Mourning fans gather
Fans and paparazzi converged on Michael Jackson’s family homes and UCLA Medical Center on Thursday, blocking streets and blasting the singer’s music as they waited for news or a glimpse of the superstar’s famous family.
In Hollywood, about 75 fans gathered at what they believed was Jackson’s star on the Walk of Fame, only to discover it belonged to the Los Angeles radio personality of the same name. The singer’s star was covered by scaffolding for the premiere of “Bruno.” So his fans stayed put, covering the surrogate star with flowers and candles and singing the hit by Jackson and Lionel Richie, “We Are the World.”
At the Jackson family residence in Encino, neighbor Helene Arthur had to dodge reporters and fans as she returned to her home. She was unaware of Jackson’s death but accustomed to sightseers -- she has lived next door to the famous family since 1965, she said, and while her children were growing up, they often invited tourists inside to get a better view.
At news of Jackson’s death, Arthur burst into tears.
“He used to play over here,” she said.
With police guarding the Jackson home, fans and celebrity visitors gathered, including rap singer and reality television star Flavor Flav, sporting his trademark clock necklace.
“Music has lost a king, music has lost an icon, music has lost a friend,” Flavor Flav said.
Florence LaRue, one of the lead singers of the Fifth Dimension, stopped by to place pink azaleas among other flowers in front of the house. The Grammy-winning singer was dressed in black, her face wet with tears.
LaRue said she had been awaiting Jackson’s European tour and comeback
“That’s why it came as such a shock,” she said of Jackson’s death. “We’re in such a doom and gloom time. The world needed to be lifted up. He could do it.”
At the gates of Neverland, Jackson’s former estate outside Los Olivos, a handful of fans gathered in the late afternoon.
Meanwhile, at Jackson’s most recent home, a rented French Chateau-style mansion in Holmby Hills, news helicopters hovered. Vans full of tourists stopped to snap photos of police guarding the mansion gates.
“He’s one of the biggest stars in the world,” said Swedish tourist Angelina Winkvist, 28.
Earlier, a Starline Tours group had arrived just in time to see Jackson taken to the hospital by paramedics.
Hundreds of fans flocked to UCLA Medical Center’s emergency room entrance soon after reports of the superstar’s death. A few saw his sister, Latoya Jackson, nearly disguised by oversized sunglasses and a cowboy hat, racing inside. She was joined soon after by her mother and the rest of Jackson’s siblings.
Police ushered sobbing girls out of the emergency room driveway as members of the UCLA fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon across the street lifted speakers into their windows to blast the Jackson hit, “Human Nature.”
A few hundred people gathered for a vigil outside the hospital at dusk, singing, holding signs, even dancing.
“I came because no one around me felt my pain,” said Zai Bryant, a customer service representative who lives in Inglewood. “I said, ‘You know what, those people at UCLA, they feel my pain. I need to be among fans who know what I’m going through.’ ”
Times staff writers Ari Bloomekatz, Anna Gorman, Molly Hennessy-Fiske and Gerrick Kennedy contributed to this report.