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Jackson Plans Party at Casino for Devoted Fans

Times Staff Writer

To thank selected fans for their allegiance during his child-molestation trial, Michael Jackson and his family plan an invitation-only bash Saturday night at the Chumash Casino in Santa Ynez -- although it is not clear whether the self-described King of Pop will be on stage.

Jackson, 46, was acquitted Monday on all counts of molestation and conspiracy after a 14-week trial that brought throngs of his most ardent fans to the steps of the courthouse in Santa Maria, Calif. Some of those fans and others selected by the Jackson family should get word today of their invitation to Saturday’s performance.

“We don’t know who will perform; we’re just told the Jackson family is putting together an event for fans they have selected,” said Frances Snyder, a spokeswoman for the casino.

Jackson’s physical condition has been the subject of considerable speculation since his trial began. On the day of his first court appearance, Jackson performed an impromptu dance atop an SUV. But during the trial, he often appeared frail and weak, arriving late to court one morning after complaining of back pain. The day of his acquittal, he walked stiffly from the courthouse to a waiting car, helped by his father and his bodyguards.

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The casino’s usual crew of sound and lighting workers have been scheduled to work Saturday, and the seating will be in standard concert format, suggesting that the event will be more performance than party.

The room is a busy concert venue, with the Charlie Daniels Band performing Thursday night, and Tom Jones scheduled next week.

In September 2003, Jackson staged a 45th birthday celebration at The Orpheum Theatre in downtown Los Angeles. Fans paid $30 to attend, and many also brought gifts for the singer, who waved from an opera box as dancers, singers and Jackson impersonators feted him from the stage. He did not perform.

The casino may seem an unusual venue, but it is close to Jackson’s Neverland ranch, and members of the pop star’s family, including his father, Joe, have been staying at the casino hotel in recent weeks and turning heads in the resort’s restaurant, the Willows.

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“We get a lot of famous people, so it’s been business as usual,” said Snyder. “For Saturday, we’re expecting a lot of people to be interested.”

Casino security will be stepped up, and Jackson’s own security detail will be working with the casino’s security force, Snyder added.

“Everyone’s welcome in the gaming area, but the party is a private event,” she said.

She cautioned fans who hope to catch a glimpse of the pop star not to bring their cameras, which are prohibited by casino’s rules.


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