By Kirsten Hall
"Honey, God had a plan for you to be in Los Angeles and to go to this memorial service," my mother told me in her off-southern accent, before adding in typical matronly fashion, "Don't forget to bring your pepper spray. Who knows what kind of people you will come across." I could see her, thousands of miles away in Indiana, beaming as her daughter prepares for what is in her opinion "the event of the century."
I recalled just the day before gleefully bursting into my editor's office to announce my successful registration for the event. That feeling lasted all night. As I breezed past unlucky Michael fans unable to gain entry, flashed my ticket and golden wristband to the police, I secretly gloated at my my luck. A big punch-in-the-gut feeling of guilt followed. What have I done to deserve this? And why is a funeral cause for ecstasy?
While we waited to get into the arena, I struck up a conversation with a woman, Latisia Ramero, who had come to pay her respects with her daughter, whose fandom was, she explained, inherited at birth. Ramero witnessed Michael perform with his brothers during the 1984 in the Victory tour. "The night that I had my daughter in March of '88, Michael Jackson was on TV, and his music video was playing while I was in labor," she explained, "and so ever since she was a little girl she's had a love for Michael."
Sitting in the Staples center and seeing that mass of humanity was like standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon and looking down. To think, thousands people have called in sick, taken vacation, abandoned their jobs, lives and families to pay homage to someone they likely had never met. It is almost as implausible as a single river in the middle of the desert creating the Grand Canyon.
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A woman squeezed in a couple of rows ahead of me wearing head to toe sequins, complete with a sequined glove. I thought of her slaving away at the Bedazzler the night before, and had to stifle a laugh. Then the pallbearers brought in the casket. It startled me, unlike some of the more moronic souls surrounding me, whose flippant cheering and whooping made it sound like Michael was moonwalking on the stage. I felt something different. Seeing that sarcophagus made me realize: Michael Jackson is dead.
I felt damned for enjoying the performances, especially from Stevie Wonder and the talented young Shaheen Jafargholi, because this was a solemn event after all. Usher's performance especially moved me, not only because of the tear-jerking song "Gone too Soon" but also the way he slowly walked down and softly touched Michael's casket with the same tenderness I could imagine him cradling his own son's head.
I would like to say that I kept my composure through the ceremony. The experience was like being in a sad movie; you try to keep the tears welling up while glancing around to make sure you aren't the only blubbering fool. I was under control until the Jackson family walked onto the stage. When little Paris took the mic and said goodbye to her "daddy" I could no longer fight. I buried my face in my shirt and moaned in empathy. I heard a frenzied sniffling from a couple rows up; Michael's most sparkly fan had lost her composure as well. All the sequins and Bedazzlers in Neverland can't protect you from this kind of pain.