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US: LA braces for horde of Michael Jackson mourners

By Anthony Mccartney
Sat Jul 4 05:28:43 EST 2009

LOS ANGELES, July 3 AP - Los Angeles officials are trying to figure out how to accommodate a public memorial service for Michael Jackson at a venue that can hold no more than 20,000 people.

The event has been set for 10am (midnight AEST) on Tuesday at the downtown Staples Centre, according to a statement from the Jackson family's publicist. Eleven thousand tickets will be distributed, the statement said. The service is expected to draw tens of thousands of spectators wanting to pay their respects to the King of Pop, who died on June 25. How city officials will handle the massive crowd remains to be settled.

Randy Phillips, chief executive of AEG Live, which owns the Staples Centre and was Jackson's promoter, said tickets will be free. He was not sure how they will be distributed. A press conference to announce further details was planned for Friday.

Los Angeles City Councilman Dennis Zine said plans for the memorial are clearly moving forward, but he wished there had been more time to work out the logistics.

"If you can imagine 100,000 people show up and you have 20,000 capacity, there is not sufficient room. Now you have a crowd-control problem," he said.

Since many people are on holiday this weekend because of US Independence Day on Saturday, "it's the worst time ... to work something out". He also said he's concerned about the cost of police overtime for the cash-strapped city.

Jackson's brother Jermaine told CNN's Larry King there will be a private ceremony for family and some special guests before the public memorial. He added the family wants to have other memorials around the United States.

Meanwhile, the future of Michael Jackson's children was thrown into question on Thursday when his ex-wife emerged and won a delay in a custody hearing while she decides whether she wants to raise her two offspring.

It was the first legal move from Deborah Rowe since the entertainer's death. Jackson's will asks for his 79-year-old mother, Katherine, to get permanent custody of his three children.

Rowe, who met Jackson as a receptionist in the office of his dermatologist, has characterised their relationship as strictly for the purpose of giving birth to Jackson's children. She is the mother of his two oldest children and received $US8.5 million ($A10.75 million) in their divorce, according to court records. His youngest child, seven-year-old Prince Michael II, was conceived with an unidentified surrogate.

Rowe has spent little time with her son Michael Joseph Jr, known as Prince Michael, 12; and daughter Paris Michael Katherine, 11. But Rowe has also opposed the idea of Katherine Jackson getting custody of her children when it came up in the past.

Rowe's attorney, Eric George, said his client had not decided whether to seek custody.

A guardianship hearing was set for July 13 at the request of attorneys for Rowe and for Katherine Jackson, who has temporary guardianship of her son's children.