L.A. Braces For King Of Pop's Public Memorial

Michael Jackson: Full NPR Music Archive

Thousands of Michael Jackson fans have descended on Los Angeles. A private funeral is expected to be held at Forest Lawn Cemetery, and a public memorial will be held at the Staples Center.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Today is the day for saying goodbye to Michael Jackson. It starts with a private service at a cemetery in the Hollywood Hills and it ends with a star-filled memorial at Staples Center in downtown L.A. Across the country, millions of Jackson fans will watch on television. As NPR's Carrie Kahn reports, only a lucky few will get into the arena.

CARRIE KAHN: Police have blocked off the streets for two square blocks around Staples Center, and the only way to get past the barricades is with a ticket and a wristband. One-point-six million entered a lottery to get them, fewer than 20,000 did.

(Soundbite of screaming)

KAHN: Squeals and screams came from cars yesterday at Dodgers Stadium as lucky recipients came to claim their tickets. Minar Garcia(ph), a local computer specialist, said he couldn't believe when he opened his email and got the notification.

Mr. MINAR GARCIA (Computer Specialist): When I saw mine said I was a winner, I was like, whoa. I almost fell out my seat.

KAHN: Jackson fan Sherry Howell(ph) said she was also a winner but she thought it was more important for her kids to go to the memorial. She says she gave them her tickets.

Ms. SHERRY HOWELL: I have a legacy inside me, and they need this. They need to see what music is built on and what it's about.

KAHN: Daniel Hernandez says he signed up for a ticket as a fluke but he's thrilled his name was drawn. After joking about maybe selling his ticket, the local wardrobe stylist says he feels like he's part of history.

Mr. DANIEL HERNANDEZ (Wardrobe Stylist): It's like, you know, when Princess Di died. You want to be part of the experience. I mean, it's a cultural experience that not a lot of people are going to be able to have.

KAHN: It's all those disappointed people who didn't win a ticket that have city officials in L.A. worried. Police have repeatedly told citizens and visitors to stay away from downtown. They've deployed 1,400 cops around Staples Center, and the big Jumbotron screen outside the auditorium will not be carrying the memorial, says Assistant Chief Earl Passenger.

Assistant Chief EARL PASSENGER (Los Angeles Police Department): There will be nothing to see. Yur best advice - our best advice is to stay at home and watch the ceremony from the comfort of your home.

KAHN: The Jackson family says the star-studded guest list includes Stevie Wonder, Mariah Carey, Usher and Kobe Bryant. Long-time Jackson friend Elizabeth Taylor will stay at home and grieve in private.

Meanwhile, the fight over who will control Jackson's estate continues to play out in an L.A. court. Yesterday, a judge took temporary control away from Jackson's mother and gave it to two men - one a family friend and the other an entertainment lawyer. Jackson named both as co-executors in his will. Attorney Howard Weitzman represents the men.

Mr. HOWARD WEITZMAN (Attorney): It's our obligation, our duty, our responsibility and our desire to do everything we can to carry out Michael Jackson's wishes, maximizing the assets of this estate and allowing his fans to continue to enjoy the great legacy that he brought to all of us.

KAHN: But Katherine Jackson, the singer's mom, says she's concerned about the two men holding all the keys to the kingdom.

For now, fans like Paul Black, an L.A. film student from Australia, just want to pay tribute to Jackson's life and his music.

Mr. PAUL BLACK (Film Student): It's really just about everybody coming together and saying goodbye and celebrating Michael's life and having some closure. And that means a lot to me and it means a lot to a lot of fans.

KAHN: Black was able to sign the huge white tribute board in front of Staples Center before police blocked off all the streets. Luckily, he'll be able to come back this morning to pay his respects to Michael Jackson again. He got one of the free lottery tickets.

Carrie Kahn, NPR News.

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