Los Angeles comes to a halt to remember its brightest star

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Vast crowds gathered at the Michael Jackson star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame as news of his death emerged. Some laid flowers; others lit candles; a handful even broke into song-and-dance routines in tribute to their fallen idol.

There was but one problem: they had picked the wrong star.

The Michael Jackson whose career was celebrated by the brass and marble monument where the mini-shrine sprang up was in fact the King of Pops' namesake: a DJ for local radio station KABC, who retired last year.

Jackson's real Walk of Fame star was covered over by scaffolding erected by the organisers of Thursday night's premiere of Sacha Baron Cohen's new film, Brüno. The filmmakers said yesterday that a scene joking about the late pop singer had been swiftly cut from the comic film.

Elsewhere across Los Angeles, scenes of public mourning had a similarly surreal air.

At UCLA Medical Centre, where Jackson died, a media circus remained throughout yesterday. Fans, many of them carrying banners or memorabilia, converged on the hospital as soon as reports began circulating that the singer had been rushed there.

So did the world's media. At one point, no fewer than eight rolling news helicopters were circling the skies above the building.

More crowds gathered at the Jacksons' family home in Encino, and at the rented Holmby Hills Mansion where the singer was taken ill (a tour bus had been passing when he was loaded into the ambulance there on Thursday). Flowers were left at the gates of Neverland, the singer's old country pile. Even the LA County Coroner seemed well prepared for the media circus: his website yesterday advertised that the facility, where the bodies of countless deceased celebrities have been taken over the years, boasts a well-stocked gift shop.

Across the country in Washington DC, Congress took a brief break from debating an environment bill to hold a minute of silence for Jackson. The President Barack Obama called Jackson a "spectacular performer" and a music icon, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said. He also said Mr Obama believed some aspects of Jackson's life were "sad and tragic" and offered his condolences to the musician's family.

In Harlem, a small makeshift shrine to the singer sat outside the Apollo Theatre where he first performed at the age of nine, as a member of the Jackson 5. For most of yesterday there was a small crowd at the site, some scrawling messages on cardboard. "Moonwalk 4Eva Michael," said one.

For residents of Gary, Indiana, Jackson's death meant the loss of the city's most famous native son.

Hundreds of people gathered and left tributes outside the squat white house where he was born. "I had to come here because I literally was going to break down if I sat in my house," said Wyatt Puryear, 38, a truck driver. "I grew up on Michael Jackson. Ever since I was a kid, I was dancing and singing like him."

The seventh of nine children, Michael Jackson spent all his early childhood in Gary. He was already 11 years old and a national sensation when the family left the city.