Why are there still no answers, ask Jacko's fans
The King of Pop's father files a lawsuit against his son's doctor as a broken family and followers mark the anniversary of Jackson's death
Sunday 27 June 2010
Wearing her finest black trilby, an old tribute T-shirt, and one white glove, a bleary-eyed Julia Noble left her home in Sacramento shortly after midnight to begin the 10-hour drive to Glendale, a city in the San Fernando Valley, just over the Hollywood hills from downtown Los Angeles.
By the time she arrived, late on Friday morning, more than 30 satellite TV trucks had assembled outside the gates to the Forest Lawn cemetery, while a steady stream of other well-wishers, most of them similarly attired, were trudging up the hillside to the Great Mausoleum, where Michael Jackson is buried.
The first anniversary of the singer's fatal cardiac arrest brought the eccentric, the tearful and the downright bonkers out to pay tribute in Los Angeles and at venues across the globe, while members of the media circus which chronicled his life and death came temporarily out of retirement.
"I've not come here to pay tribute to Michael Jackson the entertainer; I've come to pay tribute to Michael Jackson the person," Ms Noble said, adding to the Princess Diana-style heap of flowers, teddy bears and hand-drawn cards outside the mock-Gothic building where he's interred. "He was a beautiful human being who died far too young, and I feel that fans like me being here today is exactly what he would have wanted."
Like every other member of the public who turned out, Ms Noble and her companions, Nicole Williams and Massu Lazard, were prevented from actually entering the private mausoleum, but stood outside and whooped dutifully when a string of limousines carrying Jackson's siblings Randy, Janet, Tito and Jermaine rolled up for a private memorial service inside.
Yet even that event's guest list served only to underline the divisions which have riven the singer's family. The service was boycotted by his other brothers and sisters, and his mother, Katherine, who chose instead to unveil a tribute plaque outside Jackson's childhood home in Gary, Indiana. The singer's children, who, officially, are supposed to be in Katherine's care, were thousands of miles away in Hawaii.
Jackson's father, Joe, meanwhile, spent the morning giving a bizarre interview at a breakfast TV studio in Cleveland where he tried to justify his ongoing efforts to seek a $12,000 (£8,000) monthly allowance from his late son's estate, claiming he'd been wrongly cut out of Jackson's will.
He later announced he had filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Conrad Murray, the private doctor who has been charged with involuntary manslaughter for giving the singer a lethal array of sedatives and prescription painkillers to help him sleep on the night before his fatal cardiac arrest.
The civil lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles on Friday afternoon, seeks damages of $75,000 from Dr Murray on grounds of professional negligence. It also seeks financial damages from the clinics where Dr Murray operated in Las Vegas and Houston, claiming that they did not properly supervise him.
Joe Jackson's case will run parallel with the criminal trial of Dr Murray, which, to the dismay of many of the fans lining up outside Forest Lawn's Great Mausoleum, is not expected to commence until some time next year. In the meantime, the doctor is free to continue practising.
Ms Noble, Ms Williams and Ms Lazard planned to spend yesterday outside the Staples Center in Los Angeles, where several thousand supporters of "Justice 4 MJ" are planning to demonstrate against the length of time it is taking to bring criminal charges against the people they believe were responsible for his death.
"It's been a year since he died, and we're still waiting for anyone to be brought to justice," said Ms Lazard. "The doctor still gets to keep his licence. The people who were organising his comeback tour, who were responsible for his welfare, haven't been charged with anything. We still don't know exactly why he died. Questions need to be answered. That's why we're going to demonstrate."
Other enduring controversies swirl around Michael Jackson's legacy like a troupe of backing singers. His estate has soared in value since his death, and even though Jackson spent his final years heavily in debt, it is now worth a fortune. In the UK alone, 2.77 million Jackson albums and 1.5 million singles have been sold since his death – more than any other artist – prompting his sister La Toya to claim on GMTV this week that Michael was murdered because "he was worth so much more dead than alive".
Estimates of his posthumous earnings so far have ranged from $150m to more than $1bn, all of which – under the terms of his final will – are to be distributed between his three children and his mother.
Yet managing the sprawling estate is proving to be a headache, and trustees are being forced to take action against unauthorised attempts to cash in on the singer's legacy. They have scores of lawsuits in progress.
Sometimes, they even find themselves at loggerheads with the family. When it emerged that Joe Jackson would be hosting a red carpet event last night at the Beverly Hilton hotel called "Forever Michael", for which tickets cost between $150 and $1,400, the estate went out of its way to stress publicly that the event was not officially sanctioned.
Jackson's estate is also taking issue with a documentary called King of Pop, which opened in Japan on Friday. The estate said the film's promos "misled Michael Jackson's fans by making it appear as if this was an authorised film". "This movie cannot legally use any of Michael's songs or recordings in its soundtrack," a spokesman for the estate said. "Michael's fans should also know that none of the proceeds earned by this movie will be paid to his estate which, in keeping with Michael's stated wishes, strives to make sure his artistic legacy benefits his three children, his mother and the charitable causes that he cared about."
The problem in enforcing commercial rights is the sheer scale of the market that exists among the late singer's fans in every corner of the globe. Recent days have seen tributes across the world from Hanoi, where thousands turned out for a special concert, to Tokyo, where 50 people – one for each year of his life – were picked to spend a night at Tokyo Tower among the singer's possessions from Neverland, his home near Santa Barbara.
In Los Angeles, tour parties from Japan, New Zealand and France, many of them in fancy dress, could be seen visiting a string of local monuments, from the house where the "Thriller" video was set, to Jackson's star on the Hollywood walk of fame, to the rented house in Holmby Hills where he died.
More adventurous tourists actually drove to Neverland, where a pile of flowers was left outside the gates. "I've been planning this trip since October, and I think I've got round every place possible," said Patti Robinson, a housewife from Oklahoma with a tattoo of the singer on her back. She was at Forest Lawn and released a cage full of white doves at 2.26pm, the exact time of his death.
At almost every location where fans were evident, unlicensed vendors also popped up, selling T-shirts and other memorabilia of often dubious provenance. At Forest Lawn, Dwayne Edrington was attempting to sell homemade tribute CDs for $5. "I'm not cashing in on his death. I'm selling them as a fan who loves him, and wants others to appreciate Michael, too," he said. No one was convinced but they bought the CDs anyway.
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