In death as in life, there is never a dull moment when it comes to
Michael Jackson. Police in California’s Santa Barbara County met Tuesday
to discuss how to deal with an expected mad rush of traffic on the
narrow hillside road leading to Jackson’s Neverland Ranch for a planned memorial service on Friday. Jackson’s body will arrive there a day earlier, in a 30-car motorcade from Los Angeles. Meanwhile, the singer’s hometown of Gary, Indiana, is reportedly seeking to have the body shipped there for another memorial service being planned for July 10. Amid all the competition to pay last respects to the King of Pop , one question still remains unanswered: Where will Michael Jackson be buried?
The singer’s father, Joe Jackson, denied speculation
that the Neverland Ranch will be turned into a Graceland-style attraction, with the
Gloved One’s grave as the central attraction. “That is not true,” Joe Jackson told reporters when asked whether his
son was to be buried at Neverland, which has been owned by a private-equity
firm since Michael defaulted on a loan. Although the family patriarch
declined to discuss specifics on the time and place of a funeral, citing the
second autopsy as a cause for delay, Jackson hinted of grand, Lady Di-scale
plans. “I’ve never heard of a private funeral like this like big, like
Michael’s would be,” he told reporters.
Meanwhile, the financier whose company owns Neverland is preparing
for unprecedented crowds at Friday’s memorial. In an open letter to the Santa Barbara community, Thomas Barrack
of Colony Capital on Tuesday referred to the ranch as “Michael’s only true
home” and added, “The universal curiosity about Neverland and its
connection to Michael is an unchangeable fact.”
“The future of the Neverland property will be addressed in due time
through normal process and with appropriate deliberation,” he continued in a
letter that seemed directed as much to the Jackson family as it was to the
residents of Santa Barbara County. “Let us all keep in mind that reputations
are earned in decades and lost in moments of haste and bad decisions.”
Haste is certainly not characterizing the planning of Jackson’s final farewell. Some outside observers questioned the Jacksons’ rationale for holding
off on burial plans while waiting for autopsy results. Cyril Wecht,
a forensic pathologist and attorney who has handled several high-profile
cases, including the second autopsy on Anna Nicole Smith’s son Daniel, says
that in the case of a potential drug overdose, the body of the deceased
would not be needed for examination once fluid or tissue samples were
obtained. Often, the coroner will keep the brain to conduct neuropathology
tests, which can’t happen until about two weeks after death when the brain
hardens, says Wecht. It’s also likely that the coroner is conducting further
tests on the superstar’s heart, he adds.
“It’s up to the family.
They can bury him and then bury the brain and heart later on,” he says. “But it’s rare for the body to be held back for two weeks.”
In a career that took plenty of strange turns, it’s perhaps no surprise that Jackson’s progress toward a final resting place is beginning to seem just as chaotic. At least one of Michael’s close friends, Mark Lester, the godfather to Jackson’s three children, says he’s in the dark as to the icon’s own final wishes.
“It’s not the sort of thing you sit around a dinner party and discuss,” said Lester, “funeral arrangements for someone so relatively young.”
Learn how to moonwalk like Michael.