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Image: Jackson memorial
NBC
Jackson's daughter, 11-year-old Paris, tearfully expressed her love for her father as uncle Randy and aunt Janet supported her.
updated 7/7/2009 8:23:03 PM ET 2009-07-08T00:23:03

It was not spectacular, extravagant or bizarre. There were songs and tears but little dancing. Instead, Michael Jackson’s memorial was a somber, spiritual ceremony that reached back for the essence of the man.

Singer, dancer, superstar, humanitarian: That was how the some 20,000 people gathered inside the Staples Center arena on Tuesday, and untold millions watching around the world, remembered Jackson, whose immense talents almost drowned beneath the spectacle of his life and fame.

If there was a shocking moment, it came in the form of Jackson’s daughter, Paris-Michael, who made the first public statement of her 11 years.

“Ever since I was born, Daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine,” she said, dissolving into tears and turning into the embrace of her aunt Janet. “And I just wanted to say I love him — so much.”

Outside the arena, the celebrity-industrial complex that Jackson helped create ground on. More than 3,000 police officers massed downtown to keep the ticketless at bay. Helicopters followed the golden casket as it was driven over blocked-off freeways from Forest Lawn cemetery to Staples Center. A bazaar of T-shirts, buttons, photos and other memorabilia sprouted in the blocks around the memorial. Movie theaters played the service live and people paused around the world to watch.

Inside, however, the atmosphere was churchlike, assisted by the enormous video image of a stained glass window, with red-gold clouds blowing past, that was projected behind the stage.

Stars come out for Jackson
The ceremony began with Smokey Robinson reading statements from Jackson’s close friend Diana Ross — “Michael was part of the fabric of my life” — and then Nelson Mandela — “Be strong.”

Slideshow: World says goodbye

A lengthy silence of several minutes followed, punctuated only by a steady twinkle of camera flashes. The thousands of mourners spoke softly to those in neighboring seats or contemplated their private thoughts.

Celebrities made their way to their seats in front of the stage: Kobe Bryant, Spike Lee, Wesley Snipes, Lou Ferrigno, Don King, the Kardashian sisters, Magic Johnson, Brooke Shields, Larry King. While Jackson was among the most famous faces in the world, today’s megastars were largely absent. Those present mostly reflected some connection to Jackson’s life or work.

Among those conspicuously not in attendance were Elizabeth Taylor, Ross and Debbie Rowe, Jackson’s ex-wife and the mother of Jackson’s two oldest children.

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Many vehicles left Staples in a long motorcade that ended up in a Beverly Hills hotel. Record producer Jimmy Jam told AP Television that he was headed for a gathering for friends and family, but he won’t give details.

The fans, clutching tickets that 1.6 million people had sought, were a visual representation of Jackson’s life: white, black and everything in between; from Mexico, Japan, Italy or America; wearing fedoras, African headdresses, sequins or surgical masks. Actor Corey Feldman showed up fully costumed as Michael Jackson.

“Words can’t express how I feel,” said Dani Harris, a 35-year-old stay-at-home mom from Los Angeles.

“You think about one person, larger than presidents and kings and queens,” Harris said. “People in countries you can’t even see on the map know his face, his music.”

The pre-ceremony stillness was broken by the organ strains of “Soon and Very Soon,” a gospel hymn by Andrae Crouch. “Hallelujah, hallelujah, we’re going to see the King,” a choir sang. The crowd cheered and rose to its feet.

The Rev. Lucious W. Smith of the Friendship Baptist Church in Pasadena gave the greeting, standing on the same stage where Jackson had been rehearsing for a comeback concert before his death on June 25 at age 50. Then Mariah Carey sang the opening performance with a sweet rendition of the Jackson 5 ballad “I’ll Be There,” a duet with Trey Lorenz.

Queen Latifah read a special poem composed by Maya Angelou. Lionel Richie sang gospel, “Jesus Is Love.” Berry Gordy remembered the prodigy of young Michael, drawing a standing ovation when he said the title King of Pop would no longer suffice: “He is simply the greatest entertainer who ever lived.”

Emotions peaked when the Rev. Al Sharpton delivered a fiery eulogy highlighting all the barriers Jackson broke and the troubles he faced. “Every time he got knocked down, he got back up,” Sharpton said, and the applauding crowd again jumped to its feet.

Sharpton rode the moment, building to a crescendo. “There wasn’t nothing strange about your daddy,” he said later, addressing Jackson’s three children in the front row. “It was strange what your daddy had to deal with!”

Jubilation erupted, with the longest standing ovation of the day. It seemed as if Sharpton broke through some sort of wall, freeing shouts from the crowd of “We love you Michael!” After he left the stage, chants of “Mi-chael! Mi-chael!” filled the arena.

The parade of famous names continued: Jennifer Hudson, Stevie Wonder, Usher, Martin Luther King III and his sister Bernice, U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and Kobe Bryant.

For a performer who smashed the race barrier on MTV and did as much as anyone to make black music mainstream — not to mention was accused of trying to turn himself white through skin treatments and plastic surgery — the ceremony had a remarkably black cast. John Mayer and Brooke Shields were the only white celebs with major roles.

700,000 gawkers? More like 1,000
Another unexpected aspect was the logistics. The mayhem and traffic snarls that had been feared by city officials never materialized. The thousands of ticketholders began filing in early and encountered few problems, and traffic was actually considered by police to be lighter than normal. An estimate of up to 700,000 gawkers turned out to be about 1,000.

The city of Los Angeles set up a Web site to allow fans to contribute money to help the city pay for the memorial, which was estimated to cost $1.5 million to $4 million. AEG, the event promoter behind the memorial, has not addressed whether it will give money for the effort, but did contribute $1 million to the city after it staged a victory parade for the Los Angeles Lakers last month.

It was not clear what will happen to Jackson’s body. The Forest Lawn Memorial Park Hollywood Hills cemetery, where a private service was held, is the final resting place for such stars as Bette Davis, Andy Gibb, Freddie Prinze, Liberace and recently deceased David Carradine and Ed McMahon.

But Jackson’s brother Jermaine has expressed a desire to have him buried someday at Neverland, his estate in Southern California.

The ceremony ended with Jackson’s family on stage, amid a choir, singing “Heal the World.”

“All around us are people of different cultures, different religions, different nationalities,” Rev. Smith said as he closed the service. “And yet the music of Michael Jackson brings us together.”

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Jackson's funeral

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  1. Michael Jackson's 11-year-old daughter, Paris Michael Katherine, cries as she attempts to speak and is consoled by Jackson's siblings at Staples Center on Tuesday, July 7, in Los Angeles. “I just want to say ever since I was born, Daddy has been the best father you can ever imagine. And I just wanted to say I love him so much," she said. (Pool / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Family, friends and celebrities sing "We Are the World" at the end of the pop star's public memorial at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Tuesday, July 7. (NBC News) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Michael Jackson's children, Paris Michael Katherine, Prince Michael II (aka Blanket) and Michael Joseph Jr. (aka Prince Michael) appear onstage at the pop star's public memorial service at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Tuesday, July 7. (Pool / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Jermaine Jackson throws a rose on brother Michael Jackson's casket after performing "Smile," which was the pop star's favorite song, during the public memorial service at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Tuesday, July 7. (Mark J. Terrill / Pool via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Usher sings Jackson's "Gone Too Soon" at the late star's public memorial service. The song is off the "Dangerous" album and was originally dedicated to Ryan White, who died of AIDS in 1990 at age 18. (Mario Anzuoni / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Brooke Shields, who was a childhood friend of the pop star, speaks about her long friendship with Michael Jackson. The actress, who fought back tears during her speech, tells the crowd about what some considered their "odd" relationship and the fun they had together as children. (Paul Buck / Pool via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Jennifer Hudson, who is expecting her first child, sings "Will You Be There?" at the public memorial service for the late singer. (Mario Anzuoni / Pool via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. The Rev. Al Sharpton, a longtime friend of the Jackson family, speaks about how the "King of Pop" broke down barriers and "opened up the whole world." (Mark J. Terrill / Pool via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. From left to right, Rebbie Jackson, Janet Jackson, Randy Jackson, Tito Jackson, Marlon Jackson, Jackie Jackson and Jermaine Jackson attend brother Michael Jackson's public memorial service at Staples Center on Tuesday in Los Angeles. (Courtesy of Harrison Funk and Kevin Mazur / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Former NBA star Magic Johnson pauses as he eulogizes Michael Jackson during the singer's public memorial service. Johnson spoke of his relationship with the Jackson family and also shared a humorous tale of the singer's taste for Kentucky Fried Chicken. (Mario Anzuoni / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. John Mayer performs "Human Nature," one of the many hits off the 1982 hit album "Thriller," at Jackson's public memorial service held at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Tuesday, July 7. (Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Katherine Jackson, right, sits with Michael Jackson's children during the pop star's public memorial service held at Staples Center on Tuesday, July 7, in Los Angeles. (Mario Anzuoni / Pool via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Stevie Wonder performs at Michael Jackson's public memorial service. The singer started with his 1971 song "Never Dreamed You'd Leave in Summer," then switched to "They Won't Go When I Go." (Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Janet Jackson, center, attends brother Michael's public memorial service at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Tuesday, July 7. (Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Mariah Carey, left, and Trey Lorenz perform at Michael Jackson's public memorial service. The pair sang the Jackson 5 hit "I'll Be There." (Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Fans attending the public memorial for Michael Jackson cry at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Tuesday, July 7. (Gabriel Bouys / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Lionel Richie performs the Commodores' song "Jesus Is Love" during the public memorial service for Michael Jackson. (Mark J. Terrill / Pool via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Michael Jackson's parents, Joe Jackson, back center, and Katherine, front left, arrive with his son Michael Joseph Jr., right, at the star's public memorial service held at Staples Center on Tuesday, July 7. (Mario Anzuoni / Pool via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Queen Latifah speaks at the memorial service for music legend Michael Jackson. The actress also read a poem from Maya Angelou entitled "We Had Him." (Gabriel Bouys / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. A fan holds up a license plate before Michael Jackson's public memorial service on Tuesday. (Mark J. Terrill / Pool via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Michael Jackson's public memorial service at the Los Angeles' Staples Center on Tuesday, July 7, begins with singer Smokey Robinson reading comments from Nelson Mandela, Diana Ross and other friends. (Courtesy of Harrison Funk and Kevin Mazur / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Corey Feldman arrives at Michael Jackson's public memorial service at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Tuesday, July 7. The actor became friends with the pop singer in the 1980s. (Mark J. Terrill / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. The Jackson brothers accompany Michael Jackson's casket into his public memorial service at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Tuesday, July 7. (Mark J. Terrill / Pool via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Fans enter the Staples Center in Los Angeles for the public memorial service for Michael Jackson on Tuesday, July 7. More than 1.6 million people registered for the lottery for free tickets to the event, and 8,750 were chosen to receive two tickets each. (Patrick T. Fallon / Zuma Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Members of the media work in front of the Staples Center in Los Angeles during the public memorial service for the late pop star Michael Jackson on Tuesday, July 7. (Chris Carlson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Fans gather outside Staples Center before a public memorial service for Michael Jackson on Tuesday, July 7, in Los Angeles. (Jae C. Hong / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. The hearse carrying the coffin of Michael Jackson arrives at the star's public memorial service held at Staples Center on Tuesday in Los Angeles. (John Moore / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Leslie Young, 43, left, and Mari Quates, 50, wave and yell from the 5th Street overpass as the Michael Jackson funeral procession drives down an empty 110 freeway in Los Angeles on Tuesday, July 7. The women came from their local offices to get a glimpse of the family as the cars head toward Staples Center for the public memorial service. (Stephanie Mullen / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. The casket is carried out after a private funeral ceremony for pop star Michael Jackson at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Los Angeles on Tuesday, July 7. Jackson's body -- reportedly resting in a $25,000 gold-plated casket -- was later transported to a lavish public memorial at the 20,000-capacity Staples Center. (Vincent Laforet / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. A motorcade arrives at Forest Lawn Memorial Park for Michael Jackson's funeral services in Los Angeles on Tuesday, July 7. (Phil McCarten / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. A motorcade arrives at Forest Lawn Memorial Park on Tuesday, July 7, in Los Angeles. Jackson, 50, the iconic pop star, died at UCLA Medical Center after going into cardiac arrest at his rented home on June 25 in Los Angeles. (Frazer Harrison / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Members of the media wait at Forest Lawn Memorial Park before services for Michael Jackson in Los Angeles on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Jackson fans began crowding into downtown Los Angeles for a star-packed public memorial to the "King of Pop," whose sudden death nearly two weeks ago shocked the world. (Phil McCarten / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. A Los Angeles police officer directs the funeral procession outside the Jackson family home in Encino, Calif., on Tuesday, July 7, enroute to Forest Lawn Memorial Park. (Paul J. Richards / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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