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Fans gather to remember life of Michael Jackson

Gatherings take place at locations significant to the pop star's life, including the family home in Encino. Others express grief through radio wakes and online as well.

June 27, 2009|Nicole Santa Cruz and Carla Hall

In a fit of creativity, Nathan Holsey stayed up all night painting a 24-by-48 acrylic portrait of Michael Jackson, singing with a microphone in his hand.

Like other heartsick fans of the pop star, he couldn't bear to show up empty-handed when he made his pilgrimage to the Jackson family's Encino home on Friday.

He said his inspiration was a black-and-white photo from Jackson's website, but the Studio City artist painted in color and emblazoned Jackson's red jacket with a crown befitting of the King of Pop. The paint was still fresh.

"This is my tribute to Michael Jackson and the Jackson family," Holsey said as he displayed his work.

Across Los Angeles, grieving fans gathered at outposts of his life, shared their pain on websites and clung to their radios as stations devoted hours of airtime to his songs.

About 200 fans converged on his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, some still in a state of disbelief.

"I kept waiting to hear it was a hoax," said Damecia Stingley, 32, of Los Angeles, who credits Jackson's music with saving her from a suicide attempt.

On KJLH-FM (102.3), disc jockey Kevin Nash presided over a kind of audio wake, taking calls from melancholy fans.

"How did you get through the night?" Nash asked in a soothing voice.

"Man, it was hard," said one caller. "But his music helped get me through."

Sophia Zewdu and her boyfriend, John Moore, drove from Las Vegas to Los Angeles overnight Thursday.

At 3 a.m., they arrived in Encino and stayed outside the Jackson home.

Zewdu said that when she heard the news of Jackson's death, she crawled on the floor, sobbing.

She and Moore "just looked at each other and said, 'We gotta go to L.A.,' " Moore said. "We just dropped everything."

Rap artist Flavor Flav arrived at the home and rang the bell.

The reality show star -- who said he is a friend of Michael's brother Jermaine -- was denied entrance.

He said the first song he performed in a school talent show as a child was the Jackson 5 classic "I Want You Back."

"Not only did he mean the world to me, he meant the world to everyone," said the 50-year-old singer.

Some came with stories of their moments with Jackson. Derek Ramos grew up in the same Encino neighborhood. After the album "Off the Wall" was released, Ramos said, he and his brother, Ronald, went to Disneyland with Jackson.

The brothers paid their own admission and spotted Jackson his fare. He didn't have enough cash on him, Ramos recalled.

"He wanted to have a good time normally," he said.

Police estimated that 1,000 people passed by the home throughout the day. By the late afternoon, about 200 were holding a vigil.

Across the street from the Los Angeles County coroner's office in Boyle Heights, where the autopsy was performed on Jackson's body, a handful of fans gathered in front of a makeshift shrine.

The roads outside Jackson's former estate near Los Olivos in the Santa Ynez Valley were strangely quiet.

Mourners arrived in ones and twos at Neverland Ranch, sometimes leaving candles and messages.

The scene a day after his death contrasted with the days of his 2005 child molestation trial, when hundreds held vigil outside the gates.

Cindi Galvan, a nursing recruiter from the Fresno area, was visiting relatives in Santa Maria when she decided she had to show up.

"We sang all his songs and the words just fell into place," she said.

--

nicole.santacruz@latimes.com

carla.hall@latimes.com

Gerrick Kennedy, Rong-Gong Lin II and Steve Chawkins contributed to this report.

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