Gabriel San Roman's Thoughts From Inside Michael Jackson's Memorial Service


It's been 12 incomprehensible days since the
shocking news that Michael Jackson died.
Since that time, the prevailing feeling was that the
immensity that is the King of Pop's
musical legacy hadn't been properly or
adequately paid tribute to…until today.

I was one of the fortunate few to be awarded a gold
bracelet and ticket to the Staples Center memorial service, out of the 1.6 million
people who registered online. After spending less than 10 minutes yesterday picking
up the goods at Dodger Stadium (without ever having to leave my truck),
the scene at the public funeral for one of the most famous people in
the world was similarly easy to navigate.

The large swarms of fans who didn't get tickets but wanted to be close to the event never really came in the droves that
were projected; or, were kept away successfully. There were many helicopters flying overhead and a police presence so
thick it gave me flashbacks from my last trip near Staples Center, the
DNC protests nine years ago. The longest and non-negotiable line of the
day was early in the morning for the Starbucks across
from the arena. Once drawing closer to the site of the
memorial service, the experience of being inside the surrounding LA
Live area was surreal.

Photo montages of Michael Jackson's career throughout the years hovered
on mega flat screens perched high on the adjacent businesses. Within
minutes I ran into musicians like Marcos Reyes from the funk band War
and MTV hosts like Sway–whose head wrap is way more massive in person–as I made my way towards the Michael Jackson tribute wall where fans
have been scribbling their goodbyes, and finally inside the Staples

I did a
quick interview on the show I co-produce on KPFK, Uprising Radio, and was
ready to go through security, being ushered through the
escalator to the level where my seats were. It was tough to describe
the ordeal up to that point and I mouthed simplicities about the early
experience. I was still trying to take in the quick turn of events that
landed me at an event to be viewed by a billion people all over the

That experience had me seeing fans walking through the halls of the
Staples Center dressed as Michael Jackson in various points in his
career. There were also mothers walking in hand with their children
dressed with highwater black pants coupled with Michael Jackson's
signature hat recreating the “Billie Jean” Motown anniversary
performance that took place long before the young ones were even born.
The famed sequined glove adorned the hand of Jackson's brothers, but
also countless fans in attendance. One lookalike–from the later,
paler days–was so strikingly similar that people began posing for
pictures with him. I had to do a double take myself, quickly dashing the
thought of “could it be?” away.

Waiting for the service to commence, I conversed with a married couple that made the trek to Staples from San Diego.
They agreed with me that the entire experience up until that
point had been incredibly surreal. There was the sense that many famous
people would take the stage from the music, sports and civil rights
worlds, but for an occasion that was all too tragic. The euphoric mood
of spectacle that Jackson's own life propelled wrestled with the
reality of life and death all day today.

With that, I took my seat, three rows from the ceiling and to the left
of the space where Michael Jackson's gilded coffin would rest. When he
was ushered in, the memorial service that potentially one billion people tuned into
occurred right before my eyes, with the words of countless eulogies
echoing off the walls where I was seated.

Of course, as everyone saw, the service culminated in the emotional
goodbye to Jackson from his daughter Paris. After that moment, people
began leaving even prior to the final prayers. The scene outside as
crowds exited was quite solemn and somber. Dedicated fans were wiping
away tears as the memorial brought the reality of Jackson's death
closer to home.

Walking outside of the Staples Center past the Yard House, Michael
Jackson's timeless hits were blaring; inviting people to come in for a
post-service drink or two. Outside of the sectioned off area,
commemorative t-shirts were being sold all along the street. (Of
course, no merchandise was offered inside Staples) As I turned the
corner, I caught sight of another Jackson (O'Shea, better known as
Ice Cube and no relation) as he was buying the bootleg t-shirt of the month. He, like the
rest of us, was looking for something to remember this day by.

All the way home, Radio Free Los Angeles (102.3 FM) was playing the
music of Michael Jackson in saying goodbye in its own way through the
airwaves. Even after this memorial service fit for a
king, that goodbye from a great number of us is going to take a bit longer.

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