharpton appeared Sunday at a ceremony honoring Jackson at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church of Los Angeles, where he called for a national day of mourning and the creation of a Michael Jackson postage stamp.
Sharpton was also sharply critical of the media, calling coverage of Michael Jackson's death "disgraceful."
"Show the same respect for Michael and Michael's family that you showed Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley," he said, receiving thunderous applause from the congregation. Sharpton then called on people from various churches to gather in youth centers for a "love vigil" focusing on Michael Jackson's songs.
"Let the media focus on the mess while we focus on the message," he said.
The Associated Press and ABC News' Claire Shipman and Christina Caron contributed to this story.