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Jackson fans await word on tickets to the memorial

More than 1.6 million registered for a chance to attend the singer's service.

July 06, 2009|Carla Hall and Corina Knoll

In the days since Michael Jackson died, fans have grieved, cried and sung along to his music as it played perpetually across the airwaves. On Sunday, they did something else; they waited.

All day long, they trolled their e-mail accounts and BlackBerries and iPhones for a message saying they were among the 8,750 randomly chosen ones who would get a pair of tickets to Tuesday's memorial service at Staples Center or the live televised feed at the Nokia Theatre across the street. Twitter was atwitter with people wondering who had gotten tickets.

While police girded for an onslaught of fans expected Tuesday morning outside Staples, they also prepared for another circus -- literally. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, which starts a five-day engagement at Staples on Wednesday, is scheduled to undertake the circus tradition of marching its elephants into town. A passel of elephants will start walking from Union Station to Staples Center at 3:30 a.m. Tuesday, according to Kathy Davis, interim manager of the city's Animal Services department, which issued the permit to Ringling.

The three-mile trek of the giant mammals -- nearly a dozen according to one source -- should take two hours, putting them at Staples several hours before the beginning of the 10 a.m. memorial service, Davis said. Of course, if the animals take longer or the fans show up early, pachyderms and people could conceivably cross paths.

"Certainly there's the hope that they will have been taken care of and be out of the way before the Michael Jackson crowd comes in," said Davis. "Ringling is very organized. . . . The only unknown is the time that the Jackson crowd will start to show up."

Meanwhile, police and city officials said the streets around Staples Center would be closed to the public during the memorial service and again warned people without tickets to stay away. "The closest you'll get is the outside of the security perimeter," Los Angeles Police Department Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell said Sunday.

More than 1.6 million people registered online for a chance to attend the memorial.

"I got tickets!" Deka Motanya blogged. "Nick and I will be in L.A. on Tuesday!"

The e-mail arrived in her in box at 4:35 p.m. "CONGRATULATIONS!" it proclaimed, listing the date of the service next to a picture of a dancing Jackson. She and her boyfriend, Nick Manousos, studied it skeptically.

"At first we thought it was a scam," said Motanya, a medical office assistant in San Francisco. "Then I looked at flights immediately."

The e-mail provided a password and a link to a site where she could officially register. "It's a unique opportunity, just to be with everyone who appreciates him and loves him so much," she said. "I'm not sure what to expect from the service. I just think being in that type of environment will be very powerful."

Eric Saez, who works at the Thompson Hotel in Beverly Hills and plays guitar in a funk-pop band, had put the notion of getting a ticket out of his mind. He was painting his apartment in Hollywood with girlfriend Kelly McCloud, 27, when he checked his phone about 5:15 p.m. There was his notification.

He was instructed to go to Dodger Stadium to pick up an identifying wristband.

"It's a weird thing," said Saez, whose band sometimes covers "Billie Jean." "It's exciting and mournful at the same time."

On Sunday, 80 fans lined up outside Staples to sign a huge poster emblazoned with Jackson's name and image, turning it into what might be the world's largest condolence card. Michiko Shiikuma, 32, and her boyfriend, Jaysen Gillespie, 36, waited to sign the poster as they also waited to see if they got tickets.

"When people pass away, you can take the chance to look back and see what kind of an effect they had on the world," said Gillespie.

Joy Nestor of Fairfax, Calif., checked her iPhone throughout the day. She said she watched Jackson moonwalk across the stage at the Pontiac Silverdome in Michigan when she was 10. "It was awesome," she recalled. "I mean, it was 1984, it was 'Thriller.' "

By late afternoon, the 35-year-old who works in marketing had heard nothing. But she was still hopeful.

"It would be the experience of a lifetime and something I would never forget," she said.


Times staff writer Jason Song contributed to this report.

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