LAS VEGAS -- Billed as a humanitarian event, the "Jackson Family Honors" taping here Saturday had more of the feel of a TV melodrama.
The family's most famous member, beleaguered pop star Michael Jackson, appeared to be a reluctant participant in the more than two-hour production, and the family's most mercurial member, LaToya Jackson, contended that she was barred from the program.
Instead of performing a solo number--as did sister Janet Jackson, who received a standing ovation early in the evening--Michael Jackson only agreed to present awards to close friend Elizabeth Taylor and Motown Records founder Berry Gordy.
His only scheduled musical contribution to the show was joining the family in a finale written for the event, which is to be broadcast Tuesday by NBC-TV.
Because the 35-year-old singer's photo had been featured prominently in ads for the reunion show, many in the near-capacity crowd at the 13,000-seat MGM Grand Garden arena had hoped for more music from him.
"The whole reason I paid $100 for a ticket was to see Michael perform, " Julie Marlowe, 24, said. "I thought this was supposed to be a concert."
Still, this was the most high-profile U.S. stage appearance by Jackson since he was accused of sexual molestation by a 13-year-old boy in August, and most of the enthusiastic crowd was eager to show its support.
"I've always loved his music, and I wanted to show him we still care about him," said Maria Lopez, 26, after buying a $100 ticket Saturday afternoon.
Jackson reportedly paid more than $10 million last month to settle the lawsuit. No criminal charges have been lodged against him.
During the playing of one of his videos to open the 8 p.m. show, the crowd shrieked in approval. The video showed Jackson performing the tune "Leave Me Alone," which was meant to mock his treatment by the tabloid press.
Backstage before presenting his first award, Jackson expressed gratitude for his fans' loyalty.
"Some friends are like shadows, you only see them when the sun shines," he said. "But my fans sustained me even in the dark days. I owe them everything."
On a less harmonious note, LaToya Jackson maintained earlier in the week that the family would not let her join the show unless she signed a gag order agreeing not to criticize Michael Jackson or the family any further.
At a morning news conference, Jermaine Jackson, the guiding force behind the TV special, and mother, Katherine, denied that a gag order had been demanded.
Although there had been rumors that LaToya Jackson might try to sneak into the concert in disguise, her husband, Jack Gordon, said Saturday that his wife had rejected the idea after he suggested it.
Despite all the focus on the Jackson family, Saturday's event was not designed as a Jackson reunion, Jermaine Jackson said. Instead, it was planned as an annual event to salute outstanding humanitarians and to raise money for charities.
About $500,000 is earmarked for charity, mostly for earthquake relief in California, said Jackson family representatives.