Fans in Asia stayed up into the wee hours, bars across Europe were holding Michael Jackson theme nights and television stations from Sydney to Paris cleared their schedules Tuesday to broadcast the “King of Pop’s” star-studded memorial service live from Los Angeles.
Fans said they would mourn, and celebrate the singer’s life, with the thousands attending the U.S. event, where entertainers including Stevie Wonder, Mariah Carey, Usher, Lionel Richie were due to pay tribute to the star, who died June 25. Also performing is 12-year-old Welsh schoolboy Shaheen Jafargholi, who wowed audiences with the Jackson 5 song, “Who’s Loving You” on “Britain’s Got Talent”
In London, some fans planned to watch the event on a big screen outside the 02 Arena, where Jackson was to have performed 50 comeback shows starting next week. Others said they would watch at home after the BBC announced it would cancel scheduled programming and show the ceremony live.
“His whole life was a global broadcast in a way, so I suppose it’s fitting that his death also is,” said barista Robert Anderson, 26, in London.
Fans were gathering at Berlin’s O2 World arena and at a restaurant just off Paris’ Champs-Elysees, where screens were being erected and Parisians were invited to bring their own music to ensure a steady Jackson-only soundtrack for the event.
In Sweden, fans planned candlelit gatherings in central squares in the three biggest cities: Stockholm, Goteborg and Malmo.
Others were paying homage in less traditional ways.
A sports bar in Oslo, Norway was hoping to put together a special Jackson-themed menu to accompany its celebration, while Belgian radio station StudioBrussel was encouraging fans to send clips of themselves doing the moonwalk to a Web site.
“It is a real tribute from our radio saying we like the ‘King of Pop’,” said station manager Jan Van Biesen of the hundreds of tributes. “This is our eternal moonwalk for him.”
Several Australian, TV stations planned to carry the event live, and the memorial was being broadcast on a giant screen in the southern city of Melbourne at 3 a.m. local time.
Several hundred Jackson fans gathered at a Hong Kong mall late Tuesday to remember their idol hours before a live broadcast of the Los Angeles memorial. Holding white candles, Hong Kong singer William Chan and Taiwanese pop star Judy Chou led the audience in observing a 30-second silence. Many of the fans clutched red roses and wore black; some donned Jackson’s trademark fedora hats. They screamed when a big screen showed videos of the late singer’s performances.
Chan said his mother and older brother are also avid Jackson fans, recalling seeing his brother sliding on the floor wearing thick socks. “He was learning how to moonwalk,” Chan said, adding that any imitations paled in comparison to the pop icon himself. “Even if someone learns the moonwalk, it won’t be like him. MJ is MJ.”
Chan performed one of his own songs, “Taxi” — but incorporated Jacksonesque dance moves such as grabbing his crotch, kicking his right leg loose and standing on the tips of his shoes.
In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 34-year-old actor and magician Henzi Andalas said he wanted to watch the memorial as closure. “It gives a sense of OK, now he’s no longer here,” he said. “He’s one of my biggest influences in becoming an artist.”
In Japan, home to some of Jackson’s most passionate fans, about 100 people gathered at a Tower Records store in downtown Tokyo to watch his videos on a big screen hours before the Los Angeles memorial. The store, which Jackson visited twice, displayed his hand print in a cement block and large posters celebrating his performances. Several shelves dedicated to the pop star were stacked with his CDs and DVDs.
“I love him,” said Namiko Hayakawa, a 31-year-old housewife, one of the first to grab a seat. “He is one of the greatest and most original solo performers. He also has a message about peace. He is such a big star, but he has a message for every little person.”
Jackson’s “King of Pop — Japan Edition,” a new compilation of his hits picked by a vote of Japanese fans, became a hot seller after his death. It was the fourth most popular album in the country last week, with 40,000 copies sold, according to entertainment company Oricon Co.
In the Philippines, the country’s longest running noontime television variety show, “Eat Bulaga,” said it would hold a Jackson dance contest Wednesday in honor of the pop icon after the Los Angeles memorial.
Even in reclusive, military-controlled Myanmar, a dance group held a memorial service for Jackson and nearly 200 fans staged a candlelight vigil in a Yangon park last week, the local Weekly Eleven News journal reported.
“Michael Jackson is my teacher. I learned dancing by watching Michael Jackson’s movements. I am profoundly saddened by his death,” said dancer Min Min Htun, who arranged the service during his regular show at the Happy World Entertainment park.
For some, the relentless media coverage of Jackson since his death was too much.
“In Ireland we like a good funeral, so we’ll be tuning in. There’s no good sports match on tonight anyway,” said barman Peadar O Docherty, 24, in the Stag’s Head pub in central Dublin.
But, he added, “a lot of the adulation is completely over the top.”