Media packs Forest Lawn for MJ burial

GLENDALE — Media from across the world packed into tents facing the entrance of Glendale Forest Lawn Memorial Park Thursday, beaming reports to Russia, Brazil and Japan in an effort to sate the voracious appetite for information about the slain pop star, whose lyrics needed no translation, they said.

“For me it’s a mixed experience,” said Jessica Maldonado, a reporter whose Univision dispatches on the life and times of Michael Jackson have informed the Spanish-language audience for years. “It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, to the smallest town in Mexico, he was the king of pop. With him, the language never mattered.”

Reporters throughout the day fanned out across the expansive campus and neighboring streets, eyeing the best places to catch the Jackson motorcade roll through the gates of Forest Lawn.

The exercise is nothing new to Henrique Valle, who paced the block between gathering footage for Brazil’s Rede TV!, as he said he’s done each of the last 70 days since Jackson died.

“His death is still fresh in our minds,” said Valle, between phone interviews with local radio stations. “In Brazil, just like he is here, he is king. Every little break in the story, every new piece of information, they want to hear it, see it.”

With no partner in sight, Valle readied his camera, aimed the viewfinder where he knew he’d be standing and came around the front of the camera. Glendale Mayor Frank Quintero looked on amid the swarm of reporters as Valle rattled off at gunfire speed the background and then events of the day.

“I think [Jackson] is bigger across the world than he is here in the U.S.,” Valle said. “In Brazil, when he came, he filled a 130,000-seat stadium, no problem. He’s huge.”

Across South Glendale Avenue between San Fernando and Los Feliz roads, the horde grew thicker as the sun began setting. Lights flicked on inside tents as reporters for ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox News and other networks let loose an onslaught of information about the Great Mausoleum, where Jackson will join yesterday’s Hollywood legends like Clark Gable, Jean Harlow and W.C. Fields. The mausoleum is also home to “The Last Supper Window,” a massive stained glass recreation of Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece, and Moses, a reproduction of Michelangelo’s sculpture for the tomb of Pope Julius II in Rome.

“Amazing isn’t it,” said Quintero, whose face was to be broadcast on television screens across China, Central America and Europe.

Setup alongside Valle was Igor Riskin, the 30-year-old bureau chief for Russian-language Channel One, with offices in suburban Virginia.

The most powerful of Russian TV stations, Channel One viewers expect to be provided a front-row seat to the world’s biggest news events, Riskin said.

“I was 10 years old when I first heard his music, and while I can’t tell you I’m a fan, he was a part of my life,” he said. “I think that had there been a star in Russia as big as Michael Jackson, with as many fans, the American media would have come to Russia.”

The brightness of his celebrity around the world was unmatched, reporters here said.

“You can’t compare him to anyone,” Riskin said between takes.

Evelyn Palma, of Univision’s TeleFutura, arrived early this morning to claim a space along South Glendale Avenue. She said audiences across Mexico, Central and South America are all very much aware of the funeral services and updates about Jackson’s cause of death.

At least three German-speaking reporters and one anchor were flanked by a Japanese crew on one side and fellow Europeans broadcasting live on another.

Behind them Eric Paquette, of Los Angeles, taped footage in French for a Canadian affiliate.

“Every time you come to a place where Michael is you can see the connection people had to him,” said Paquette, who in July was among the media circus at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills. “They say they feel his presence.”


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