And here we go! The private family service is over and the hearse containing Michael Jackson’s body has arrived at Los Angeles’s Staples Center, ground zero for what will almost certainly be the funeral event of the decade. And Vulture is live-blogging! Check back here for updates once the festivities begin. Update: Also, check our slideshow from today’s memorial.
12:58 p.m.: The Staples Center is nearly full and networks have taken their final commercial breaks. Feel bad about not being able to watch this unfold on television? Don’t! Lionel Richie will apparently be leading an ensemble performance of “We Are the World” at some point.
1:04 p.m.: A few musicians have taken the stage. The drum set is probably larger than necessary.
1:10 p.m.: Smokey Robinson is onstage reading messages from celebrities who couldn’t make it (Diana Ross so far).
1:13 p.m.: Also unwilling to battle Los Angeles traffic today: Nelson Mandela.
1:14 p.m.: Now, a break!
1:25 p.m.: If only more famous people had deigned not to show up today, we might have more to talk about right now. There’s still nothing happening.
1:30 p.m.: A church choir is doing “Soon and Very Soon.”
1:34 p.m.: Pastor Lucius Smith kicking things off: “We come together to ‘Remember the Time.’”
1:40 p.m.: Ouch! Mariah Carey, sans beard, is doing “I’ll Be There” and seems to be having trouble hitting even the easy notes.
1:42 p.m.: This is the first time anyone has seen Trey Lorenz since Mariah’s MTV Unplugged. And his presence is very much appreciated, as he’s come prepared to sing high notes.
1:45 p.m.: Queen Latifah is reading a note from Maya Angelou, who is presumably stuck somewhere on the expressway.
1:50 p.m.: Lionel Richie takes the stage to do “Jesus Is Love.”
1:57 p.m.: Berry Gordy, who just looks terrific, is eulogizing: “He raised, then broke the bar.” Also, all of Michael’s brothers are wearing rhinestone gloves on one hand.
2:02 p.m.: Gordy: “I think he is simply the greatest entertainer who ever lived.” And the crowd goes nuts (there seem to be a few Michael Jackson fans in the house today).
2:04 p.m.: And now, a montage of Michael’s best-loved videos. Plus the one for “You Are Not Alone.”
2:06 p.m.: Stevie Wonder sits down at the piano: “This is a moment that I wished that I didn’t live to see come.”
2:11 p.m.: Stevie’s doing “Never Dreamed You’d Leave in Summer” into “They Won’t Go When I Go.” We’re certainly not complaining, but shouldn’t everybody be playing Michael Jackson songs? Regardless, best performance of the funeral so far! Top that, Usher!
2:16 p.m.: Magic Johnson: “I truly believe that Michael made me a better point guard.”
2:20 p.m.: Jennifer Hudson is doing MJ’s song from Free Willy. Sadly, it doesn’t look like AEG sprung for a whale for this ceremony.
2:25 p.m.: Nope, no Willy. And really, we can’t imagine Jason James Richter had anything better to do this afternoon either.
2:31 p.m.: Al Sharpton is currently crediting Michael Jackson with the success of Oprah, Tiger Woods, and Obama. Also: “I want his children to know — there wasn’t nothing strange about your daddy. It was strange what your daddy had to deal with.”
2:34 p.m.: John Mayer is performing a guitar version of “Human Nature.” Yes, now is an excellent time for a bathroom break.
2:45 p.m.: Michael’s ex-girlfriend Brooke Shields is tearfully telling an anecdote about a nonspecific Elizabeth Taylor wedding. Also, she claims Michael’s favorite song is Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile.” This would be a great way to segue into Jermaine’s performance of “Smile,” though we doubt this is that well organized.
2:47 p.m.: We were wrong! Here’s Jermaine.
2:49 p.m.: Despite a fumbled lyric (and a sequined glove), he actually sounds pretty great.
2:55 p.m.: Bernice King and Martin Luther King III are speaking now. Also in attendance, reports the AP: Mario Lopez, Mickey Rooney, and Corey Feldman, who arrived at the ceremony dressed as Michael Jackson, which would seem to be a mistake.
Photo: Getty Images