Fans in Asia planned to stay up into the wee hours, bars across Europe were holding Michael Jackson theme nights and television stations from Sydney to Paris were clearing their schedules Tuesday to broadcast the King of Pop’s star-studded memorial service live from Los Angeles.
Fans said they would mourn — and celebrate the singer’s life — with the thousands attending the U.S. event, where entertainers including Stevie Wonder, Mariah Carey, Usher and Lionel Richie were due to pay tribute to Jackson, who died June 25.
In London, some fans planned to watch the event on a big screen outside the 02 Arena, where Jackson was to have performed 50 comeback shows starting next week. Others said they would watch at home after the BBC announced it would cancel scheduled programming and show the ceremony live.
The cast of West End tribute show “Thriller Live” planned to hold a minute’s silence before the curtain. The theater said it would dim its lights in memory of the star.
Fans were gathering at Berlin’s O2 World arena and at a restaurant just off Paris’ Champs-Elysees, where screens were being erected and Parisians were invited to bring their own music to ensure a steady Jackson-only soundtrack for the event.
In Sweden, fans were planning candlelit gatherings in central squares in the three biggest cities: Stockholm, Goteborg and Malmo. A sports bar in Oslo, Norway was hoping to put together a special Jackson-themed menu to accompany its celebration.
Several Australian TV stations also planned to carry the event live, and the memorial was being broadcast on a giant screen in the southern city of Melbourne at 3 a.m. local time.
In Hong Kong, a suburban mall planned to tune its TV screens to the event at 1 a.m. as part of a celebration featuring performances of Jackson’s signature “moonwalk” and a nonstop broadcast of his videos. At another Hong Kong mall, Taiwanese newcomer Judy Chou was to perform Jackson classics as fans laid flowers at a wax statue of the singer on loan from the local Madame Tussauds’ museum.
Among those staying up will be Hong Kong singer Aaron Kwok, considered Chinese pop’s most accomplished dancer.
“Michael is my only idol,” Kwok said Tuesday. “MJ inspired me so much from the time I first joined the entertainment industry to when I first performed on stage.”
In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 34-year-old actor and magician Henzi Andalas said he wanted to watch the memorial as closure. “It gives a sense of OK, now he’s no longer here,” he said. “He’s one of my biggest influences in becoming an artist.”
In Japan, home to some of Jackson’s most passionate fans, about 100 people gathered at a Tower Records store in downtown Tokyo to watch his videos on a big screen hours before the Los Angeles memorial. The store, which Jackson visited twice, displayed his hand print in a cement block and large posters celebrating his performances. Several shelves dedicated to the pop star were stacked with his CDs and DVDs.
“I love him,” said Namiko Hayakawa, a 31-year-old housewife, one of the first to grab a seat. “He is one of the greatest and most original solo performers. He also has a message about peace. He is such a big star, but he has a message for every little person.”
Jackson’s “King of Pop — Japan Edition,” a new compilation of his hits picked by a vote of Japanese fans, became a hot seller after his death. It was the fourth most popular album in the country last week, with 40,000 copies sold, according to entertainment company Oricon Co.
In the Philippines, the country’s longest running noontime television variety show, “Eat Bulaga,” said it would hold a Jackson dance contest Wednesday in honor of the pop icon after the Los Angeles memorial.
Even in reclusive, military-controlled Myanmar, a dance group held a memorial service for Jackson and nearly 200 fans staged a candlelight vigil in a Yangon park last week, the local Weekly Eleven News journal reported.
“Michael Jackson is my teacher. I learned dancing by watching Michael Jackson’s movements. I am profoundly saddened by his death,” said dancer Min Min Htun, who arranged the service during his regular show at the Happy World Entertainment park.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.