Reporter Robert Hong blogs from Michael Jackson tribute at Staples Center

NOTE: I’ll Update this as Robert sends posts from the scene. He’ll be writing a first person story for tomorrow’s newspaper: (I’ve haven’t edited these, so the dispatches are as I get them)

4:30 a.m. Legions of police are waiting patiently outside the Staples
center right now basking in the calm before the deafening storm that
is sure to come. Not much for them to do yet, save checking in the
hoards of media that had the gall to get up this early in the

A few brave souls sit draped in blankets along Olympic, hiding in the
shadows from the glaring streetlights. Those who chose to camp
outside the Staples center say they have had a noisy night.
A taxi just passed by blaring “Beat it”.

5:27 a.m. There seems to be a deep excitement building up here as
more people arrive. Many have joined me in the “Pantry” 24-hour diner
just a block away from the stadium, hoping to catch the only meal
they will likely eat until evening. Newscasters from Texas are
chattering feverishly at a table across from me. They are upset at
having not slept on the drive over here. I know the feeling. But we
cant hide in this diner much longer, have to go outside and face the

 7 a.m. T-minus 3 hours.
The sleepy streets have turned to crowds, and a mass of humanity is
posted at the corner of Figueroa and Olympic, waiting patiently for
their chance to slip into the folds of history. Some are waving
banners and signs saluting the King of Pop.

A t-shirt salesman who tells me his name is “Tito” said he expects a
fast turnover of profit today. He has been walking the streets since
3 a.m., but the early crowd were not feeling too generous. Things
have just begun to pick up, he said.

Cars are still cruising up and down Figueroa, blaring every
masterpiece that the King had a chance to touch. The last one I heard
was Rockwell’s “Somebody’s Watching Me,” featuring background vocals
by Jackson.

What a strange, cryptic message to play in the shadow of all these
media outlets.

So far, everyone seems happy, but it’s still early. Maybe the
constant glare of these titan-sized screens showing concert footage
of Michael Jackson is keeping them sane, for the time being…..

8:50 a.m. Less than two hours to go 
Michael Jackson Fever has swept over the Staples Center, as word is spreading that they are bringing The King’s casket to the ceremony. That may mean absolute pandemonium considering the onslaught of die-hard fans.

Nearly everyone is wearing some sort of Jackson paraphernalia, be it a t-shirt, glitter glove or full white suit.
Some fans have gathered around the entrance to  the center to watch the celebrity guests roll in. So far I have not been able to see who has walked in, but according to the screams I would guess the Jackson Family has arrived.
The plaza is now piping with humanity, and dozens are taking photos in front of a giant movie screen.
There seems to be no age limit to the fans. With children under 5 and adults over 65 mixed about the crowd. 
It’s amazing to think that this small hub is now the focal point of the worlds attention. I wonder if these ticket holders have any idea how lucky they really are.
9:06 a.m.
The fever is rising. Just 30 minutes to go and the authorities are out in full force. Everyone from security  guards to the bomb squad have encircled that crowds here at the Staples Center, and for some reason that brings me more unease.
So far I have just seen the rapper/ actor Ice Cube and caught a glimpse of what looked like Jesse Jackson.
The fury and power of The King has swept over Los Angeles like a 24-hour virus that nothing can cure, and the cool weather may be the only thing keeping this event from exploding into one gigantic moonwalk.
Moments now until the countdown. People have rushed to get to their seats, and it’s time I found mine as well.
World history is about to be made.

9:55 a.m.
Five minutes left to showtime and reports have come in that the hearse with The King’s body has arrived at the scene. No one knows for sure, but celebrities are arriving in droves. Police presence has gotten even tighter, and a row of firefighters are waiting at bay just steps from the entrance to the Nokia Theatre.
The show is apparently running a few minutes late but is slated to start close to its scheduled time of 10 a.m.

10:30 a.m.
So as was expected, the event has not begun on time except for a lone speech from Smokey Robinson. More surprising is that the Staples Center looks relatively empty considering the heavy demand for tickets.
My suspicion is that out of the huge pool of people that applied for tickets and actually won, only so many could actually make it to the event. Which is a major bummer for the hundreds of thousands who really wanted to go and are now watching from a coffee shop somewhere down the street.
Word has come in that the family has arrived at the center with an eruption of applause from the rather well-behaved audience.
12:20 p.m.
Well they managed to fill  up those seats.
So far there have been several incredible and heartwrenching performances here at the Staples Center that undoubtedly echo around the globe.
On any other day this would have been one considered one of the most spectacular, star-studded concerts on the planet, but there is an aire of immense sadness among those gathered there that grows deeper with each song.
However, there is a feeling here in this small corner of Los Angeles that we are witnessing a piece of history, something that cannot be put into words, but that exists in this extraordinary shared experience.
This sentiment is displayed in the respect of the crowd, who seem to come from all walks of life, and who were chosen completely at random, yet not one has been unruly or out of hand.
Its the kind of experience that you know will only happen once in a lifetime.

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  • Nyokabi Kirori

    I can’t believe they were able to shut down the 101. Wow the power he commanded. Keep us updated Robert. I look forward to reading your next posting.

  • katie

    You keep calling the man’s funeral a “show.” And you repeatedly say this is a once in a lifetime part of history – of course it is once in a lifetime; its a funeral! I find the whole spectacle very disturbing. I also find it ridiculous that the family would want to have his actual funeral in the Staples Center…if they wanted to have a memorial concert, that would be awesome but to host his funeral for everyone is disgraceful.