With casket front and center, daughter Paris steals show with parting words for her dad
The most anticipated, star-studded and over-hyped memorial service in the recent history of Western civilization is finally over. And who would have thought it'd be an 11-year-old girl who everyone will remember.
As Michael Jackson's public memorial inside L.A.'s Staples Center was wrapping up after two-plus hours of songs and speeches, suddenly his daughter Paris Jackson was left in front of the microphone.
"Ever since I was born, Daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine," she gently said, her voice quaking with emotion. "And I just wanted to say I love him - so much."
And suddenly it was over. A sobbing Paris fell into the arms of her family and was quickly escorted off the stage. Memorial done. Thanks for coming, a brother said. And that was it. A stunning ending.
Here is a recap of the memorial as we blogged it live during the day:
Smokey Robinson opened things up by reading a statement. After about a half-hour delay, the service has now continued with a gospel choir singing We Are Going To See The King. Mariah Carey and Trey Lorenz took the stage to sing I'll Be There. Afterward, Carey said, "We'll miss you." Queen Latifah is now speaking. "No clocks can tell our time ... with the abrupt absence of our treasure," she said. "But we do know we had him, and we are the world."
Lionel Richie, fresh off his Commodores reunion two days ago in New Orleans, was next on stage singing Jesus Is Love with a gospel choir backing him up.
Berry Gordy, founder of Motown Records, is now on stage. He "was like a son to be," Gordy said. He's doing a great job entertaining with stories from early days of the Jackson 5 and Motown. "When he did his iconic moonwalk, it was magic. He went into orbit and never came down. ... Michael Jackson accomplished everything he dreamed of." He brought the crowd to their feet with: "I think simply he was the greatest entertainer that ever lived."
A montage of video clips and music videos played next. I guarantee 11,000 people were crying inside the Staples Center.
Stevie Wonder then took the stage and sat at the piano. "This is a moment that I wish I didn't live to see come," he said. "Michael, I love you and I told you that many times, and I'm at peace with that." He's playing I Never Dreamed You'd Leave in Summer.
Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson spoke next. Magic had a funny story about watching Michael eat a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Cute, but probably only inserted into the program as a filler between songs.
Jennifer Hudson next sang Will You Be There from Michael's Dangerous album.
The Rev. Al Sharpton next addressed the memorial. "It was Michael Jackson who brought blacks and whites and Asians and Latinos together. ... Michael made us love each other." ... "Some came to say goodbye to Michael. I came to say thank you." When he left the stage, he was hugged by each of Michael's brothers.
John Mayer then performed Human Nature on guitar.
His old friend Brooke Shields was next on stage and struggled to keep her composure. "We had a bond. And maybe because we both understood what it's like to be under the spotlight from a very, very young age. Both of us needed to be adults very early. But when we were together, we were two little kids, having fun."
Brother Jermaine Jackson next sang Smile, which according to Brooke Shields was Michael's favorite song. It's amazing he held himself together until the very end.
Martin Luther King III and Bernice King spoke next. Things were starting to bog down now. Rep. Sheila Jackson of Texas was up next, and filled her speech with song titles and cliches. Help!
Never thought I'd say this, but thank god for Usher, who took the stage and sang Gone Too Soon. Points deducted, though, for what sounded like fake sobbing toward the end.
Smokey Robinson was next on stage. Maybe there was hope after all. Or not, because my live video feed stopped identifying people who were singing. Oh, it's Shaheen Jafargholi, of course, from Britain's Got Talent. Boy can sing. Kenny Ortega (director of the High School Musical franchise) is up next.
A group version of We Are the World looked like the finale, but Heal the World was up next.
The singing over, Jermaine has thanked the crowd. Marlon Jackson took the mike next, but had trouble getting the words out.
And then the big surprise: Paris Jackson. Was she coached? Did she plan on speaking? It sounded like the microphone was going to Janet Jackson next. We'll wait and see if we ever get the answers.
THE CASKET: Yes, Michael's closed casket was front and center right below the main stage at the memorial service. His brothers were the pallbearers. There was no moonwalking involved. The brothers are all wearing matching black suits, with yellow ties and, yes, they were all wearing a single sparkly glove.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO HIS BODY? That's still a big question. Media reports are saying that cremation would be the usual action for the Jehovah's Witness faith. Also, it's not known if his final resting place would be accessible by the public. TV reports say Forest Lawn does have private areas perfect for celebrities.
WE'RE IN LOS ANGELES TOO: St. Petersburg Times photographer Willie J. Allen Jr. was at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Check out his photos here.
WHAT A CIRCUS: Eleven Asian elephants and seven horses made a predawn commute to the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles. The animals -- from the Ringling Bros. Circus -- were moved early to avoid the chaos later today. THAT circus starts Wednesday.
SECURITY IS TIGHT: The Los Angeles Times says the city deployed more than 3,000 police officers to handle the madness in and around the Staples Center. Follow the latest news from LA at their LA Now blog. According to media reports, it was the biggest police action since the 1984 Olympic Games for the city.
HALL OF FAME: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland plans a candlelight vigil after the public memorial finishes up in Los Angeles. They also will unveil a special memorial wall to Jackson tonight.
WHERE'S THE LOVE? This is a shocker. On the day of his public memorial, only one Michael Jackson song is among the Top 10 songs on iTunes. (Man in the Mirror at No. 6)
[AP photo: Marlon Jackson comforts Paris at the memorial.]