Michael Jackson's Memorial Lures A-List Attendees, Participants
Mariah Carey, Lionel Richie, Queen Latifah Among Stars Paying Tribute to Jackson
By LUCHINA FISHER and SHEILA MARIKAR
July 7, 2009
Celebrities from around the world descended on Los Angeles' Staples Center to pay tribute to Jackson. Kobe Bryant, Wesley Snipes, Spike Lee and Smokey Robinson were among the first stars to arrive. Robinson started off the ceremony by reading condolences from friends including former South African president Nelson Mandela and soul legend Diana Ross.
"I am trying to find closure, I want you to know that even though I am not there at the Staples Center," Ross' statement said. "I am there in my heart. I have decided to pause and be silent. This feels right for me. Michael was a personal love of mine, a treasured part of my world, part of the fabric of my life in a way that I can't seem to find words to express. Michael wanted me to be there for his children, and I will be there if they ever they need me."
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As pallbearers wearing gold ties and single white, sequined gloves carried Jackson's golden, flower covered casket into the arena, brothers Jermaine, Marlon and Randy Jackson joined in song with a gospel choir. Jermaine later left his family in the audience to perform "Smile."
Following pastor Lucious Smith's sermon, Mariah Carey took the stage to perform the Jackson Five hit "I'll Be There," which she covered in 1992.
Queen Latifah praised Jackson, reciting a poem from Maya Angelou and telling the crowd, "He thrived with passion and compassion ... We had him. Whether we knew who he was or did not know, he was ours and we were his." Lionel Richie took the stage after her to perform "Jesus Is Love."
Motown Records founder Berry Gordy, who mentored Jackson from the time he was in the Jackson Five, also commended the pop icon, calling him "the greatest entertainer that ever lived."
"He raised the bar and then broke the bar. His talent and creativity brought him and entertain into another stratosphere," Gordy said. "Though it ended way too soon, Michael's life was beautiful. Sure, there were some sad times and maybe some questionable decisions on his part, but Michael Jackson accomplished everything he dreamed of."
Pop music impresario Stevie Wonder followed Gordy, performing "I Never Dreamed You'd Leave in Summer." Oscar-winning actress and singer Jennifer Hudson followed his song with a cover of "Will You Be There," from Jackson's 1991 album, "Dangerous."
Actress Brooke Shields reminisced about her friendship with Jackson and how the two bonded over rocketing to fame early in life.
"I was 13 when we met and from that day on our friendship grew," she said, choking back tears. "Michael always knew he could count of me to support him or be his date and that we would have fun no matter where we were. We had a bond and maybe it was because we both understood what it was like to be in the spotlight from a very young age."
Jackson never got the opportunity to be called Sir Michael Jackson, but after today's memorial, there's no doubt that he was the King of Pop. As predicted, the event drew some of the most famous names from the entertainment industry.
Among the many other celebrities in attendence at Jackson's memorial: NBA icon Magic Johnson, who appeared in Jackson's music video for "Remember the Time;" activist, politician and longtime Jackson family supporter Reverend Al Sharpton; singer-songwriter John Mayer, who performed Jackson's "Human Nature;" Usher, who wore sunglasses as he sang "Gone Too Soon," and scandal-scarred R&B singer Chris Brown.
Many Friends Absent From Jackson Memorial
Almost as important are the familiar faces that didn't show up.
Dame Elizabeth Taylor announced via her Twitter page Monday that though she's mourning Jackson's death, she has no desire to participate in or attend his memorial.
"I just don't believe that Michael would want me to share my grief with millions of others. How I feel is between us. Not a public event," she said. "I said I wouldn't go to the Staples Center and I certainly don't want to become a part of it. I love him too much."
Jackson's first wife Lisa Marie Presley and Debbie Rowe, his second wife and mother of his two oldest children, did not attend. Rowe, who had VIP seats reserved for her, bowed out Monday, 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 Monday afternoon. "Debbie will continue to celebrate Michael's memory privately."
A Jackson family friend who goes by the name Phoenix said it's probably a good thing Rowe exempted herself.
"I don't think she's sitting too good with the Jackson family right now," said Phoenix, who was in touch with the family this week.
Actor Macaulay Culkin, who hung out at Neverland as a boy and appeared in Jackson's "Black or White" video, was also a no-show.
ABCNews.com's Dean Praetorius and MoMo Zhou contributed to this report.