Fans continued to register by the thousands early Saturday, hoping to be among the 8,750 people who will be randomly picked to attend the memorial service for singer Michael Jackson next week.
By 5:30 p.m. PT (9:30 p.m. ET) Friday, seven hours since the lottery’s announcement, more than half a million people had registered to snag a pair of tickets to the ceremony at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, according to Jackson family spokesman Ken Sunshine. The overwhelming response prompted organizers to open up the lottery to non-U.S. residents as well, he said. “When you grow up with Michael Jackson’s music pretty much your whole life, you feel like you lost a family member and you have to go to the funeral,” said Add Seymour of Atlanta, Georgia, who registered soon after the announcement Friday morning and planned to fly out if he was picked. “I got some frequent flyer miles just in case I wanted to do something wild and crazy — and this is wild and crazy.” Yet, despite the interest surrounding the service, few details emerged by early Saturday. Organizers would only say there would not be a funeral processional to the arena, indicating Jackson’s body would not be brought to the public memorial. Ken Ehrlich, known for producing the Grammy Awards, is producing the memorial show, his company said. Kenny Ortega, who was to have co-directed Jackson’s series of concerts in London, England, this summer, will direct it. Meanwhile, speculation that anesthetic drugs might have played a role in the singer’s death June 25 continued to swell Friday after a Los Angeles law enforcement source told The Associated Press that investigators found Diprivan, a powerful sedative, in Jackson’s home. Earlier in the week, a nutritionist, Cherilyn Lee, said Jackson pleaded for the drug despite being told of its harmful effects. Sources close to Jackson told CNN on Thursday that the pop icon traveled with what amounted to a mini-clinic, complete with an IV pole and an anesthesiologist who medicated the insomniac singer, during his HIStory world tour in the mid-90s. Watch CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta talk with physician who accompanied Jackson on tour » Authorities do not know what killed Jackson and await toxicology results, which are due back in two to three weeks. “We are treating all unnamed sources as rumors. And, as we have stated before, we will not be responding to rumors or innuendo,” said lawyers for Jackson’s cardiologist, Dr. Conrad Murray, on Friday. “We are awaiting the facts to come out and we will respond at that time.”
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Los Angeles police have interviewed Murray, who apparently tried to revive the singer after he was found unconscious at his rented Holmby Hills estate. The department said it is now working with the Drug Enforcement Administration and the state Attorney General’s Office as it looks into Jackson’s death. “You know for anything that has to do with drugs, the DEA are the experts on that,” said Jim McDonnell, assistant police chief. “And if you’re looking at the prescription issues, where else would you go” Since the family has not said where and when a private memorial and burial for Jackson would be held, journalists have staked out possible locations. Watch reporters prepare for Tuesday’s service » A long line of TV satellite trucks and their crews have been parked outside the Hollywood Hills Forest Lawn Cemetery for several days in case it was chosen by the family. Cemetery officials would not comment. Fans also milled about Neverland Ranch throughout the day Friday, blasting Jackson’s songs from boom boxes and car speakers while some set up booths to sell commemorative T-shirts. Watch inside look at Neverland Ranch » Lottery odds long The odds of winning the lottery for 17,500 free tickets, to be given out in pairs, are long, judging from traffic to the Staples Center Web site Friday.
MICHAEL JACKSON The Memorial
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In the first 90 minutes of the lottery registration alone, Web servers counted a half-billion “hits,” or 12,000 a second, Sunshine said. One visitor can generate many “hits” by repeated attempts, and scalpers use various methods to generate multiple “hits” in order to get as many tickets to an event as possible. Organizers have said multiple registrations would not improve anyone’s chances. A computer will randomly select 8,750 names from those who register online at StaplesCenter.com by 6 p.m. PT Saturday. Winners will get an e-mail Sunday telling them to contact Ticketmaster for information on how to claim their tickets, said Tim Leiweke, president of AEG Live, the concert promotions company that would have put on Jackson’s shows this summer and that is now organizing the memorial. Tickets will be handed out Monday at locations away from the Staples Center, he said. Ticketholders will also have wristbands to match their tickets — a precaution against people “trying to take advantage” of the system, he said. While 11,000 seats are available for fans inside the Staples Center, another 6,500 can watch from the Nokia Theater site across the street, according to Leiweke. Police have said they will close off the area near the Staples Center to all those without a ticket and asked fans to watch the event on television. The family will provide a free live video feed to networks so it would be televised everywhere.
“I want to stress to those people who are coming, or are thinking about coming, to the city for this special event, that you might want to consider watching this from the comfort of your home,” said Councilwoman Jan Perry, who is Los Angeles’ acting mayor while Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is out of the country. The city government will provide security for the event, despite a budget crisis, Perry said.