Jackson funeral is center stage

Service details eclipse questions about pop star's death

More Michael Jackson coverage

If the interest shown in the memorial service for Michael Jackson is any indication, the pop star's comeback would have been a rip-roaring success.

The event Tuesday morning will far eclipse the funeral services 11 years ago for another musical giant, Frank Sinatra, also in Los Angeles. But Sinatra died at the ripe age of 82, while Jackson's untimely demise at 50 has sparked an outpouring of testimonials and spontaneous tributes not dissimilar to the collective catharsis in the U.K. after the death of Princess Diana.

For a brief moment, Diprivan, debts and Debbie Rowe are taking a back seat: The logistics of the official memorial Tuesday as well as a full-court press by the Jackson family, celebrity friends and black politicos during the long Fourth of July weekend have combined to take the heat off the unsavory aspects of Jackson's life and the many still-unanswered questions surrounding his death.

While the tabloid press in Britain -- where the singer would have started his 50-concert gig exactly a week from now -- was having a field day with revelations about his alleged scurrilous past and increasingly weird antics, there was a concerted attempt stateside to tamp down the eyebrow-raising elements and exalt Jackson's artistry.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell told CNN on Sunday that Jackson had controversy in life, but in death his art should be celebrated.

"Yes, there were some challenges in his life," he said on John King's "State of the Union." "Yes, there was a great deal of controversy about him. But he's now passed on. Let's celebrate his art."

The Rev. Al Sharpton also tirelessly apotheosized the rock star as not only the King of Pop but also the Prince of Hope.

A lot of fans clearly were buying into the hope part.

A stunning 1.6 million registered online Friday for tickets to the memorial, even without knowing who would top the bill or how much tedium would be involved just getting in and out of Staples Center.

The lucky 8,750 chosen randomly were to get word about their tickets Sunday, and despite police cordons throughout the downtown area, a good half-million who didn't score likely will show up anyhow. Family, friends and the media will be among the 11,000 admitted to Staples Center, plus 6,500 in the Nokia Theatre overflow section next door. Before the drawing, officials at AEG, owner and operator of Staples Center, will scrub the entries to eliminate dupes and any suspected of being made by automated "go-bots."

Still, with wristbands and tickets obligatory and preparatory time so short, the whole procedure is likely to be harder than getting through airport security.

The event unfolds as the nation's second-largest city struggles with a $500 million budget deficit and the state of California reels from a $24 billion deficit.

Not surprisingly, City Councilwoman Jan Perry strongly urged people to stay home and watch the memorial on television. The ceremony will not be shown on Staples' giant outdoor TV screen, and there won't be a funeral procession through the city. (Jackson is to be interred several hours earlier in a private funeral service at Forest Lawn in the Hollywood Hills.)

On Sunday, NBC changed its mind and decided to join other networks -- ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC and E! among them -- that will televise the public service live.

The Peacock initially planned only a one-hour primetime special Tuesday evening but said it would cover the event live. It was not immediately clear who would anchor. Some of the top guns at other networks are set to report on the proceedings, including Charles Gibson at ABC, Katie Couric at CBS and Anderson Cooper at CNN.

Meanwhile, fan expectations about other performances were quickly dashed this weekend: The Jackson family is not reuniting to fulfill their brother's gigs in London.

The pop star's ticketholders already are getting refunds for the London shows, and the O2 Arena already has started booking the lost dates with new attractions.

Also, it's unlikely that Janet Jackson will be going out on the road with her brothers doing Jackson 5 tribute shows, though the male siblings eventually could mount a memorial show to Michael and their career with him.

As for the show Tuesday, it's being produced by Grammy guru Ken Ehrlich (whose company is owned by AEG Live), with likely entertainers including Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson and Little Richard.

Roger Friedman in New York and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
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