Yes, I had a wristband and a ticket to Michael Jackson’s Memorial Service, which, if I had to briefly sum up, was pretty much how envision my funeral will be. But before we get anywhere into this account of Michael Jackson’s Memorial Service, I’ll offer the following disclaimer: I wasn’t in the Staples Center. Anyone I told that I had tickets assumed that I was there (as did I), but I arrived at the ticket distribution point late in the day due to circumstances beyond my control and was relegated to the overflow section. Still, I had a wristband and I had a ticket.
We watched the proceedings on a large screen across the street at the Nokia Theatre. I was only marginally more intimate with the actual service than anyone who watched on TV, mostly for reasons having to do with the quality of the screen and the fact I was surrounded by a theatre full of sobbing weirdoes. Another feature that my much-coveted ticket earned me was that during the Reverend’s invocation I had a nervous, greasy Spaniard tightly grabbing my wrist and bowing his head in fervent prayer over the passing of Michael Jackson. And you did not. Or maybe you did, who knows?
There were certain other perks to having one of these tickets. I can think of four: One that the networks missed was when Michael’s sisters, Janet, La Toya, and, um… The Other One, came into the Nokia Theatre after the show and gave us a short speech. People went bonkers for the gesture, wherein they thanked the city of Los Angeles and repeated the sort of fawning, choky Michael remarks heard at the earlier service for about 45 seconds. Another was having a Starbucks Bagel and reading the paper with the LAPD Bomb Squad, all members of whom had the contented air of men earning time-and-a-half pay and not having to do shit about them. The third might be the small gathering of protesters outside the LA Convention Center, who had a problem with all of us going to celebrate Michael Jackson on religious grounds. One of them cried out to me “Michael Jackson is going to hell and so are YOU!” to which I replied, “yes, perhaps, but at least I will be dancing when I get there.” Another petit woman held up a big blue sign that read “FAGS DESTROY NATIONS!” which is a pretty funny spectacle to see at 9am on a Tuesday.
The last benefit of having one of those runner-up Nokia Theatre tickets was the sheer headiness of being at the center of a frenzied media/attention vortex: A dozen helicopters overhead, Katie Couric prowling about, thousands of police, reporters, lights, cables, and a very profound, deep, and indescribable sense of Being At the Most Important Spot in the World At That Particular Moment… more so than I felt at the Obama Inauguration, sadly enough. It’s a heady and energizing feeling.
Of course, I tried to sneak into the Staples Center, and made it through the ticket takers, before a sharp-eyed employee in a cheap purple sport coat spotted me and turned me around. Nonetheless, I feel qualified enough to offer the following observations only one of which (guess) you could not have gleaned from the televised performance:
Janet Jackson’s Ass: It might come across as a bit crass to talk about the posterior of the recently deceased’s sister, but, I mean, my god. Janet Jackson’s ass is enormous. It is beyond enormous. It’s the biggest god damn thing I have ever seen. Any superlative I might cough up here would fall short to describe the edifice. You could picnic comfortably with six or seven people on it.
Al Sharpton: There are many things that can be said of Al Sharpton, and most of them are not exactly laudatory. But I’ll say this: the man sure as hell knows how to work a crowd. And what alliteration! His was the most fitting and glorious of the speeches given that day.
Paris Jackson: Most of the time I was there I maintained a sense of general bemusement at the proceedings, but watching a beautiful little girl break down and sob while talking about her just-dead daddy was as raw an emotional moment as there you could imagine… or maybe not, maybe the Jackson family coached the whole thing and I am some kind of naive pussy like The Rest of Them… but I don’t think so.
Usher: I have never listened to Usher’s music. I was vaguely aware, going in, of the fact that a lot of people apparently do for some reason. If you wanted to do a comedy spoof for a memorial performance, you could quite literally not do better than to just copy Usher’s performance play by play. That song was the height of tacky: “Like a comet, streaking across the sky… gone too soon.” Jesus. The whole display had me giggling the whole time, which is an awkward thing to be doing when everyone around you is weeping silently at the passion and feeling of Usher. If some asshole started emoting and carrying on like that around the casket of my dead brother I would hire somebody to beat the bastard’s legs into jelly with a pipe.
Jonathan Mayer: I have never voluntarily listened to the music Jonathan Mayer either, for no real reason other than that I doubt I would like it. After that wretchedly goofy spectacle he put on, I am quite confident my decision to avoid him so far in life has been the correct one. When the most fitting music for a funeral service you can concoct would be most easily classified as “Contemporary Dental Office Elevator” you are perhaps not striking the right chords.