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My top 11 moments from today's Michael Jackson memorial

Paris-450_75304a Her voice had never been heard by the public before, somehow shielded from the searing spotlight which had turned her father into the biggest pop star on the globe.

But when 11-year-old Paris Michael Katherine Jackson finally spoke to the world, she brought a simple message about Michael Jackson which cut through all the controversy, gossiping and recriminations threatening to overshadow the memorial service Tuesday for the King of Pop.

“Ever since I was born…daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine,” Paris Jackson said, sobs catching in the back of her throat after the star-studded, four-hour tribute, flanked by her aunts and uncles. “And I just want to say I love him so much.”

Forget the sniping about who was or wasn’t there. Forget the speculation about who will get his millions, what his drug habits were and why some mourners seemed so eager to find a spotlight after his passing. Paris reminded us, at the heart of all this bombast was a father leaving three children far too soon.

B4s_etc_jackson07070_75202c Like he did so often when alive, Michael Jackson took centerstage in one final showbiz extravaganza that was ultimately so moving and momentous you had to give it up, one last time.

Along with Paris’ tender tribute, here’s my list of the other moments that made Tuesday’s memorial a singular, fitting recognition to the pop star:

10. Jackson’s backing singers leading the final song, a soaring version of We Are the World. Nice that, in an event featuring so many boldfaced names, a few unknown talents could shine so brightly.

9. Brooke Shields reminding the audience that it is possible to grow up as a child star and become a reasonably well-adjusted person. Her speech, constantly on the edge of tears, seemed more heartfelt than any but Paris’ words, as she recalled her teen friendship with Jackson and her first reaction to his trademark sequined mitten: “What’s up with the glove?”

8. Al Sharpton delivering a sermon filled with enough thunder and righteousness to remind us all there’s a “reverend” in front of his name for a reason. His best line, to Jackson’s kids —- “Ain’t nothing strange about your daddy; what he had to deal with was strange.” — was true and not in the same moment.

7.Britain’s Got Talent star Shaheen Jafargholi may have been a little pitchy, dawg, but the 12-year-old earned major props for tackling Who’s Lovin’ You in front of  Stevie Wonder and Lionel Ritchie.

6. Magic Johnson marveling that a star big as Jackson ordered in Kentucky Fried Chicken when the two hung out at his home.

5. A very pregnant Jennifer Hudson, rebounding fro the tragedy of seeing her mother, brother and nephew killed just months ago, anchoring a soaring, churchified version of Will You Be There.

4. Motown Records owner Berry Gordy topping an emotional speech by calling Jackson “the greatest entertainer that ever lived.” Almost made you forget he nearly turned down the Jackson 5 when they auditioned for his label.

3. Jermaine Jackson, once the family’s second-biggest star, struggling to get through a version of Charlie Chaplin’s song Smile, his voice challenged by grief and the Staples Center’s cavernous acoustics.

2. Smokey Robinson laughing as he recalled how a 10-year-old Jackson sang a version of Who’s Lovin’ You so well, Robinson had to remind some fans he sang — and wrote it — first.

1. Mariah Carey picking I’ll Be There as the memorial’s opening song and being smart enough to bring backing singer Trey Lorenz onstage, even as grief or lack of practice brought her usually soaring vocals to earth a bit.

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:59pm]


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