One year since his death, fans remember Michael Jackson

By Nekesa Mumbi Moody

NEW YORK - A year ago, DJ John Quick was scheduled to spin at a party when he got the news - Michael Jackson was dead.

So instead of playing the hits of the moment, the Harlem event turned into an impromptu tribute to the King of Pop.

"It was the first time I've ever seen grown people crying and dancing at the same time," he said.

Today, the first anniversary of the King of Pop's death, Quick will once again play Michael Jackson tunes, at the club Taj in Manhattan, but he expects a more cheerful party this time.

"They wanna celebrate his life and music," he said. "His albums are like timelines in your life. You can remember what you were doing ... when Thriller came out."

The Taj party will be part of the global celebration of Jackson's brilliant but troubled life. He died at age 50 as he was preparing for comeback concerts in London.

In that city, a memorial was unveiled yesterday to a gaggle of press who packed the foyer of London's Lyric Theatre, the site of an impromptu wake following the pop superstar's death last year.

Perri Luc Kiely, 14, a member of the dance troupe Diversity, pulled back a pair of dark purple curtains to reveal a small plaque featuring a young Jackson with a wide, beaming smile. Applause and the bright flashes of cameras erupted.

"He influenced me and the whole group so much, and it was just a real big honour to be able to do that," Perri said.

With the foyer packed to the brim with photographers, videographers and journalists, fans stood on the street and peered in, capturing the moment with their camera phones.

Leanne Irving, 20, travelled seven hours by bus from her home in northern England to be able to attend the memorial events.

"An absolute inspiration. I would love to be like him and dance like him. He inspires everything I want to do in life and everything I want to achieve," said Irving, an aspiring performance artist.

In Hong Kong, Jackson imitators danced to the late singer's classics at a suburban mall yesterday.

Four-year-old Wang Yiming danced to Dangerous wearing Jackson's trademark black fedora hat, a black suit with a silver armband and white socks.

While festive celebrations like parties are expected today, there will also be sombre remembrances.

In Gary, Indiana, Jackson's hometown, there will be a tribute at the Jackson home; city officials said they expected Michael's mother Katherine and his niece Genevieve to show up, along with thousands of others.

Fans are also expected to gather at Forest Lawn cemetery outside of Los Angeles, where he is buried.

Katherine Jackson has thrown her support behind a "Forever Michael" fan event to be held Saturday at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles. Tickets range from US$150 to US$500.

The Apollo Theatre in Harlem, where a young Michael Jackson and his brothers won amateur night, will host a commemoration of Jackson's life today in front of the recently-installed plaque honouring him in the legendary theatre's new hall of fame.

And later in the afternoon in Harlem, around the hour of Jackson's death, the Reverend Al Sharpton and his National Action Network will hold a moment of silence.

Sharpton, a longtime associate of Jackson and his family and who gave impassioned remarks at Jackson's televised memorial last July, said he thought a moment of silence was appropriate to show "the sanctity of the hour".

Sharpton continued: "He meant a lot to us of all races in terms of bringing us together in another kind of spirit. I wanted to make sure that we showed that in the middle of all this that is going on in the world that Michael is someone that we would all stop for. ... He was more than just a singer, he was a social force, and a sense of inspiration."

* To read's coverage of Michael Jackson's death last year, click here.

- AP

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