After a quick Red Line ride to Downtown, he got off at 7th Street/Metro Center, met up with one of his operatives, and walked down Figueroa, past the slew of vendors and onlookers (but not as big of a slew as people anticipated). Once we crossed the demilitarized zone (i.e. Olympic Blvd) and produced our wristbands, we were in the clear.
But right after rounding the ESPN Zone corner and onto Chick Hearn Court, there it was, the big-ass media circus, set up in LA Live's courtyard, and farther west down CHC. It was a visually crazy scene, but as for the folks, it was no different than lining up for a concert here, even though it was 9:30 in the morning.
Inside, the sounds of Michael Jackson's mellower tunes echoed through the arena, which set a somber, respectful mood. After a 40-minute delay due to waiting for the Jackson family to arrive, as well as a minor audio problem, the program began.
The Militant never saw Staples Center so full, yet so silent. Even the expected conversations between thousands of guests were muted murmurs that didn't even sum into any audible roar. The Militant was impressed, and in awe.
The Militant needn't reiterate what happened. You all saw it, on TV, online, and repeated hundreds of times in clips afterward. We heard from a Queen and a pair of Kings. There was a congresswoman and a Mayer. There were Michael's Motown bretheren (as well as the label's patriarch), and of course his biological bretheren. Many of the speeches and eulogies quoted MJ's universally-familiar lyrics and song titles.
There was laughter, there were tears, there was music -- the way life should be.
And of course, there was that moment:
The musical performances were wonderful, especially hearing Jackson's own material, sung by his pop star peers. The only thing better would have been to hear The King of Pop sing them himself...
...And it was then the Militant realized that Michael Jackson was actually gone.
The crowd left quietly, in a relaxed manner. Many of them stuck around at the few LA Live establishments that remained open. Some went back to their offices nearby. A few were instantly hounded by the media circus to get their soundbite reaction. Some international media waved or draped their respective country's flags to identify themselves.
Up above, a skywriter attempted to draw a heart in the sky, with the letters "MJ" inside. And nearly a dozen helicopters hovered like mosquitoes in the cloudless blue Summer sky.
The Grammy Museum, which the Militant visited earlier this year, showed any and all previous Grammy Show footage with Michael Jackson in it. They are also featuring an exhibit of his Grammy show wardrobe, and have also reduced their adult admission to $10 until September 30.
Outsize the demilitarized zone, there was still a crush of people, reporters in front of cameras, pointing their logo-adorned microphones at soundbite donors, and there were people selling items, mostly cheaply-screened Michael Jackson t-shirts, on the sidewalk. A few sold framed portraits, one even sold an iconic glittered glove.
Of course, with the executors of his estate still yet to be finalized, none of this money will be going towards the singer's massive $400 million debt. The Militant also has very mixed feelings on people trying to profit off someone's death. Come on now (though, admittedly, a $10 glitter glove was rather tempting).
Here's some video of the memorabilia vendor circus along Figueroa Street:
In contrast, there was also a humble street musician who played a simplified rendition of the Jackson 5's "I'll Be There" on his guitar and harmonica:
Then of course was the question of Who Was Gonna Pay For All This. The Militant certainly hopes that enough tourist revenue will be spent in this City to make up for the cost in this Budget-Cutting era (And if you are a tourist from outside Los Angeles reading this, please look at the Militant's Michael Jackson Los Angeles map and visit some of these sites, and spend your tourist dollars generously!).
All in all, the Militant was proud to witness another page of Los Angeles HIStory.