It's a memorial service fit for a King.
A crush of Michael Jackson fans -- with some estimates nearing 1 million -- will descend on the Staples Center in Los Angeles tomorrow for a star-studded, mega memorial service that is as much a historic event as it is a spectacle.
On the eve of the memorial, activity was spotted late Monday at the Forest Lawn Cemetery involving the Jackson family. The cemetery is the location where relatives were expected to hold a private funeral.
La Toya Jackson, wearing sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat, was seen being driven away from the cemetery. KCAL-TV showed helicopter footage of a hearse backing up to the Hall of Liberty — a circular building at the cemetery that contains a 1,200 seat auditorium — to deliver a casket.
A few hours later, the casket was reloaded into the hearse and delivered to another nearby building, this time covered in a blue cloth ostensibly headed for the Staples Center for the memorial.
The 90-minute ceremony will feature such all-stars as Stevie Wonder, Mariah Carey, Kobe Bryant and Brooke Shields according to the Jackson family, and it will draw legions of fans from across the country, air on five television networks and be shown in as many as 80 movie theaters around the nation.
The representatives for Jackson's family released a list of participants Monday; it included Motown founder Berry Gordy, Lionel Richie, John Mayer, Usher, Jennifer Hudson and Martin Luther King III and his sister Bernice.
Diana Ross, Jackson's longtime friend, may open the ceremony, the New York Post reported.
Other guests may include Whitney Houston, Beyonce, Jay-Z, Liza Minnelli and Aretha Franklin, according to the Post. Longtime friend Elizabeth Taylor wrote on her Twitter feed that she would mourn Jackson in private, after it was earlier reported that she would read his eulogy at the memorial.
"I just don't believe that Michael would want me to share my grief with millions of others," she tweeted. "How I feel is between us. Not a public event."
Be sure to tune in Tuesday for our livestream of the Jackson memorial.
Jackson's ex-wife Debbie Rowe had planned to attend, but backed out.
"The onslaught of media attention has made it clear her attendance would be an unnecessary distraction to an event that should focus exclusively on Michael's legacy," Rowe attorney Marta Almli said. "Debbie will continue to celebrate Michael's memory privately."
Lucky fans celebrated when they got an e-mail saying they had scored the hottest ticket in town. "Congratulations, your application was successful," said the message sent to Deka Motanya, 27, of San Francisco.
She immediately Twittered: "OMG OMG OMG OMG i got tickets to the michael jackson memorial service!!!"
Others hoping to score tickets weren't as lucky. On Monday, users of the online classifieds site Craigslist and operators of auction site eBay removed offers posted online, AFP reported. At one point, a pair of tickets to the memorial on eBay had reached $10,000.
Airports and hotels are bracing for the throngs of fans who are descending on the arena for the Tuesday morning tribute service even though only 8,750 pairs of lottery-drawn tickets were divided among the 1.6 million fans who entered the pool.
The ceremony will not be shown on Staples' giant outdoor TV screen and there will be no funeral procession through the city. But Bloomberg News reported that Cinedigm Digital Cineman, the company that is currently upgrading thousands of cinemas to digital, reached an agreement with the Jackson family to offer the telecast to theater chains.
At the Wilshire Grand Los Angeles hotel about a half mile from the Staples Center, more than 90% of the hotel’s 1,000 rooms were booked for Monday and Tuesday night, up from about 60% last week.
“There’s a lot of demand right now,” said spokesman Marc Loge. “We are going to sell out.”
The family has remained mum on details of the tribute but is planning to hold a private ceremony at celebrity cemetery Forest Lawn in Hollywood Hills before the public memorial.
Jackson will be buried in a $25,000, 14-karat gold-plated casket that is the same make as the one in which soul singer James Brown was laid to rest. The Batesville Casket Company got an order for the custom-made coffin called The Promethean, gossip website TMZ reported.
The pop icon will be buried in a suit designed by Los Angeles-based costume designers Dennis Tompkins and Michael Bush, with whom Jackson worked for the last 20 years. The pair created costumes for his "This Is It" comeback tour, Access Hollywood reported.
Los Angeles City Councilwoman and acting mayor (Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is out of town) Jan Perry said she'd "love it" if the Jacksons helped defray some of the city's expected costs associated with Tuesday's memorial, but that officials hadn't heard from the family.
Perry said the city didn't immediately have an estimate of those costs. More than 1.6 million fans registered online for a chance to attend the Staples Center ceremony, and only 8,750 names were chosen. Los Angeles officials are concerned about other fans clogging city streets.
"We're encouraging people to stay away," Perry said on CBS' "The Early Show" on Monday.
Jackson died at age 50 on June 25 after going into cardiac arrest in the bedroom of his rented mansion. The cause of Jackson’s death has not been determined, though he was rumored to be taking a deadly menu of prescription medication. The powerful sedative Diprivan, which is usually administered by anesthesiologists in hospitals, was found in his home.
Autopsy results are not expected for several weeks.
Also Sunday, a judge signed search warrants connected to the investigation of Jackson’s death, Los Angeles County Superior Court spokesman Allan Parachini said. The warrants were sealed and Parachini would not discuss any details.
More than a week after his death, tributes and accolades keep coming. Madonna had a Jackson impersonator dance to “Wanna Be Starting Something” at her concert Saturday in the same London arena where he was to stage his comeback.
The Rev. Al Sharpton called for nationwide “love vigils” for Jackson, asking people to gather in schools, community centers and churches to watch the memorial service and talk about the pop star’s “message” instead of the “mess” surrounding his death.
Colin Powell said in an interview aired Sunday that Jackson had controversy in his life, but in death his art should be celebrated.
“Yes, there were some challenges in his life,” the former secretary of state told CNN’s “State of the Union.” “Yes, there was a great deal of controversy about him. But he’s now passed on. Let’s celebrate his art.”