Ticket-holders waiting for Michael Jackson’s memorial service in Los Angeles, California were making their way inside the Staples Center, where personnel handed them glossy programs.
The rear of the line was moving so quickly for the service — scheduled to start at 10 a.m. PT (1 p.m. ET) — that some people were practically running as police let them through barricades that had been arranged around the downtown locale. The front of the line was steadier, with a few dozen fans being let in at a time. Some fans found themselves at Staples Center because of the unexpected generosity of others. Michelle Mann and Basra Arte, both 18, flew in from Vancouver, British Columbia, to honor Jackson. “It’s overwhelming,” Mann said. “We can’t believe that we’re here.” The two had appeared on Canadian television and said they planned to fly to Los Angeles for the memorial service — even though they had no tickets. Six hours before their flight, 15-year-old Karlo Karanan, who’d seen them on TV, tracked them down and gave them his. “I’m looking forward to being in the presence of other fans,” Arte said. “The energy is going to be amazing.” iReport: Watch another person give away a ticket Jackson’s body will be brought to Staples for the service, according to a CNN source. Thousands of fans appeared to be on hand, but the atmosphere was peaceful, almost festive. People waited patiently, talking to each other, taking pictures and singing Jackson songs. Some fans were excited, others somber, as they entered the arena.
Michael Jackson: The Memorial
On Tuesday, join CNN, HLN and CNN.com Live for all-day coverage as the world celebrates the life of a worldwide pop icon, and don’t miss our prime-time coverage starting at 8 p.m. ET.
see full schedule »
Police and security officers kept a close watch. Some fans wore their very best. Chu Nguyen and Eriko Nakayama both came dressed in black in honor of the occasion. “It’s for him, just to be respectful,” said Nguyen of his black suit and tie. “We feel like it’s a real privilege for us to be here,” Nakayama said. She was excited to learn Jackson’s body would be brought to the Staples Center. “I just want to see his face,” she said. Others dressed in clothing reminiscent of Jackson. One fan accentuated his dark suit with a red fedora and black and white dress shoes. Some attendees carried framed photos of the singer with them as they entered the building. Others were seen arriving in motorized wheel chairs. Vendors did a brisk business within a two-block area of the center. Among the items for sale: T-shirts, buttons, tank tops, auto decals, flowers, books, snacks, bottled water and flavored beverages.
Michael Jackson blog
Complete Michael Jackson coverage
Full coverage: CNN TV, CNN.com Live, noon ET
Don Watts and Danny Torres were selling black memorial ribbons for fans to wear. Torres said the pair made about 1,000 of them to sell for $1 each. “It’s part of the Mexican tradition to have these memorial pins,” said Torres, who described himself as a “diehard fan.” “This is how we’re choosing to honor Michael Jackson.” Watts said the pair aren’t trying to make a major profit. They just wanted to show their love for the singer. “I just think it would be cool if everybody was wearing one of these,” Watts said. Not everyone was on hand to pay tribute. Four people identifying themselves as associated with the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, known for its anti-gay activism, traveled to Los Angeles, protesting and holding signs saying “God hates you” and “Jacko in hell.” But most were there to pay their respects to the singer called the “King of Pop.” Several hours before the service, Barbara Delorm grew teary-eyed as she showed off a thick photo album of Jackson-related items. “It’s not about being inside the Staples Center,” said Delorm, who scored a ticket to attend the memorial. “It’s about everyone being here together like this to celebrate Michael’s life.” The singer had a strong influence on her life, Delorm said. “I just loved him, all of my life,” she said, her voice beginning to break. “I never did drugs, and I never got involved with bad stuff because he was such a great role model.”