x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Stars and family honour Jackson

Annual awards show for black entertainers becomes star-studded memorial, but the late singer's father outrages fans with comments.

Jamie Foxx, centre, performs a tribute to Michael Jackson with dancers at the show.
Jamie Foxx, centre, performs a tribute to Michael Jackson with dancers at the show.

An annual awards show for black entertainers became a star-studded memorial to Michael Jackson as the African-American A-list and the Jackson family turned out in force to salute the King of Pop. Singers, actors, sport stars and television personalities crowded into Los Angeles's famous Shrine Auditorium for the Black Entertainment Awards, which had been hastily retooled as a night to celebrate Jackson.

Oscar-winning actor Jamie Foxx set the tone for proceedings by appearing in a variety of Jackson's signature costumes and even moonwalking across the stage at one point. "Is there any question who was the best?" Mr Foxx asked the crowd. Basketball star Lebron James, who won the award for best male athlete, paid tribute to the Jackson family as he collected his award. "I want to say to all of the Jackson family. This night is unbelievable because of you guys. What you did for us and the whole world is unbelievable," James said.

Meanwhile rapper Lil Wayne told the audience: "We all know none of us in this room wouldn't be here without Michael Jackson." Earlier, stars arriving on the red carpet told reporters personal stories about Jackson, saying his music had been instrumental in breaking down racial barriers. "We miss him and we love him and we just feel devastated," said singer Alicia Keys, urging people to remember Jackson in a "respectful, positive way".

Asked how Jackson had influenced her, Keys replied: "In every way. How could he not influence us to break the barrier and to think bigger, and to try new things and to break the rules. "Tonight I think is a true memorial for him. It's really about honouring him this evening." BET announced shortly after Jackson's death that the annual awards ceremony would be tweaked to serve as an unofficial memorial for the singer and a celebration of his life.

"Michael Jackson's the biggest thing that's happened to music in our lifetime. When we heard he had passed away we knew we had to revamp this whole show and make it special just for him," said BET chairwoman and chief executive Debra Lee. "It's going to be a celebration tonight, it's going to be a little sad, but it's going to be a celebration," Lee said. Attendees said they remained in shock over Jackson's sudden and unexpected death last week at the age of 50.

Singer Chaka Khan held back tears as she spoke to reporters. "I haven't gotten to the point where I can break down yet because I just don't believe it," she said. "I have to believe that energy lives on and he's still with us in some amazing way." Several stars hailed Jackson's role in breaking down racial barriers and giving African-Americans a hero to idolise. "He's one of the reasons why Barack Obama's president," said hip-hop mogul Sean "Diddy" Combs. "He started the change in the world about how African-Americans are perceived."

Michael Jackson's father, who had an uneasy relationship with the superstar, has angered fans after appearing to make a commercial plug at his first appearance since his son's death. Joe Jackson, the 79-year-old patriarch of the musical clan, made a surprise showing at the awards and during a live interview on CNN television, introduced an unidentified man who appeared to be a business partner, saying he wanted to make "a real good statement". "Marshall and I have - we own a record company. Talking about Blu-ray technology. That's the next step," Mr Jackson said. The blogosphere was instantly buzzing with outrage. Warren Ballentine, an African-American motivational speaker and radio show host, said that he was flooded with angry messages over Mr Jackson's comments. "Joe Jackson and his lack of sensitivity and respect disgusts me," said one posting on Jezebel, a blog geared toward women. Another person wrote on Jezebel that his behaviour was "almost too ghastly to consider: a man seems pursued pretty much to the grave by the demons his father planted in him, and even in death the (expletive) ghoul is still hustling his son's corpse". Mr Jackson, a steelworker in the industrial city of Gary, Indiana, reared his nine children into musical sensations starting from the Jackson 5 to the phenomenal careers of Jackson and his younger sister Janet Jackson. Jackson later said that his father would beat him when he missed a note and emotionally humiliate him, contributing to the future star's psychological fragility but also planting in him the will to succeed.

Mr Jackson has acknowledged he would whip his children but denied it was abuse. Despite the frequent recriminations, the entire family reunited earlier this year in Las Vegas to celebrate Joe and Katherine Jackson's 60th wedding anniversary. Jackson's family vowed to fight for control of the superstar's children and estate and once again voiced concerns over the circumstances of his death. After days of uncoordinated statements to media by family advisers and lawyers, the Jacksons announced they had appointed attorney Londell McMillan to be the sole individual authorised to speak on their behalf. Mr McMillan swiftly told CNN the Jacksons are seeking to secure custody of Jackson's three children and revealed that the family had not yet been granted access to the pop icon's will. Mr McMillan also said the family was "closely watching" the progress of the official investigation into Jackson's death. The family has already hired a private pathologist to carry out a second autopsy.

Jackson still had a faint pulse and his body was warm when his doctor found him in bed and not breathing, a lawyer for the doctor said. Edward Chernoff also said Dr Conrad Murray never prescribed or gave Jackson the drugs Demerol or OxyContin. He denied reports suggesting Dr Murray gave Jackson drugs that contributed to his death. Mr Chernoff told the that the doctor was at the pop icon's rented mansion on Thursday afternoon when he discovered Jackson in bed and not breathing. The doctor immediately began administering CPR, Mr Chernoff said.

"He just happened to find him in his bed, and he wasn't breathing," the lawyer said. "Mr. Jackson was still warm and had a pulse." Asked about the fate of Jackson's three children, born to two different mothers, the Jackson's lawyer said their grandmother Katherine would seek custody, raising the possibility of a bitter legal battle. "She will seek custody of the children. She loves them dearly," Mr McMillan told CNN. Katherine Jackson has been looking after the children since the sudden death of their father. Mr McMillan also revealed the family had not yet seen Jackson's will, and was uncertain if one existed. If Jackson had not left a will his assets would go to his next of kin under California law, he said. *AFP and AP