It's the "biggest" story of the day: Michael Jackson's memorial service, that is. The King of Pop's send-off will cost taxpayers somewhere between $2.5 and $4 million - and the media (including Mariah, Usher, and Stevie) is all over it.
And so are we. (Well, I am.) From now until the service ends, I'll be liveblogging the circus (and it will be a circus, or more literally, the warm-up act for the circus: the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus will be opening tomorrow at the same venue). For those who want to "follow" along but are unsure which channel to tune into — ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, MSNBC, CNN, CNN Headline News, Fox News Channel, E!, TV Guide, TV One, MTV, VH1, VH1 Classic, VH1 Soul, BET, Telemundo or Univision — you can get a breakdown of the coverage here.
3:55 I'm closing the show with this:
3:40 Paris closed the show by saying that she had "the best father."
3:35 Back-to-back singalong of "We Are the World" and "Heal the World."
Paris, Prince, and Blanket joined in.
3:30 What the hell is this guy's deal?
3:25 Shaheen Jafargholi is singing "Who's Loving You." Anyone else think it's weird that an unrelated prepubescent boy is there?
3:15 Usher sang "Gone Too Soon." He's the first to get down and actually sing to the casket. He cried at the end and it was touching, but the thunderstorm warning in NYC kept fucking up the mood. (Video to come.)
3:00 Martin Luther King Jr.'s daughter said, "If faces can smile…"
We imagined Michael's response, "Faces can smile, silly!"
2:59 Jermaine is singing "Smile."
2:56 Brooke Shields is basically talking about having Michael Jackson as a gay best friend. I like it though. It's really touching. "When we were together, we were two little kids, having fun. We never collaborated together or performed together." But seriously, she is ubiquitous.
2:45 People are chanting "Michael, Michael, Michael!" And then John Mayer stepped out instead. He's performing "Human Nature." But without singing—like Kenny G-style. This will be playing in dentist office waiting rooms around the country soon.
Video to come. Lots of "O" faces.
2:39 He just told Michael's kids, "There was nothing strange about your daddy. What was strange was what your daddy had to deal with." That got a standing ovation.
I think Blanket has an MJ doll with him.
2:36 Al Sharpton is being himself…loud.
2:28 The arm-motion choir behind Jennifer Hudson gives MJ two thumbs up.
They aren't signers right? I took American Sign Language as my foreign language in college, and this is not what it looked like:
2:12 Stevie Wonder is performing "Never Dreamed You'd Leave in Summer." It's pretty awesome. Video to come.
2:08 Now there's a montage of dancing and songs.
2:07 Mariah singing "I'll Be There."
2:04 Berry Gordy is giving the eulogy. He said mostly glowing things but also, "He had some bad, bad times and made some questionable decisions…" But he ended with, "I think he's simply the greatest entertainer that ever lived." That brought the house down.
2:03 The Jackson men are wearing matching suits and sparkly gloves.
1:55 Lionel Richie is singing now. It's a religious song I don't recognize.
1:52 Queen Latifah is reading a poem that Maya Angelou wrote for the occasion called "We Had Him."
Video to come: Her voice sounded…not great. But Trey Lorenz was there!
1:43 The casket:
1:40 The pastor giving the sermon keeps peppering his speech with song titles ("Remember the Time," "Heal the World," etc.).
1:38 Someone screamed, "I love you, Michael!" And the crowd cheered. Then someone else screamed, "We ALL love you, Michael!" And then the crowd cheered again.
1:36 A choir is singing (the same one that did back up on "Man in the Mirror") and the stage is set up just like a church. There are rolling clouds behind the windows.
1:25 I like Coop's Rhythm Nation-style mic.
1:19 Martin Bashir is on ABC talking about how he feels demonized for his documentary Living with Michael Jackson. People are so hung up on this demon talk.
1:15 OK, now it's totally dark and silent:
And it's going on for a long time. None of the anchors on any of the stations know what order anything will happen.
1:13 Smokey Robinson is reading statements written by people who couldn't attend, like Diana Ross and Nelson Mandela.
1:06 Informal poll:
What will Stevie Wonder sing?
A.) "Never Dreamed You'd Leave in Summer"
B.) "You Are the Sunshine of My Life"
C.) "Part-time Lover"
1:04 Informal poll:
What will Mariah sing?
A.) "I'll Be There"
B.) "One Sweet Day"
C.) "Bye Bye"
I hope it's "Bye Bye" but that she changes the lyrics up to include: "This is for my people who just lost somebody/ A best friend/ An icon/ A dancer/ [fill in the blank]…"
1:02: The service should be starting any minute now.
1:00 Some of the pages of the memorial service program are online now. Missing: the first page, with LaToya's message. I wanna know what she said!
12:56 This girls is pumped about seeing MJ's coffin.
12:50 You guys, guess who's gonna be there!
12:43 E! is approaching this like it's red carpet coverage, but instead of former models or comedians hosting, they have serious journalists, like the guy who used to work at Us and had his own sex scandal.
12:27 Channel Hopping:
MTV: Playing videos in between Sway and Kim Stolz talking at the Staples Center. Also, the network ID marker has turned this into a black ribbon event. Elizabeth Taylor is gonna need a Girl Scout sash to hold the rainbow of badges she's amassing.
VH1: Showing the same packages as MTV.
BET: Kevin from the first Real World is talking:
Fox News: Following the casket on screen as it drives to the memorial.
Telemundo: Same as Fox News, but sexier.
E!: Longest Proactive commercial ever. It seems like they're front loading with the ads so they don't have to cut away.
12:08 Now it's being reported that the mood inside the Staples Center will be "somber," with no "pomp and circumstance."
11:53 Check out the program for the memorial service:
Also, CNN will not let up on talking about Michael "overcoming his demons." They must've said it like 20 times already. It makes this picture—from the program—have a lot more meaning. Actually, I don't care how big of a deal "Thriller" was. Zombies are too scary for a funeral.
11:45 CNN said that MJ's coffin will be placed in the empty space between these flower arrangements at the foot of the stage:
That means he'll have front-row access to Mariah's performance, possibly even an up-skirt view.
11:30 This is the scene outside the Staples Center right now. It's a little reminiscent of Lollapalooza. All it needs is a game of hacky sack and an herbal ecstasy kiosk.
11:38 OK, so now CNN is saying that the body will be there. The family is bringing it with them in a procession, and then another private service will be held after the Staples Center memorial.
11:27 The Jackson family is at the Forest Lawn cemetery right now for a private service. Helicopters are swirling overhead, grabbing footage. So is his body going to be at the Staples Center or not? Are they going to drag him all over L.A. today?
11:18 Has anyone heard from Oprah, regarding MJ's death? I'm curious to know what she thinks.
11:04 The View has not been preempted, as of yet. Barbara Walters just called in from L.A. and said that the Jackson family has asked her to sit with them at the service.
Pre-show: We've never experienced a goodbye like this for an entertainer before, and we may never again. We've also never seen people so psyched for a funeral/memorial. Last night, Dateline featured the excitement of some lucky fans who managed to score tickets for the Staples Center event through the public lottery.