The stage was set Monday for Michael Jackson’s final act as the world capital of make-believe braced for what could be the biggest, most spectacular celebrity send-off of all time.
Ecstatic fans who won the lottery for seats at Tuesday’s all-star memorial received the tickets and spangly wristbands that will get them into the 20,000-seat Staples Center downtown. The family announced the participants will include Stevie Wonder, Mariah Carey, Usher, Lionel Richie, Kobe Bryant, Jennifer Hudson, John Mayer, Martin Luther King III, Brooke Shields, Motown founder Berry Gordy, Jennifer Hudson and Martin Luther King III and his sister Bernice.
More than 1.6 million people registered for free tickets to the 10 a.m. memorial, which will be broadcast live worldwide. A total of 8,750 people were chosen to receive two tickets each. The lucky ones picked up their passes Monday at Dodger Stadium amid heavy police presence.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles officials are concerned about other fans clogging city streets. Downtown hotels were quickly filling. Police, trying to avoid a mob scene, warned those without tickets to stay away because they would not be able to get close to the Staples Center.
British Airways reported a surge of bookings as soon as the memorial arrangements were announced. Virgin’s trans-Atlantic flights to San Francisco, Las Vegas and Los Angeles were all packed with fans and VIPs, said spokesman Paul Charles.
“I think this is America’s version of Princess Diana. People want to be in the vicinity. People from the UK and elsewhere want to share their emotions together,” Charles said.
About 50 theaters across the country, from Los Angeles to Topeka, Kan., to Washington, D.C., were planning to broadcast the memorial live, said Cinedigm Digital Cinema Corp. spokeswoman Suzanne Moore. Admission will be free — first-come, first-served.
Jackson’s friend Elizabeth Taylor will be mourning in private. She said on her Twitter feed Monday that she would not attend the memorial.
“I just don’t believe that Michael would want me to share my grief with millions of others,” she tweeted. “How I feel is between us. Not a public event.”
One person who won’t be at the memorial is Debbie Rowe, Jackson’s ex-wife and the mother of Jackson’s two oldest children. She had planned to attend, but backed out Monday.
“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,” Rowe attorney Marta Almli said in a statement. “Debbie will continue to celebrate Michael’s memory privately.”
Throughout Monday, both eBay and Craigslist removed posts on their respective sites that attempted to sell tickets to the memorial service.
On eBay, bids were reaching as high as $3,000, though it was impossible to verify the seriousness of those offers. On Craigslist, asking prices also were in the thousands. Some unable to attend simply wanted to give away their tickets — as one post read — “to only true fans.”