Welcome to live coverage of Michael Jackson’s memorial. I’m going to spend the next few hours watching CNN, writing about it and linking to whatever I find interesting. Should be a wholly uncomfortable afternoon. (See the photo gallery from the memorial here)
11:30pm. First up, live coverage of the private memorial at Forest Lawn cemetery as seen from a helicopter circling overhead. Very, very classy. Let’s distract ourselves. Maybe go buy a copy—or 12!—of our commemorative issue. Or go read Sasha Frere-Jones at the New Yorker. Or Tom Junod’s obit. Or ?uestlove’s twitter feed. Whatever you do just don’t watch television, ok? I’ll tell you when it’s mildly safe to look.
11:42pm. CNN’s Don Lemon is reviewing the program for the memorial ceremony. It’s like storytime in kindergarten. Only way sadder.
11:44pm. All are agreed that the program is “beautiful.”
11:46pm. A few minutes ago they were speculating on where Jackson’s body might be placed at the Staples Center. Apparently the casket is going to be placed at the foot of the stage. And then John Mayer is going to stand over it and sing. Because that’s not at all weird.
11:50pm. Turns out Jackson’s relationship with Brooke Shields was exactly as you’d imagine.
11:52pm. One of Jackson’s former publicists tells CNN that the Martin Bashir interview was the pivotal point in Jackson’s fall. “He died that night … because he knew he shot himself in the foot.” I’m pretty sure that analogy doesn’t make sense.
11:54pm. The publicist also links Jackson’s drug use to the injuries suffered during the filming of that ill-fated Pepsi commercial. Then there’s the requisite discussion of “demons” acquired in childhood. So it’s Pepsi’s fault. Or Martin Bashir’s fault. Or his father’s fault. Or Jackson’s fault. You could do this all day. Michael Jackson was basically doomed from birth.
12:00pm. The casket is wheeled out and loaded into the hearse. Anderson Cooper and Soledad O’Brien seem suddenly taken aback by their own coverage. Publicist rightly notes that Jackson probably would have loved this.
12:05pm. Donna Brazile makes the inevitable link between Michael Jackson and Barack Obama’s election. And then Don King walks out of the funeral home waving an American flag.
12:08pm. Jeffrey Toobin now walking us through child custody law in California. Toobin could make a legitimate claim to being a modern renaissance man.
12:10pm. Someone named AJ Hammer is commenting on Jackson’s musical legacy. Fails for some reason to cite his father, MC Hammer.
12:16pm. CNN cuts to commercial because, Anderson says, they don’t want to miss any of the funeral procession through Los Angeles. Apparently at some point there’s going to be elephants. (Some adult language at that link.)
12:21pm. The hearse is on the move. Anderson Cooper tries to put on his solemn voice to announce this.
12:23pm. In a tribute to music artists being forgiven their transgressions, Chris Brown will be performing at the memorial.
12:24pm. Poignant insight from a Billboard writer who met Jackson 20 years ago: He was taller than you’d think.
12:29pm. This reputed vault of unreleased songs is intriguing. But don’t you have to assume that if any of it was any good, it would’ve been released by now? Were any of, say, Tupac’s post-death songs as good as his living output?
12:35pm. CNN says Larry King is going to be sitting with the family at the memorial. Seems about right.
12:37pm. A fan waiting for the funeral procession says she sold everything in her house to be there. Seems about right.
12:39pm. Here is the piece I wrote for our commemorative issue, an attempt to understand Jackson by actually listening to his music. At least my third attempt to figure him out in print, preceded by this quick reaction the night he died and this two-year-old piece on the possibility of a comeback. For that last piece I interviewed Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. Which rather impressed several of the women in my life.
12:49pm. Roland Martin says it all: “What he wanted to achieve in life, he achieved in death.”
12:51pm. The funeral procession has arrived at Staples. The memorial—the part you should be able to watch without feeling awful about your life—is about to start. Our friends at CityTV are streaming live here.
12:59pm. Hilary Rosen, former president of the American recording association, speculates Jackson’s debts will be paid off in the next few years on the music sales spurred by his death. Good to see the conspiracy theorists aren’t going to be left out of today’s coverage.
1:05pm. Credit where it’s due, Soledad O’Brien, Roland Martin and some other guy are having a fairly interesting discussion now about race and music.
1:07pm. Anyway. In other news, how freaky is this ghost video?
1:10pm. Soledad O’Brien counts six helicopters circling the Staples Center. This may be the greatest moment in the history of helicopter journalism. Or at least the greatest moment since OJ killed the American car industry with that white Ford Bronco trip.
1:13pm. Smokey Robinson starts the service with messages from Diana Ross and Nelson Mandela. Seems about right.
1:23pm. Awkward filling of time while everyone waits for the casket to arrive.
1:26pm. While we wait, here’s Ron Artest rapping about Michael Jackson. (Some adult language contained therein.) One of those rare moments when awfulness and awesomeness collapse into each other creating the pop culture equivalent of a black hole.
1:29pm. Now they’re repeating footage of the casket being loaded into the hearse, while Anderson and Soledad talk about how freaky it was to see the first time.
1:33pm. A choir sings. And he’s here. Or it’s here. Or something.
1:35pm. The casket is gold and covered in roses. Did you want to know that? Should we just pretend it’s not there? Not sure how to proceed with this.
1:37pm. A pastor—Rev. Lucious Smith—arrives to enforce some normalcy on the proceedings. Strangely reassuring.
1:41pm. Mariah Carey and Trey Lorenz duet on I’ll Be There. Bit awkward, but too great a song to fail.
1:47pm. Queen Latifah delivers an entirely endearing eulogy. She should run for president. Or host the Tonight Show after Conan gets dumped next year.
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