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Fans worldwide honor Jackson, await tribute

Mourning Michael Jackson fans lauded his talent, moonwalked in his honor, sang his lyrics and awaited word Monday on the possibility of a global memorial to the “King of Pop.”
/ Source: The Associated Press

Mourning Michael Jackson fans lauded his talent, moonwalked in his honor, sang his lyrics and awaited word Monday on the possibility of a global memorial to the “King of Pop.”

In Paris, fans and Jackson lookalikes held what they claimed was the world’s biggest moonwalk, organized via Facebook. Gliding backward beneath the Eiffel Tower, they sang, cheered and chanted Sunday in homage to the singer, who died Thursday in Los Angeles.

“Michael forever in our hearts,” read one banner.

American singer Usher, at designer Lanvin’s Paris menswear show, called Jackson an inspiration.

“If I did not know Michael Jackson, I would not be who I am today,” he said. “He has been an inspiration to all of us as a humanitarian, as a philanthropist, as a father, as a man, as an entertainer.”

VigilsAcross China, thousands of fans held vigils for Jackson in several cities. In Malaysia, hundreds gathered at a Kuala Lumpur shopping mall Sunday to sing along to Jackson songs and sign a banner with condolences while Jackson impersonators performed. Another 200 fans held a candlelight vigil in a Tokyo park.

A few hundred fans gathered Monday evening in Rome's historic Piazza Navona, lighting candles and leaving roses, messages and photos of Michael Jackson near Gian Lorenzo Bernini's 17th century fountain.

Many wore Jackson-like hats, sequined jackets and a glove on their right hand as they listened to his songs or imitated his dance moves.

"I felt really bad about his death because he is part of my life, of all the stages of my adolescence: first loves and first disappointments," said Cristiano Ricciardi, an 18-year-old dancer from Rome who moved to the music of Jackson's "Beat It."

Beijing Television planned a special Jackson broadcast for Thursday. One member of the Michael Jackson fan club in China’s central Sichuan province urged fans to organize an event on Aug. 29, Jackson’s birthday, while another posted details of a tentative Jackson vigil on Friday in Inner Mongolia.

In Japan, a scholar reflected on the Jackson’s historic significance.

“Which was the bigger step for mankind — Apollo 11 or Michael’s moonwalk?” asked Yoshiaki Sato, who studies American culture, in an opinion piece in Monday’s Yomiuri newspaper.

The U.S. won the Cold War not through military might but through the charm of artists like Jackson, he said, whose songs introduced people in the former Soviet states, the Middle East and China to the greatness of American culture.

“His death, like Presley’s, may not have been fitting of a hero. But his life will shine on in world history,” he said.

‘A living legend’In Turkey, the Association for Dialogue between Religions, Languages and Civilizations held Islamic prayers and handed out traditional sweets Sunday for Jackson in Mercimekli, a southeastern village.

“Michael Jackson was a living legend not only in America and the Christian world but the Islamic world too,” Mehmet Ali Aslan, the head of the association, was quoted as saying.

In Pakistan, a 42-year-old human resources manager remembered how he would do anything as a teenager to buy Jackson’s music.

“His unique way of dancing used to mesmerize me,” said Emadullah Khan. “I did not have enough pocket money to buy a video cassette of his album so I stole money from my mother’s handbag to buy one. That is the only theft I have committed in my life and I have never regretted it.”

In a corner of Johannesburg where streets have been renamed and statues erected to honor musical stars, young people agreed that Jackson was an icon but said his legacy in South Africa would be mixed.

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Mogameli Ncube, 23, sat by a statue of Brenda Fassie, a pop singer known as the “Madonna of the Townships.” He said Jackson, like Fassie, managed to appeal to a racially mixed audience.

“His music brought black and white people together,” he said. “He made a lot of impact in South Africa.”

He also remembered practicing Jackson’s dance steps at home.

“Everyone wanted to be M.J.,” Ncube said.

‘Problems with his image’Filmmaker Musa Boto, 23, said Jackson’s musical legacy wasn’t in question but he was troubled by the singer’s changing appearance.

“I think that a lot of people have problems with his image,” he said.

To compare Jackson with South African musicians would be disrespectful, Boto added, gesturing to Miriam Makeba Street, named for the anti-apartheid singer and activist.

“Miriam Makeba, she was involved in our politics and our struggle,” he said. “(Jackson) was irrelevant in that way.”

In the Philippines, inmates who shot to global fame with a YouTube video recreating the “Thriller” dance routine said they would like to take part in a global tribute. Their “Thriller” video has attracted 26.5 million views since it was posted two years ago.

“If it’s the Jackson family organizing, we will join,” said Byron Garcia, head of the central Philippine prison.

In London, where 750,000 tickets had been sold for Jackson’s comeback concerts starting in July, distraught fans scrawled commemorative graffiti about him on the wall of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. Still, there were mixed reactions to a global tribute.

Sarah Birhane, 21, a student at Manchester University, said Jackson will be remembered for “not paying off his debt and changing his color.” But she thought there should be a memorial “just for the sake of his fans.”

Steve Hazelwood, 47, saw Jackson perform in the southern English city of Brighton in 1977. He loved Jackson’s music but was lukewarm about a tribute.

“His death has just covered up the bad news. He’s sort of taken the pressure off of the politicians for a few days,” Hazelwood said, referring to the worldwide economic downturn.

“People die every day, you don’t need a global celebration of his life,” added fan Miranda Duncan, 24, from Australia.

Those attitudes would not impress Chieko Fukuda, a 57-year-old housewife who laid pink lillies at the gates of the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.

“His death has left me with a big hole in my heart,” said Fukuda, who had bought a London concert ticket. “There is no replacement for Michael. No one even comes close.”