Michael Jackson finally laid to rest in Los Angeles

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The Independent Online

King of Pop Michael Jackson was finally being laid to rest today at a private ceremony attended by Michael Jackson's close friends and family.

Dame Elizabeth Taylor and civil rights leader the Rev Al Sharpton were among the mourners who gathered at the Forest Lawn cemetery in Los Angeles to bid a final farewell to the singer who died on June 25 aged 50.

Around 200 guests were thought to have been invited to the event, with fans and media kept away by a heavy security presence.

The ceremony was due to have commenced at 7pm local time (3am BST), but it was delayed to allow latecomers, including the Jackson family, to arrive.

Those waiting at the cemetery fanned themselves with service programmes to counter the effects of a humid Californian evening, with temperatures hovering around 32C.

Among those in attendance were former child actor Macaulay Culkin and his girlfriend, actress Mila Kunis.

Jackson's former wife Lisa Marie Presley turned up to pay her respects. It has also been reported that Debbie Rowe, Jackson's second wife and the mother of two of his three children, also received an invitation.

The funeral invitation handed out to guests contained pictures of the Thriller singer alongside some of his words.

It opened with a quote taken from Jackson's book Dancing The Dream. It read: "If you enter the world knowing you are loved and leave the world knowing the same, then everything that happens in between can be dealt with."

Jackson's funeral takes place more than two months after he died at his rented property in Los Angeles.

Last week, the LA County Coroner announced that the death had been ruled as homicide caused by acute propofol intoxication.

Jackson's estate is paying what are being called "extraordinary" expenses for the ceremony.

A judge in Los Angeles authorised the current administrators of Jackson's estate to pay for the costs of Jackson's funeral and burial.

Lawyers for Jackson's mother Katherine had asked the judge to sign off on the expenses, which have not been disclosed.

Jeryll Cohen, a lawyer for the administrators of Jackson's estate, told the judge the expenses were extraordinary, but so was Michael Jackson.

It heightens the prospect of criminal charges being made against Jackson's personal physician Dr Conrad Murray, who is known to have administered the powerful sedative shortly before the singer collapsed.

Police had cordoned off roads leading to the Forest Lawn site throughout the day.

Speaking shortly before the ceremony was due to begin, Sgt Tom Lorenz of the Glendale Police Department said the security operation had "worked well so far", adding that no uninvited guests had tried to enter the grounds.

Forest Lawn's Glendale site is one of LA's favoured burial sites for the rich and famous.

It boasts a mausoleum with replicas of the work of Renaissance greats, including Michelangelo's David and Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper recreated in stained glass.

Other stars buried at Glendale, which opened in 1906, include Hollywood actors Humphrey Bogart, Errol Flynn and Clark Gable.

A motorcade of 26 cars left the Jackson family's compound at 7.30pm local time (3.30am BST) - an hour later than expected.

The singer's father, Joe Jackson, arrived separately at the cemetery.

While waiting for the Jackson family's arrival, some guests took to tweeting about the experience.

Mr Sharpton wrote on his Twitter page: "What MJ went through was so unfair yet he succeeded. In the end, he was the biggest artist ever.

"He faced the headwinds but he made it."

As a hearse carrying Jackson's body arrived at the site of the ceremony, a live video feed provided by the Jackson family was cut to allow mourners to grieve in private.

An airborne camera provided by LA broadcaster KTLA, however, continued to run. It showed a coffin covered in white flowers taken to the front of the congregation.

The Jackson family had not released details regarding the order of service. But it had been reported that Mr Sharpton would deliver an address and soul singer Gladys Knight would sing.

Other guests that were due to attend, but were not picked up on camera arriving, included Motown giant Stevie Wonder and music producer Quincy Jones.

The privacy of the funeral ceremony is in contrast with the star-studded public memorial event stages at LA's Staples Centre in early July.