Sunday, August 29th, marked what would have been Michael Jackson's 52nd birthday and many of his fans living in or visiting the Los Angeles area chose to commemorate the occassion by spending a portion of their day paying respects at Forest Lawn Glendale.
Karen S. Kmiecik from Peace.Love.Michael.Us Michael Jackson Community on Amazon (formerly Cry) sent me a copy of an ad their group placed in all editions of the Indiana Post-Tribute on Saturday to honor Michael, and asked if there might be some way I could help them out by sharing it on this blog. Very happy to help! Here's the ad:
Be sure to also check out Post-Trib coverage of birthday happenings this past weekend in Michael's hometown of Gary, Indiana.
I printed it out and placed it in a plastic frame next to flowers I took to Forest Lawn late Sunday afternoon, in the memorial staging area outside of Holly Terrace.
Earlier in the day I had done my regular volunteer work at Grand View Memorial Park on the other side of Glendale, so I missed Michael's brother, Randy Jackson, who tweeted around noon that he would be at Forest Lawn between 3:00 and 3:30 p.m.
X17Online.com was on the scene and offers this exclusive report. On June 25th this year, X17Online also provided exclusive photo coverage of the Jackson Family's one year anniversary memorial inside the Great Mausoleum, see those photos here if you missed that.
I arrived to Forest Lawn around 4:15 p.m. and met up with Karlene Taylor from Justice4MJ and the Official Michael Jackson Fans of Southern California, missing the rest of the group who had already visited Forest Lawn after seeing the sun rise over Neverland Ranch that morning.
While at Neverland they left approximately 100 hand-decorated Rocks of L.O.V.E. which were crafted with personalized messages for Michael from his fans. Each rock also represents a donation to the MJ Team that will be participating in the 26th Annual AIDS Walk Los Angeles on October 17th.
The rock project raised approximately $750 toward the team's goal of $2,500 for this worthy cause. Here's my rock, bathed in Neverland sunshine:
No official count but it's safe to say that hundreds of people stopped by Forest Lawn over the course of the weekend. This is nowhere near the 6,000 that had visited on the first anniversary of his death in June, and that's to be expected because they're two different types of milestones.
I got there at tail end of it all and found several dozen fans, both locals and people from other cities and countries, milling around quietly, placing flowers, drawings, cards, small gifts and taking photographs on and around the memorial platform stationed just north of the Holly Terrace patio.
Some sat off apart from the gathering in quiet contemplation while others talked amongst themselves, recalling memories of Michael. A few cars drove by with his music drifting out of rolled down windows. Emotions ran the gamut from smiles of apprecition to tears of grief, particularly for those who told me that they were visiting for the first time and found it overwhelming.
Orange parking cones cordoned off the steps to the Holly Terrace patio and entrance doors until 4:30 p.m. when the mausoleum visiting hours ended and the building was closed. During visiting hours the patio and doorway areas remains cleared by security to ensure that friends and family members of loved ones interred inside have privacy and unencumbered access entering and exiting. After 4:30 p.m. drive-by security monitored but had no issues with fans occupying those areas.
A group of about a dozen ladies had earlier in the day volunteered at the Heal The World For Children 2nd Annual Children's Festival for sick and disadvantaged kids at Woodley Park in Van Nuys arrived around 5:30 p.m. Among them was Tami Blakely who told me that approximately 120 children from numerous organizations such as LA's Best and The Starlight Foundation enjoyed a day of food, carnival games, dance and hoola hoop lessons and water balloon toss.
Around 3:15 p.m. they gathered to watch a special aerial banner fly over (sponsored by MJ fans on Facebook, me included) and released balloons in Michael's honor as it passed over. See a video of that here courtesy of the nicoleerics YT Channel.
Also with the group was Taaj Malik who brought with her a special Thank You card that she created for Forest Lawn officials that included messages of appreciation from many fans in recognition of courteous way Forest Lawn has treated them since Michael's entombment there nearly a year ago.
She told me that she was inspired to make the card particularly after the June 25th anniversary when she brought three boxes of cards and gifts sent in from other fans, and cemetery security reps took the time to hold up each piece to be photographed before being placed.
Additionally, Lorene Malaika and Brigitte Huguet brought a birthday cake for Michael featuring frosting balloons and 52 candles. Around 30 fans gathered around to sing "Happy Birthday" at the doors. After round two of the chorus half the candles blew out on their own, and a few lit back up just as suddenly. I can tell you that from where I was standing, right in front, it wasn't what I'd describe as being the result of a gust of wind. There was none that I recall.
I could kick myself for not having my video camera rolling because it was one of those goosebump moments where everyone looked around at each other and wondered "did you just see what I saw?" Believe what you will, but I'm among those who thought it was Michael in spirit pulling one of his famous pranks. The timing was so spot on.
In lieu of video evidence, here's some pictures that will have to do. I snapped a shot just as the candles were going out:
Just before leaving I ran into fellow Burbank resident and Facebook friend Karen Elder-Jackson who had brought with her a Happy Birthday banner and paint pens so that people could sign their names on the letters. I thought her idea was brilliant for it's thoughtfulness and participatory elements. Here's a young fan leaving her signature. She was visiting all the way from Austria with her mom, dad and little brother.
Speaking of being thoughtful, props to Karlene for bringing a bottle of Windex to quietly clean the smears off the glass portions of the Holly Terrace doors. And also a special shout out to Joanna Ramos who I'm told does random acts of sweeping and clean up around the area on a regular basis.
As night began to fall it was time for me to take off so I missed the candle prayer gathering fans were assembling for outside the Holly Terrace doors. Thank you to everyone for spending time talking with me and allowing me to take their photos for this blog piece.
I hope this wrap up of what I witnessed and learned during the waning hours of Michael's birthday at Forest Lawn gives you an understanding of the types of good deeds and loving gestures that fans from all walks of the MJ Fan Community offered up to honor their idol's legacy on this special day. Well done, everyone!
See all my photos from the afternoon on Flickr.