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Image: Hitsville
Carlos Osorio  /  AP
Tyuawn Brown, a Michael Jackson impersonator, dances Tuesday in front of Hitsville USA in Detroit. Jackson’s recording career began at the studio, the original home of Motown, 40 years ago.
msnbc.com and NBC News
updated 7/7/2009 4:27:44 PM ET 2009-07-07T20:27:44

Thousands of people streamed into movie theaters and museums across the country Tuesday to share a communal experience remembering Michael Jackson.

With the funeral for the pop superstar, who died June 25 at age 50, closed to the public and only 17,000 seats available for the hundreds of thousands of fans who journeyed to Los Angeles for the public memorial and concert, many of Jackson’s fans turned to local gatherings.

Demand from the overflow in Los Angeles threatened to overwhelm the famous Mann Chinese Theater, near Jackson’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. At the request of Los Angeles police, the theater canceled its live feed, b ut in dozens of others theaters and museums across the country, Jackson’s fans joined with kindred spirits to celebrate the life of one of the biggest musical stars of the 20th century.

Three generations of Jackson fans gathered at the Alamo Theater in Austin, Texas.

“My mom’s here; my daughter is here,” said Jackie Westbrook, one of the first people to line up at the theater Tuesday morning. “Basically, everyone in my family would have come, but we don’t live in the same place, so we’re all making a connection by all going to see it at the same time.”

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland opened a Michael Jackson Memorial Wall, featuring never-before-seen memorabilia. It planned a candlelight vigil in the evening for Jackson, a rare two-time inductee — as a solo artist and with his brothers in the Jackson 5.

‘Sad ... to see him again this way’
For many, the memorial was a final chance to say goodbye to an icon they first encountered as star-struck fans decades ago.

In New York, thousands gathered in Harlem to watch the memorial on a giant video screen at the State Office Building, chanting “Michael! Michael!” The celebration took place just a block from the historic Apollo Theater, where Jackson got his big break on Amateur Night.

Video: Jackson’s impact on pop music

Moses Harper of Harlem, a Jackson impersonator, teared up and hugged a friend as video of the hearse carrying Jackson’s casket was shown. Minutes later, Harper began dancing to Jackson’s version of “Ease on Down the Road”' from the musical “The Wiz.”
Jackson’s fans “miss him,” Harper said. “But there’s a lot to celebrate.”

“I saw him once,” said Marleen Booth, a nursing assistant in Charleston, W.Va., who joined the crowd at Marquee Cinemas. “It’s sad I have to see him again this way.”

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Booth recalled that she, her sisters and a bunch of friends from the neighborhood were lucky enough to see the Jackson 5 at the old Charleston Civic Center way back in the 1960s.

“I remember them running on stage,” Booth said. “The place was packed with screaming fans.”

Booth skipped work to attend Tuesday’s showing, even though she said she risked losing her job.

“I could always get another job, if it came to that,” said Booth, who said she was disappointed not to have won one of the scarce tickets to the event itself in Los Angeles.

“It would have been worth it,” she said. “I guess this is the next best thing!”

Family friend throws open his restaurant
About 600 people showed up at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, while others chose to gather and watch at the historic Hitsville USA building, the original home of Motown Records.

Gloria Rios said she attended the museum showing to take in “the love, the emotions.”

“You can laugh, you can cry, listen to the music, reminisce — a lot of the memories,” she said.

Jean Murriel of Detroit said it was important for her to be other devoted fans at the museum instead of watching the memorial at home.

“I love Michael so much,” she said. “I grew up listening to his music.”

Restaurants and museums were getting in on the jewel-gloved act, too.

Harry O’s, a famous barbecue restaurant in Las Vegas, usually doesn’t open before lunch, but owner “Harry O” Harris threw open his doors Tuesday morning to watch the memorial.

Jackson was “the king,” said Harris, a longtime friend of Jackson’s family.

For one mother, thanks for a son’s life
To some fans, it was important to show their emotional support for Jackson.

At one of the singer’s former homes, on Palomino Lane in Las Vegas, fans gathered to leave flowers and notes, even though Jackson’s family no longer has any connection to the property and will likely never see the tributes.

“This whole thing should have been decked out in flowers,” said Mary Schick, a lifelong fan.

Alicia Vargas of Las Vegas showed up because she lost more than a music idol when Jackson died. Four years ago, her son Roberto was diagnosed with a fatal brain tumor. But it wasn’t doctors who saved his life; she says it was Jackson.

While Roberto lay in a coma in a Las Vegas hospital, Vargas decided to put headsets playing nothing but Jackson’s music on his head. Three days later, Roberto woke up. Today, she says, her son is cancer-free.

“Thank you, Michael Jackson. Thank you for the music, because every day my son heard the music,” Vargas said. “The brain [started] working, working and my son came back.”

The memorial was aired on the major broadcast TV networks and cable news channels, and many news Web sites streamed the event live.

Alan Wurtzel, head of research and media development at NBC Universal, said the memorial represented a milestone in the development of live multiplatform coverage. (Msnbc.com, which was streaming the memorial live, is a partnership of Microsoft Corp. and NBC News, a division of NBC Universal.)

Wurtzel said it was too early to know how many people took in the event, but The Associated Press quoted media executives who said it could exceed the number who watched the inauguration of President Barack Obama in January.

By Alex Johnson of msnbc.com. Peter Alexander of NBC News in New York and the following NBC stations contributed to this report: KVBC of Las Vegas; KXAN of Austin, Texas; WDIV of Detroit; WKYC of Cleveland; WNBC of Los Angeles; and WSAZ of Huntington, W.Va.

Photos: U.S., world reaction

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  1. Annetta Williams, center, dances with other fans of Michael Jackson during his memorial outside the Adam Clayton Powell State Office Building in Harlem, New York City on Tuesday, July 7. (Yanina Manolova / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Ethan Chance Johnson and mother Lisa Schaaffe watch as singer Michael Jackson's public memorial service is played on giant video screens in Times Square in New York City on Tuesday, July 7. People worldwide watched the event on television and online. (Mario Tama / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. In Cologne, Germany, fans of the "King of Pop" weep as they watch the public memorial service shown live from Los Angeles on Tuesday, July 7. (Clemens Bilan / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Michael Jackson fans dance in Times Square as they watch the pop star's memorial service on the One Times Square Jumbotron in New York City on Tuesday, July 7. (Timothy A. Clary / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Children hold Michael Jackson's photograph as they watch his memorial service on a big outdoor screen in Bucharest, Romania, on Tuesday, July 7. (Vadim Ghirda / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. K.W. Hussen of Ft. Wayne, Ind., uses a camera in his computer to send live video outside the boyhood home of Michael Jackson in Gary, Ind., to his sister in Jakarta, on Tuesday, July 7. (M. Spencer Green / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Michael Jackson fans react as they watch his memorial broadcast live from Los Angeles on a TV screen outside the O2 arena in southeast London on Tuesday, July 7. Jackson was scheduled to play 50 shows in the arena starting in July 2009. (Lefteris Pitarakis / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Michael Jackson fans gather to pay tribute to the late American pop legend at a shopping mall in Hong Kong on Tuesday, July 7009. (Kin Cheung / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Jetset Hudson from Tampa, Fla., performs some Michael Jackson tributes outside the Staples Center during the memorial service on Tuesday, July 7, in Los Angeles. (Paul J. Richards / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Fans of the late U.S. pop singer Michael Jackson hold pictures of him during a daytime vigil in Mexico City on the day of Jackson's memorial service at Los Angeles' Staples Center on Tuesday, July 7. (Alexandre Meneghini / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Fans photograph a large screen showing images of Michael Jackson near the Staples Center before the scheduled public memorial service in downtown Los Angeles on July 7. (Jacqueline Larma / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. A Michael Jackson look-alike dances during a tribute to the late pop icon in Mexico City's main square Zocalo on Tuesday, July 7. (Eliana Aponte / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Michael Jackson fans cry as they embrace during a public gathering to watch Jackson's memorial service on a giant television screen along 125th street in the Harlem section of New York on July 7. (Mike Segar / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Images and messages to singer Michael Jackson are displayed on the wall outside the Lyric Theatre in London on Tuesday, July 7. (Leon Neal / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Residents walk past graffiti depicting late U.S. pop star Michael Jackson in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on July 7. (Ramon Espinosa / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. A fan watches a live broadcast of Michael Jackson's funeral at the O2 Arena in Berlin, Germany, on July 7. An estimated 750 million people worldwide are watching the live broadcast of the funeral in California. (Sean Gallup / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image:
    Yanina Manolova / AP
    Above: Slideshow (16) World says goodbye - U.S., world reaction
  2. Image: Memorial Service For Michael Jackson Draws Thousands Of Fans And Mourners
    Pool / Getty Images
    Slideshow (34) World says goodbye - Jackson funeral
  3. Michael Jackson in a Butterfly Collar Shirt
    Henry Diltz / Corbis
    Slideshow (36) World says goodbye - Jackson's life


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