Michael Jackson memorial sketchy, LA seeks help with costs
By Bob Tourtellotte
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Organizers of an elaborate Michael Jackson memorial said on Friday they would give away 17,500 tickets for Tuesday's event for the late "King of Pop" but have to yet to set the program for the event.
It also was unclear how organizers and the city would pay for the memorial, which was expected to draw legions of Jackson fans and could cost the millions of dollars.
Police urged Jackson fans to stay home and watch on television if they do not have tickets.
The memorial will be in the 20,000-seat Staples Center sports area -- the same venue where Jackson rehearsed two nights before his death. Jackson was preparing for a 50-concert stand in London starting July 13 and video of the rehearsal showed him performing like his old superstar self.
Entertainment company AEG, which owns the Staples Center, said it increased the number of public tickets to 17,500 from a previously announced 11,000, but many of those tickets will be for an overflow venue, the nearby Nokia Live theater.
Jackson's death on June 25 after suffering cardiac arrest at his rented Los Angeles mansion has prompted tributes from fans around the world who stuck by him through his 2005 trial on child molestation charges and stories of bizarre behavior.
AEG Chief Executive Tim Leiweke and a Jackson family spokesman said what will occur at the memorial is still being worked out.
"No details are forthcoming about the memorial. It is still being developed," family spokesman Ken Sunshine said at a news conference to announce ticketing details.
Leiweke said that beginning Friday morning fans could go to the website for the Staples Center (www.staplescenter.com) and register for tickets. Names will be picked randomly and tickets assigned later.
Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jan Perry, the acting mayor while Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is on holiday, said police have a contingency budget for expenses like the memorial.
"It's calculated in the budget," Perry told Reuters. "We don't know what the estimated cost -- what they may expend -- is yet."
It also was unclear how much AEG may be chipping in. AEG is part of a group of companies including AEG Live, the concert promoter that was backing Jackson's planned London shows.
Perry said other city services such as sanitation and transportation were not covered by the police budget. She said she would seek help from other agencies involved to help pay.
Like other U.S. cities, Los Angeles is strapped for cash in the global recession and similar questions about public tax revenues being paid for such an elaborate ceremony surfaced last month when a $2 million celebration was given for the champion Los Angeles Lakers professional basketball team. That event was eventually funded through private donations.
(Editing by Bill Trott)