Michael Jackson’s memorial service/concert tribute was surprisingly poignant and beautifully produced, as predicted.
The “show” went smoothly, while the audience in the Staples Center was extremely restrained, reverent and respectful.
As anyone who watched the program knows, two Jacksons stole the show: Michael’s 11-year-old daughter, Paris Michael Katherine, and his brother Jermaine. Brother Marlon acquitted himself well.
But it was the show in the seats that caught my eye. For one thing, there were plenty of floor seats and many in the adjacent areas. Someone told me that the Jacksons, who controlled the floor seats, had overestimated their number of guests.
Controversial racial and political figure Louis Farrakhan brought a large contingent with him and sat a couple of rows ahead of me. His group included the actress Ja’net Dubois, well known from the TV series “Good Times.”
Farrakhan had a lot of security people with him, including one fellow who was well known to yours truly: This man had previously been assigned by the Nation of Islam to Michael Jackson’s trial in 2005 in Santa Maria, Calif. Strangely enough, this bodyguard sat away from Farrakhan and close to me, but I guess wasn’t allowed to acknowledge me. Very weird.
Meanwhile, famed Motown songwriter Eddie Holland strolled down the main aisle and planted a kiss on the cheek of legendary singer Freda Payne. He and brother Brian and Lamont Dozier wrote her 1970 classic, “Band of Gold.” It was only then that I noticed the odd little white man sitting beside Freda. It was none other than the ex-Mr. Liza Minnelli, David Gest. He is now more or less unrecognizable. Once billed as Michael Jackson’s best friend, Gest was almost invisible at the service.
Elsewhere, boxing champ Smokin’ Joe Frazier was brought in by wheelchair. Sean “Diddy” Combs came in late, and remained fairly unobtrusive. He was seated near another late arrival, Don King. I spotted the Dominick Cascio family of New Jersey — they were Michael’s surrogate family and loved him very much. Many Sony executives were there too including Martin Bander, who runs Sony/ATV Music Publishing, as well as Rolf Schmidt Holz, Steve Barnett and Rob Stringer. Unlikely as it might sound, there was a Tommy Mottola sighting as well — the same Mottola who Michael once labeled a “racist.”
Also seen: MickeyRooney – looking swell! plus Dionne Warwick, Levar Burton and Telma Hopkins.
More to come …