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Michael Jackson fans flock to Burbank area memorial

July 08, 2009|By Christopher Cadelago

Hordes of spectators surrounded the perimeter of Forest Lawn Memorial Park and Mortuary in the Hollywood Hills on Tuesday morning as they strained to catch a glimpse of Michael Jackson’s coffin and private funeral caravan.

Fans engulfed a grassy area across the Los Angeles River as the late pop star’s motorcade — a chain of 30 cars led by five Rolls-Royces followed by more than two dozen California Highway Patrol vehicles — entered into the tightly controlled cemetery. Helicopters circled above.

The CHP temporarily closed parts of the 405, 101 and 134 freeways for the procession, including eastbound Riverside Drive and Forest Lawn Drive ramps, and the westbound Forest Lawn Drive ramp.

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Forest Lawn, rolling green hills, hulking marble mausoleums and views of Walt Disney and Warner Bros. studios, is the final resting place for such Tinseltown legends as Liberace, Bette Davis and Andy Gibb.

Throngs of well-wishers, which began gathering late last week, meandered around the sprawling facility in search of access. One young man balanced on a pipe over the Los Angeles River in an attempt to circumvent staggered police checkpoints.

Allen Cook and Reginald James arrived via taxicab from San Bernardino shortly before midnight Monday, running up a $120 tab, they said. Although the pair failed to secure tickets to the public memorial service at Staples Center, which was also shown in about 50 movie theaters across the county, both men said they could not pass up the “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to say goodbye to their hero.

“All I wanted was to see the gate,” said Cook, a 35-year-old rapper, dancer and entertainer who said he has drawn inspiration from the King of Pop. “When I was 7 I got to stand backstage at one of Michael’s concerts. I didn’t get to see it like everyone else. I got to see it as he did, from his perspective.

“We wanted to be here to celebrate his legacy,” he said. “To honor him.”

James not only mimicked the moves of his idol, taking on the effortless motions and sense of swagger, he also borrowed heavily from Jackson’s fashion sense.

“I began to dress like him. I wore pink like him,” he said. “I styled my hair after him, the curls, the one in the middle of the forehead.”

Self-described “die-hard” Randall Sampson traveled with his family from Vancouver, Canada, to attend the public ceremony downtown.

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