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Jackson's Daughter: "He Was The Best Father Ever"

LOS ANGELES -- An emotional 2 hour public memorial service for Michael Jackson ended Tuesday with a simple but heartbreaking goodbye from his daughter.

Michael's daughter, 11-year-old Paris-Michael Katherine Jackson, stood at the microphone, choking back tears and said, "I just wanted to say ever since I was born, Daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine. And I just want to say I love him so much." She then collapsed crying into the arms of family members.

It was the first public statement by Paris, who like her brothers, Prince Michael and Blanket have rarely been seen without veils or masks.

Her appearance was the most moving moment of the public memorial, which featured performances and eulogies by some of the world's biggest stars.

The service at Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles began with Smokey Robinson reading aloud condolence letters sent to the Jackson family by Diana Ross and Nelson Mandela.

Ross wrote that Jackson was "part of the fabric of my life in a way that I can't seem to find words to express. Michael wanted me to be there for his children, and I will be there if they ever need me. I hope today brings closure for all of those who loved him. Thank you Katherine and Joe for sharing your son with the world and with me. I send my love and condolences to the Jackson Family."

In his letter, Mandela wrote, "It is with great sadness that we learned of the untimely death of Michael Jackson. Michael became close to us after he started visiting and performing in South Africa regularly. We grew fond of him and he became a close member of our family. We had great admiration for his talent and that he was able to triumph over tragedy on so many occasions in his life. Michael was a giant and a legend in the music industry and we mourn with the millions of fans worldwide. We also mourn with his family and his friends over the loss of our dear friend. He will be missed and memories about him cherished for a very long time. My wife and I, our family, our friends send you our condolences during this time of mourning. Be strong."

A long moment of silence followed.

Jackson's flower-draped casket was then carried onstage as the Andrae Crouch Choir sang "Soon and Very Soon."

Family friend and pastor Lucious Smith then shared heartfelt words about Jackson.

Mariah Carey then sang "I'll Be There" along with Trey Lorenz.

Queen Latifa then spoke about Michael Jackson's influence on her own life and career. She also read aloud a poem written in Jackson's honor by famed poet Maya Angelou.

A performance by singer Lionel Richie then followed.

Mowtown Records founder Berry Gordy, Jr. spent several minutes talking about Jackson's outstanding talent as a young boy, and through his adult years. "Michael, thank you for the joy; thank you for the love; you will live in my heart forever. I love you," he said in closing.

After a video tribute to Jackson, Stevie Wonder sang "I Never Dreamed You'd Leave Me in Summer."

Basketball stars Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson took the podium to share some thoughts on Michael. Cameras panned to the audience during Johnson's speech, showing the Jackson brothers dressed alike, wearing Michael's famous white glove.

Shortly after, Jennifer Hudson sang Jackson's "Will You Be There."

Rev. Al Sharpton addressed the crowd saying Michael 'broke down the color curtain.'

Singer-songwriter John Mayer then played a guitar version of Jackson's "Human Nature."

Brooke Shields shared a tearful story about her friendship with Michael in their younger days. "What we did do was laugh," she said, adding that the two child stars had a competition to see who could laugh the most.

"Michael always knew he could count on me to support him or be his date. ... We had a bond and maybe it was because we both understood what it was like to be in the spotlight from a very,very young age. I used to tease him and say, `I started when I was 11 months old. You're a slacker. You were like 5?' Both of us needed to be adults very early, but when we were together, we weretwo little kids having fun," she said.

"MJ's laugh was the sweetest and purest laugh of anyone's that I had ever known," she said.

Shields told the crowd that Michael was "caring, funny, honest and pure," adding that he was also "non-jaded" and "a lover of life who cared deeply for his family, friends and his fans."

Jermaine Jackson then took the stage and sang his younger brother Michael's favorite song, "Smile (As Though Your Heart Is Breaking)."

The son and daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. -- Martin Luther King III and Bernice A. King -- talked about Michael's legacy and humanitarian efforts.

Usher followed with his rendition of Jackson's ballad "Gone Too Soon." Michael Jackson once dedicated the song to Ryan White, an American teenager who became a national spokesperson for HIV/AIDS after being expelled from school because of his diagnosis. White died of his illness in 1990.

Smokey Robinson then returned to the stage to share some personal stories about Michael. Robinson said one of his greatest blessings was getting to know the Jackson family and Michael himself.

"Britain's Got Talent" finalist Shaheen Jafargholi,12, sang the Jackson 5 song "Who's Loving You." Jackson had invited Jafargholi to join him on his London tour.

A group of singers helped bring the memorial to a close by singing Jackson's songs, "We Are The World" and "Heal The World."

Jermaine Jackson then addressed the crowd saying, "We thank you. That's all we can say. We thank you very much."

Brother Marlon Jackson then took the mic and, broke down crying briefly and said, "Michael when you left us a part of me went with you, and a part of you will live forever within me. But also a part of you will live forever within all of us. Michael, I will treasure the good times, the fun we had."

"Maybe now, Michael, they will leave you alone," he said.

A hearse carrying the "King of Pop's" body, covered with red roses, left a private service at Forest Lawn in the Hollywood Hills shortly after 9 a.m. and made its way through downtown Los Angeles to Staples Center for the public memorial. A law enforcement escort shut down sections of freeways to speed the motorcade through Los Angeles traffic.

Jackson's casket was then carried into the arena shortly before 10 a.m. using the same door that the pop star had walked through for many Grammy appearances.

A lucky group of some 8,750 fans each won two free tickets to watch the event in person. Some viewed the event on a big screen at the nearby Nokia Theatre.

Despite being told they have no chance of getting in, many fans without tickets still flooded the area to pay their final respects and witness history in the making. For the most part though, police said, things ran smoothly.

All major networks broadcast the event live. Cinedigm Digital Cinema Corp. also arranged to broadcast the service live at 88 movie theaters across the country, including in Los Angeles, Monrovia and Tulare.

Police were out in full force -- even more so than the 1984 Olympics and the recent championship celebration for the Los Angeles Lakers at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, according to the LAPD.

Some 3,200 Los Angeles police officers were deployed for the day's events in an effort to control crowds in and around Staples Center.

The event was said to have cost the city nearly $4 million.

The city started its fiscal year July 1, and the city budget includes money for unanticipated events such as celebrity funerals, according to LAPD Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell.

McDonnell called crowd control the city's responsibility, but said "if anyone steps up who wants to defray the costs, they're welcome to do so."

The cash-strapped city has created a website for fans who wish to donate money to help with the expense. Those who would like to donate can visit:

On the eve of the memorial, Jackson's friends and family gathered at Forest Lawn, reportedly for a viewing of the pop star's body.

A small handful of cars was seen coming and going from the Hall of Liberty, a circular building at the cemetery that contains a 1,200 seat auditorium.

Among the people believed to be in attendance was LaToya Jackson.

A hearse was also seen backing up to a building at the Hall of Liberty complex. A few hours later, the casket was reloaded into the hearse and delivered to another nearby building, this time covered in a blue cloth.

Actress and longtime Michael Jackson friend Elizabeth Taylor said on Twitter that she would NOT attend the memorial ceremony.

Taylor said she was asked to speak, but she could not "be part of the public whoopla," and could not guarantee that she "would be coherent to say a word."

Meantime, thousands of fans who won a raffle to attend the memorial service picked up their tickets and wristbands at Dodger Stadium Monday.

Tickets were issued to only the person whose name was on the voucher, which was also scanned for authenticity.

An estimated 1.6 million people registered for the online lottery to attend the service.

A total of 17,500 tickets were given out.

11,000 tickets were for the Staples Center, and 6,500 were for the nearby Nokia Theatre, where fans will watch the service on big screens, according to AEG President Tim Leiweke.

The odds of getting a ticket were about 1 in 183.

To avoid potential reselling of tickets, a single distribution center was used.

Sellers on eBay quickly offered tickets with starting bids of $200 to $500. One auction had several bids and was up to $15,000 Monday.

A coalition of youth and civil rights groups in Los Angeles urged the ticket winners to donate to charities and social causes that Michael Jackson supported during his life.

Only people with a valid ticket and an unaltered wristband were allowed into the service.

The streets around Staples Center were closed to prevent people without tickets from trying to attend.

The ceremony was not shown on Staples Center's giant outdoor TV screen.

A public memorial at Staples Center was fitting, especially since the King of Pop finished his last rehearsal at the arena the night before his June 25 death.

Jermaine Jackson expressed concern that the Staples Center wouldn't be big enough for his little brother's public memorial.

"There's no place even big enough. We talked about the Washington Monument, we talked about the Coliseum. We talked about a lot of places," Jermaine said, "There are 20s of thousands just from the UK."

Jackson's family arranged for a worldwide pool feed of the service for fans to watch on every major network.

Anderson Cooper, Larry King and Don Lemon were the anchors for the CNN coverage. ABC sent anchor Charles Gibson to Los Angeles for the story, and CBS sent anchor Katie Couric.

Original speculation about a memorial and funeral service had focused on Jackson's former home at Neverland Ranch in Santa Barbara County. Jermaine Jackson said he would like to see Neverland Ranch as his brother's final resting place.

Jackson specified no plans for a funeral or wishes for his remains in his 2002 last will.

Jermaine Jackson also said the family intends to have a series of memorials around the country, though no further details have been released.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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