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Jackson Memorial a Tasteful Sendoff

The memorial service for Michael Jackson, staged in a sports arena filled with 20,000 pop-music fans, had the potential to become overblown and garish.

Jackson's global stardom made his life anything but measured, and organizers of the service could have veered toward an over-the-top scenario.

And with thousands of fans of all ages, many of them emotionally shaken by Jackson's June 25 death, in the stands, the potential for a disturbance of some kind was there.

But the two-hour service at Staples Center in Los Angeles turned out to be a tasteful, well-paced affair that mixed solid musical performances with poignant spoken tributes and some unscripted moments of emotion.

The crowd was well-behaved. Shouts of "We love you, Michael" occasionally punctuated the quiet moments between speakers and performers, but the audience deserves credit for its level of respect.

The family's last-minute decision to bring the 50-year-old singer's casket into the arena caught most people off-guard, but it was handled in a dignified manner, with Jackson's brothers escorting it to the arena just below and in front of the stage.

The stage itself was fairly unadorned, befitting the circumstances - no lasers or fancy lighting needed.

A large video screen allowed for slides and video clips of Jackson, from his Jackson 5 days of the early '70s to his explosion into what Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr. on Tuesday called "another stratosphere."

The riveting video footage, including a Jackson 5 appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show," was doled out sparingly.

Smokey Robinson, a close friend of the Jackson family, brought one of the day's lighter moments when he joked that he had demanded to see Jackson's birth certificate after hearing the Jackson 5 perform the Robinson-penned "Who's Lovin' You."

"I could not believe that someone that young could have that much feeling and soul," Robinson said.

Also bringing some humor to the proceedings was former NBA star Magic Johnson, who laughingly recalled being invited to Jackson's home for dinner and watching the chef bring out Kentucky Fried Chicken for the singer.

Classier moments included Queen Latifah reading poetry by Maya Angelou and Stevie Wonder's reassuring words: "I do know that God is great. ... God must have needed him (Jackson) far more."

Musical highlights included Wonder's soaring "Never Believed You'd Leave in Summer" and Usher's soulful version of "Gone Too Soon."

Usher, who was heavily influenced by Jackson, strolled off the stage and down by the casket as he sang. He choked up before he forced out the song's last line.

The Rev. Al Sharpton was in preaching mode, which was fine.

He recalled how Jackson's music brought people of all colors together and exclaimed, "Thank you, Michael! Thank you, Michael! Thank you, Michael!"

Jackson's many personal struggles were rightfully acknowledged.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas alluded to Jackson's legal fights against accusations of child abuse.

"People are innocent until proven otherwise. That's what the Constitution stands for," Lee said to loud applause.

Jackson was acquitted in 2005 by a California jury of charges of child molestation, ending a two-year legal saga.

In remarks aimed at Jackson's detractors, brother Marlon Jackson said, "How much pain can one person take? ... Maybe now, Michael, they will leave you alone."

As the service wound down with a stage full of event participants and Jackson family members singing "We Are the World" and "Heal the World," both organizers and those in the audience could be proud of how the service had come off.

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